This last Tuesday, I hiked up to Cambridge to present on a panel about "Pursuing your Passions," at a workshop sponsored by a Harvard undergraduate group, The Women's Leadership Project. This undergraduate group was started in 1988, the year after I graduated from the college, but at a time when I was still at the University attending grad school. 37 extremely bright, put together, thoughtful young women, and 4 panelists, ranging from an SVP at a major financial firm, a management consultant turned professional cook and business owner, a TV producer for ABC, and me, talking about what drives us to do the things we do every day, and how we took the decisions we did that got us here. Very inspiring for me--I don't usually get to just sit down and open up about how I got to where I am, much less hear how other accomplished women made unorthodox choices that allowed them to pursue their passions.
And here's the other thing. In theory, you would imagine that I might have been one of the 37 young undergrads who applied to attend this weeklong workshop on developing leaderhip potential (let's see ... 20 years ago ... ouch), had the group existed when I was an undergrad. The truth is, I wouldn't have. At least one reason why is that I was in something of a Holden Caulfield funk through college where so many people and things struck me as being phony it was a wonder I got out of bed and went to classes. I was on the management team of the Harvard International Review because I loved to put things togeether--I was the production manager--but after holding almost every conceivable leadership position in high school I was soured on the concept of leadership by college, let alone women's leadership at the time. And in fact, I was asked very emphatically to run for the co-editor-in-chief position with David Cutler, and I got shirty and refused to run. [And I can genuinely say, that it was one of the stupider decisions I made in college, and I made many.]
So I felt particularly lucky to have the option to go to Harvard on Tuesday and participate on the panel. Life gave me a second chance to participate in the kinds of richness that I turned my nose up at when I was there as a bona fide student. I'm not sure what I did to deserve it, but I'll take any second chances I can get.