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When I was a teenager, I never imagined that the advice I was receiving from the adults in my world would ever be useful. Most of the grown folks had the same message, “Be careful of the company you keep”, “You may not see it, but your hard work will pay off eventually”, “Don’t procrastinate! Do it now!”. It all sounded like mumbo jumbo at the time, but years later, when I was well into my twenties, I started to understand where they were coming from. Like, seriously, they knew what they were talking about?
One of the most useful lessons that I learned came from my mother when I was about 14 years old. It was the summer after the 9th grade, and I was away, staying at a university for a college prep program. It was high school students, we were girls, and so, it was no surprise that within week 2 of the 6 week program, drama started to flair up. I can’t recall what the drama was about, I just remember a lot of yelling and screaming about “East Coast Girls” vs. “West Coast Girls”. We were all arguing and being snotty to each other, and one day, during week 3, I called my mom and told her I was over it and was ready to come home.
My mom said no.
I remember how thoughtfully she listened to me whining telling her all about the arguments and the conflict. She wasn’t dismissive of my feelings at all, and was really understanding the entire time I was recalling the summer’s events to her. I talked for a good 1/2 hour before I went in for the kill…”So can you please, please come and get me.” I had set the story up perfectly, she was on my side, I never expected her to refuse my request. But she did, and now, almost 20 years later, I’m really glad she did.
That evening on the telephone, my mom wouldn’t come and pick me up because she didn’t want me to quit. It was an honor to be participating in the program that I was a part of, and I needed to stay focused on what I was there for. I wasn’t there to be a part of drama, or girl fights, I was there to learn and get ahead in school. The most important thing she said to me that night, though was this,
“If you start quitting things now, it’ll set a pattern for your life. You don’t quit things when they start to get a little difficult. You’re not a quitter.”
Of course, she was right. It didn’t feel like she was right that night, but the next night, when the East and West Coast girls were hanging out, laughing and doing each other’s hair, it started to feel like she was right. And that winter, when I took my SAT’s, and knocked it way out of the park thanks to the extra support I had received that summer in the program, I knew she was right.
That lesson has resonated with me since then. I’m not a quitter. I’ll admit, I had to learn the difference between what it means to step away when something really isn’t working, and quitting just because things are challenging, but I have, and that lesson has served me well. I can honestly say that I’m the woman that I am because of that one seed that my mother planted in me all of those years ago. _________________________________________________________________________________