OpinionStarting over … again and again

Guest contributor Margaret Miller reflects on her experiences embracing new situations.
Margaret MillerFebruary 13, 20201783 min
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Illustration by Andrea Nebhut

Dana Nichols’s insightful column about never being “alone in feeling lonely” struck a chord with me. Although I’ve been working at Trinity for only a year — and I love my job — I recently decided to move to New York. In March, I’ll pack my car and set out for Brooklyn, where I’ll begin a new life in an apartment around the corner from my two sons and their children. Aside from them, I won’t know anyone in the Big Apple. It won’t be the first time I’ve moved since graduating from college, but lately I’ve been thinking about coming home to an unfamiliar apartment night after night, and I remember what starting over feels like.

The new banners around campus have encouraged me during this time of transition. Thoughtful quotes by faculty members serve as reminders that how I handle this next step in life is up to me. Maybe they’ll inspire you too.

“You’re becoming who you are every day of your life.” –Kelly Grey Carlisle, Ph.D. Associate Professor, English

After graduating from a large high school in Houston, I became a displaced Texan. While attending a small liberal arts college in Virginia, I made my first snowman, spent a semester in London and wrote my senior thesis on an island off the coast of Georgia. After college, I took a gap year in North Carolina before enrolling in a graduate program in Ohio, where I became a teacher, taking on 30 new students each semester to help pay for tuition as I earned my Masters of Fine Arts degree. Each decision over those seven years brought about an exciting personal transformation.

“Everyone fails sometime. Successful people learn to adapt and persevere.” –Gerard M. J. Beaudoin III, Ph.D. ’99 Biology

After graduate school, I married another writer, and when I couldn’t find a creative job that called on those talents, we moved to Connecticut where I taught English at several boarding schools, and he worked in advertising. Starting over each time took courage — forming relationships with faculty members, getting to know my students and learning my way around unfamiliar towns. Eventually, we moved to Massachusetts where our first son was born, and a few years later, back to Texas. There have been many relocations and job changes since then, and while they’re never effortless, they’ve gotten easier over time — as all things do with practice.

“It’s hard to predict what the most important learning and lessons will be while you’re here, so soak it all up.” –Heather Haynes Smith, Ph.D. ’97 M’98 Education

Although much of the experiential learning at Trinity takes place in classrooms and internships, the “people skills” you’re developing now will serve you well at those crossroads. In fact, I think those skills are among the most valuable part of the Trinity experience. Friendships through clubs and organizations as well as personal relationships with professors who care are literally yours for the making. One sure cure for loneliness is camaraderie. A conversation with someone who shares your interests — or even an unfamiliar but friendly face — can work wonders.

“You can do this! Remember who you are.” –Coleen Grissom, Ph.D. Professor Emerita, English

Not long ago, I scripted a video for a campaign to raise money for student scholarships. The message was that scholarships open doors to Trinity — and Trinity opens doors to the world. This has been true for me too. Through my work here, I’ve gained new skills that are already opening doors to job opportunities in Brooklyn. To meet new people, I’ll join a church, audition for a chorus or volunteer, as I’ve done in so many other cities that were, at first, new and filled with strangers.

Years ago, a friend invited me to go skydiving. It was his hobby, and he offered to pay for a tandem jump. I remember the electric anticipation as I crouched at the opening of that plane, 13,500 feet above the drop zone, preparing to let go. Lately, when I feel a tinge of anxiety about starting over, I remember the exhilaration of seeing the world at my feet, ready to receive me — and I believe, as Dr. Grissom says, that I can do it.

Margaret Miller

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