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I Didn't Know Any Better

When I was 6, I tried out for the Yellow Jackets Gymnastics team.

Displaying my ribbons after a meet

After the try-outs, my mom took me to the McDonald’s drive-thru for a Happy Meal (ah, the ‘80s!), and I remember her looking at me in the backseat through her rearview mirror telling me I shouldn’t get my hopes up.


She was trying to soften the potential blow of me not making the cut.


With the confidence of someone who did more pull-ups than anyone else there, I said, “I think I made it.”


And I did.


I was the youngest one to try out, I had no prior gymnastics experience, and it was a hard team to make. But I didn’t know any better.

My dissertation defense in 2014

When I was 28, I applied to a Ph.D. program at Boston College.


I wanted to study Curriculum & Instruction, and their program was the only one within driving distance that interested me. I attended the Open House information session and, as a busy teacher with two small kids, I put off applying until Christmas break, when I also came down with the flu. Needless to say, my application wasn’t my best work.


A week later, I got an email thanking me for my patience as they processed the 1,800 applications they received for 40 spots, only 12 of which were for my program.


I got in.


To increase your chances of admittance, you were supposed to reach out to professors and align with their research efforts so they would advocate for you in the admissions process. Oops. I didn’t even know who the director of the program was when she called to tell me I was accepted. I didn’t know any better.


Transplant Day!

When I was 41, my brother needed a kidney transplant. I knew in my bones in a way I cannot describe that I was meant to give him mine. I told him it would be great for the transplant to happen in November as his birthday gift.


I gave him my kidney the Tuesday before Thanksgiving, during a pandemic, in a state 800 miles away.


The typical wait time from when a donor comes forward for screening to the date of donation is 18 months. Our timeline was 4 months. I didn’t know any better.


Supposedly “knowledge is power,” but in these situations, ignorance was bliss.


I’d love to think I would have tried out for the team even if I knew the chances of making it were slim. That I would have applied to the doctoral program even if I knew I didn’t play the requisite game and the acceptance rate was in the single digits. That I would have been willing to stick with the testing and follow-up calls to the transplant center for over a year.


But I’m honestly not sure I would have.


And what a shame that would have been.


What are you NOT doing because you know too much?


What are you NOT pursuing because the odds are against you?


What are you NOT chasing because it will take too long?


What if you didn’t know any better? What could you do then?

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