Serendipity, Happiness, Mentorship, Reunion and Sisterhood


Last weekend was nothing short of amazing. It was the 25th reunion of my graduating class from Trinity University (25 years? Yikes!) and the 60th anniversary of my sorority’s founding. The whole weekend was characterized by one serendipitous moment after another. When you turn yourself over to the belief that you are always exactly where you’re supposed to be, the rewards from the universe are endless and easy to spot.

So Friday morning, when I took my roommate from 25 years ago — one of five sorority sisters I was sharing a house with for the reunion — to the hotel where she was going to help with party prep, it was just sheer coincidence that even though we were an hour late (or on “Sigma Time” — a phrase I’d forgotten until this weekend, but that was used quite frequently), I was spotted in the car and invited up to the room where another dear friend and classmate, Robyn, introduced me to Yvette, a Trinity Sophomore and Sigma sister, who happened to be the peer mentor for a seminar on Happiness, which she was heading to right then.

Robyn, a Christian counselor, and I, a Happiness coach, were not about to miss the opportunity to tag along, so we got in our cars, headed to campus, arrived at the classroom on Sigma Time (roughly ten minutes after class had started), and were immediately asked to start talking about happiness. With no idea this would happen, and no intent of doing so, Robyn and Valerie completely hijacked the class.

I talked about the non-permanence of their career decisions, and shared that I have been a lawyer, venture capital consultant, investment banker, screenwriter, filmmaker, author, coach and speaker — not one of which I had any inkling I’d be doing at the start of my senior year of college — including going to law school! My advice was to pursue the fields that engaged and challenged them and let the jobs materialize out of their expertise. We talked about how many amazing jobs in the world exist that they have never even heard of (like this one), and how many more will be invented in the next five years. I also shared my favorite technique on how to abolish regret (from the Success book), but I passed on telling them the George Clooney story — that would have been a bit too much.

Then, Robyn talked about her faith and spiritual journey from being a woman who had a lot of fun in college to the successful counselor she is today. After being asked how to decide what is important in life to focus on, she told us all about an event four years ago, when armed men broke into her house, bound her and her husband, and spent an hour an a half looting their home before leaving, thankfully, without killing them, and how that taught her some real lessons about what you value and what you don’t. Talk about perspective!

But, speaking of perspective, afterwards I was afraid we talked too much, said too little, overwhelmed or just bored the teenagers whose class we were invading. I enjoyed it, but had no idea whether or not they did.

Then, this morning, I received this from Professor Harry Wallace:

Hey Valerie, thanks for sharing your insights in our Happiness First-Year Experience last Friday. Thought you might enjoy students’ informal quick (unedited) responses to the experience:

 

I think this was an amazing talk! I loved the concept of ‘would i care about this if i were dying’ although it was dark, it was very enlightening as to how many things we think affect our happiness but are actually very minute. I feel like as humans we tend to think that a lot more affects us than actually does. I also really liked the concept that nothing is permanent. Honestly, at the age myself and my fellow students are at, we are given the responsibility to make huge choices that people tell us will make or break our lives. This is a huge amount of pressure to feel, yet we are still not even really treated as adults. It was very refreshing to hear that you will be making these huge choices all your life, and the choices you make right now don’t need to be the choices that affect your life in thirty years. All in all I really liked class on friday and some of the things people said really shifted my perspective on certain things.

 

I thought this talk was amazing! At first I had no idea who these two ladies were when they walked into the class, but they had some really great things to say that made my day a lot better. I think after a while of talking about happiness, your brain begins to turn to mush and you get exhausted of trying to define, and figure out what the meaning of happiness is. Yesterday was a great example of that. I thought that Dr. Schlegel’s lecture was just another statistical data lecture that was meaningless to me. Going into this class I was hoping to be inspired to find happiness and figure out what the key to happiness is. I wanted this class to make myself a better and happier person. There have been definite times where our discussions have given me a better outlook on happiness, but there has been clear chunks of time when I fall into a mindset where I am feel like talking about happiness is pointless because there is no way of defining what your happiness is. And I do not like it when we are forced to find and make a definition of happiness. But today was different. What I got out of today was the fact that life is a bumpy road, a roller coaster, and you have to roll with the punches. Because there will be times when you will not be happy, but then there will be times when you will be very happy. And you just have to realize nothing is perfect, but what you need to focus on is making the best of the situation and live life to its fullest extent. Understanding that we do make mistakes is a part of life, and always regretting the decisions you did or did not make will never solve any of your problems. You must find who you are as a person, which will probably change over time, and do what you can do make yourself happy, no matter the struggles you face. Life is perseverance.

 

Because I thought the alumnus were only in the classroom to listen in our class, I was pleasantly surprised when they completely dominated the discussion on happiness in a way that was more powerful and effective than any of the lecturers we’ve had before. What made this alumni-led discussion especially engaging and interactive for me was that I could relate to the alumnus because of their personal stories. Their presentations felt much more human than the statistics-driven presentations and studies we’ve had to watch and read in the past. The portion of Mrs. Alexander’s speech that I particularly enjoyed was her discussion on how we focus too much on the salary that is attributed to a job and not the happiness it provides. There’s a large variety in what a physician can specialize in (along with the salaries accompanying those specializations) and this discussion further reminded me that in the future I should make the choice that will allow me to enjoy going to work the most and not necessarily the choice that will make the most money. The most impactful aspect of the alumni-led discussion in my opinion was Mrs. Stewart’s reflection about being tied up by masked men and how, in order to counteract negative feelings towards a certain event, she asks herself if she would be concerned with those events if she was being tied up and facing death again. I think this is a great method to minimize the harmful impacts of negative events on one’s emotions and it has been effective for me whenever I’ve used it.

 

The talk was very interesting in my opinion. Both ladies had their opinions but both were open to hearing other possibilities. I liked the concept of would you care about this if you were about to die yet I think it leads to not caring. I think we should care if we get a C on a paper not just say “oh if I were dying, would I care about this?” I think too much of that concept can lead to no meaning in life, accomplishments. Pursuit of perfection is the death of us all. Nothing is perfect and that is why many people are not satisfied with their life. Always wanting more and more is not the way to live or to pursue happiness. Overall I loved the talk they gave just wish that the students got to ask more happiness related questions.

 

Last Friday was one of my favorite days in class so far.  It was really cool that both happened to have careers related to happiness.   One of my favorite points that Valerie is that “Nothing is permanent.” This is something I think all college students should hear from a successful adult as we are faced with major decisions, etc.    Obviously we want to have a career that we love within our major, but it is comforting to know that in the event that we are unhappy, we are not stuck.  I also found Robyn’s story to be very thought provoking.  Just picturing her and her husband running down the street after freeing themselves made me feel just a little of the overwhelming sense of freedom they must have been experiencing.  It was also very comforting that it is very possible to have a career that you love.  I am looking forward to finding what it is that I will love to do.

 

This was definitely one of my favorite class periods so far. Like others said, I agree that it really put a real life perspective on what so far has mainly been statistics. It was very inspiring to hear that things worked out for them even though their college lives were a bit disorganized. Although it was a bit frightening, it was also reassuring to hear that “nothing is permanent.” I would like it if I got some sense of permanence from different areas of my life so that I can know that not everything I’ve done in my life has been for nothing, but it’s still nice to hear that we don’t have to worry about the little things or even things that seem huge in the moment, because later they won’t matter. I found Robyn’s talk about religion really inspiring because as someone who has grown up religious but doesn’t practice it much anymore, I’ve felt sort of a disconnect in that part of my life recently. What she said about having spirituality and religion as a strong basis of your life made sense to me, even though I wouldn’t necessarily see myself in that situation. Overall, I’m really glad I got to meet these women and hear about their experiences with happiness because it made me believe that it’ll all work out in the end.

 

This was to say the least a very entertaining class day. Just seeing them enter the room made me nervous. This is because i always try to imagine what i’ll become, and they are a good representation of what trinity has done for people. I think what i got from the discussion in the end is that i really need to do something that makes me happy, because in the end i don’t think all the success in the world will be worth me leading an unhappy life. It was nice to see that people don’t all magically get their lives together in the 4 years they are in college. I’m not sure what it is that will that will make me the happiest in the future, but i guess in order to find out i need to try out new activities often and stop being so lazy. As a side note, I’ve also learned that I’m a very stressed out person since as soon as i left the room and started thinking about my homework for the day my stress-dot turned brownish-green.

 

It was great to hear from the alumni, especially since they were able to give us a look into what life after Trinity may be like. I was encouraged to hear that right now I may not even know that my future job exists and that it is okay to try different things to find your best fit. It’s also a little scary to think that i may not know what my future job will be. Growing up, I tended towards wanting to be professions that were easily defined and pictured, like a doctor, so while I am excited to know I may have a completely unknown job, it’s also scary because my future path isn’t as nicely laid out as I thought it was.

 

I absolutely love the advice given on how to get over regrets. I think it is a great idea to remind yourself not to focus on what ideally could have happened. I plan on using the method of writing a story where you didn’t do the thing you regret doing that is completely the worst case scenario to show myself that while things could be better, they also could be so much worse.

 

The class, we had on Friday was amazing. It was such a privilege to have those alumni with us and give more meaning to the class by showing us that in the “outside world” happiness is not only a subject of regular conversation, but is also something that is addressed in the professional fields. I think that both alumni shared with us experiences of happiness that cannot be learned or understood by reading a study or by attending a lecture. They showed us how happiness, as mundane as it sound is really interesting on a personal and even professional setting. I really liked the advice they gave us. What they told us are sometime overlooked when you are trying to be good at school and follow what you think is best for you, when in reality it is not what will make you happy. I have had a couple of experiences as the one that Robyn had, and I know that when you are with a gun pointed at you, or as you are rushing into the emergency room, the only thing that matters for you in that moment is your family and the people that surround you, not what car you have, how much money you make, how big is your house, etc. It not the material possession that matter, but the people in your life. I try not to remember this events much, but when I do, any problem I have, gets put into perspective and they no longer stress me out or cause the negative effect they were doing. By putting things into perspective you really learn to appreciate what really matters in life. I really enjoyed the improvised lectures from the alumni and it would be fun to have something similar later on the course.

 

I found that I left Friday’s class filled with positive energy, and this is because this is what the ladies were giving off. It was great to hear what they had to say just for the simple fact they have been through Trinity and know a lot from the experiences. What they have to say are unlike what others can since they have actually lived through it. Even more so, the fact they both are in the happiness business so it was just a greater opportunity to hear their stories. One thing that I did take note of was that they did have different beliefs in a way. One was a happiness coach while the other was a christian counselor, this is important because I do not remember the happiness coach ever saying she believed in a higher power. While this did not really affect their opinion on faith and purpose, which really does relate to a main point of happiness which is does purpose affect happiness?

 

These women are the kind of women that I want to be. They seem so open and it was an honor to hear them talk about their lives. I’ve had my head set on a specific career for years, but as my perspective has changed and classes have become more difficult, I’ve become less sure of my future career. Knowing that Valerie changed her career several times made me feel less nervous about my future. I also liked that Robyn talked about her faith. I’m not Christian (I grew up Muslim, actually, even though I’m on the fence about it now), and maybe it’s because I grew up in a very religious household, but I think it is important for me to find something larger than myself that I feel I can depend on. I know Islam has pushed me through the hardest times in my life, and it was inspiring to hear her story of a literal life and death situation and how her faith helped her through it.

 

Personally, I thought that the talk we had in class Friday was amazing. It was interesting as a student to hear about both of our guests’ life experiences and thoughts about happiness, which I thought were very informative. I feel that having someone else who was a Trinity graduate talk about their life has caused me to reconsider what my priorities are in college as far as happiness is concerned. I’m really glad I was able to hear advice from a graduate about being happy in my career, along with with tips to finding a career that will help to facilitate happiness.

I replied to Dr. Wallace, asking permission to share this on my blog and telling him that I appreciated him keeping out the negative responses, but that I was open to feedback, so he could share those with me as well. Here is what he wrote back:

“I didn’t cut or edit anything–your visit was obviously a major hit! Thanks for helping to inspire my flock, blogation permission granted.”

So there you have it. We made a difference, if even just a small one.

And the serendipity just continued. When we walked out of the room, at that exact moment the head of the school’s Entrepreneurship program was walking down the hall and he said he had been looking to meet me during the weekend. He took me to lunch and it looks like I will be doing even more mentoring there in the future.

All of this before the reunion weekend even officially started. And trust me, if got better from there.

Thanks Sigmas. Thanks Trinity. Thanks Universe.
You made me who I am today and I continue to reap the rewards.

Sigma Group shot Alumni and Actives High ResSix Decades of Sigma Theta Tau!

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