It was the spring semester of my senior year of college, and I was three credits shy of graduation. Being your typical lazy college student with senioritis, I looked for the easiest class I could find. A brand new class called White Mountain History seemed to fit the bill perfectly.
My years in college were not the happy, make-friends-for-life years that many people have. Rather they were filled with a great deal of confusion, anger and sadness—at myself for the choices I had made and at the world for the things that had happened to me. By the time the spring semester came around, I was more than ready to move away from the small campus of eight hundred students, no love lost.
The class was created and taught by Laura Alexander and as the weeks went by I found myself becoming quite interested in the history of the mountains I had only been to a couple of times. A few, rather early, Saturday mornings the class would pile into two fifteen-passenger vans and spend the day visiting places such as the Old Man in the Mountain, the Cannon ski area, Tuckerman’s Ravine, and the AT trail head to name a few. For the final exam we had to create character and use historical facts to talk about a certain area of the White Mountains as that character. I created a writer who came to the Mount Washington Hotel for the summer to write. I remember wishing, as I cobbled the report together, that I was a writer of a different time, that I was a writer in general.
On the last day of class Laura came in with a plastic shopping bag and passed out a small laminated card with a picture on one side and a quote and a note on the other. The quote read:
After graduation I moved to Boston, with two friends, into an apartment that was out of our price range, especially considering that none of us had jobs. But we were young and cocky and figured we would get jobs in our respective fields right away. As my grandmother wrote once about her twenties, I thought I had reached the zenith and was wiser than all the prophets. In reality I could not find a graphic design job, despite calling every design company in the phone book. I had it in my head that because my degree was in graphic design, that was the kind of job I needed to find. For many years I blamed the quality of my education on my inability to get a job but eventually came to realize I was only an average designer and once again God had a plan that was better than the one I had. Not that I really had a plan anyway. I spent eight months looking for a career while taking temporary low-paying jobs and borrowing money from friends to pay the rent. Finally I gave in and moved back to Vermont. I had tacked the card that Laura had given us to my bedroom door frame in Boston to remind me to get out into the wilderness I so dearly loved. As I was moving out I pulled the card off the wall and read the quote. As I said to Laura in a letter from February of 2001, It made everything seem right and I knew I was on the right path. For years after I carried that small card around in my wallet until it started to delaminate.
When I left Boston things did not immediately become sunshine and roses. However, through all the rotten jobs and the request for interviews at design firms, I carried that card with me. Eventually I got my then dream job at the American Diabetes Association, which in turn led to meeting Erin.
Laura is the only professor I have corresponded with since graduating from college. To this day I am in awe in the way that God works and how He gets you where you need to be, though because of personal choices and bull-headedness, it sometimes takes longer than it should. Who would have guessed that a “fluff” class at the end of my senior year and a little card from a professor I hardly knew would have such a profound impact on my life. The card that she gave me now sits in a box of other random treasures I have kept over the years and now and again I pull it out and look at it. The words and the worn edges remind me of the often-hard journey that brought me to where I am today.