20 Years Late: Note to College Counselor
This post is in response to last week’s challenge to send a note of thanks to someone I haven’t talked to in a long time (in this case, 20 years!) It took me a while to track down my college counselor, to whom I owe the title of this blog and many thanks that were never acknowledged…
Note to Tim:
My name is Anna Fieler and I graduated from Choate class of 1990. You became my college counselor almost exactly 20 years ago today. I recently tracked down your email address from the Choate college counseling office.
You don’t know this because I have never expressed it. But you have made a lasting impact on my life, aside from getting me into college. In the Fall of 1989, I walked into your office with a copy of my half-baked college application essay to Brown in hand. The essay probably waxed poetic about some grandiose adolescent thoughts. You read it and said, “this reminds me of William Carlos Williams’ poem “red wheel barrow”, do you know it?” I resonated with the poem so much that unbeknownst to me at the time, it went on to become a true north of how I have aspired to live my life ever since.
That episode in your office was a small but critical moment for me. As a 17-year old who was abruptly transplanted into a New England prep school from Taiwan by way of the Dominican Republic , I was uncertain of who I was and floundering trying to navigate my way around a new world that didn’t come with an instruction manual. Brown’s simple, open-ended essay question — “Tell us about yourself” — felt particularly intimidating. I remember feeling very vulnerable when I walked into your office that day, embarrassed by what I had written in my essay. However, instead of dismissing my grandiose adolescent thoughts and encouraging me to write about something more tangible, you recognized the kernel of truth in it. You gave me the gift of the “red wheel barrow”, which not only helped validate but also elevated what might have otherwise gotten lost as a passing sentiment. Beyond the college essay, every interaction was just as insightful. Visiting your office had become a favorite activity. Our discussions about which college would be a good fit ended up being more about my journey to finding myself and reclaiming my voice…
You might wonder what compelled me to track you down and write you 20 years after the fact…? Through work, I recently launched my own blog. You guessed it, I named it “Red Wheel Barrows” and wrote about the poem in my debut entry. The blog is in response to the Gratitude Challenge my team is sponsoring. As soon as I wrote my first entry, I knew I had to find you and express my gratitude for the role that you have played in my life, and to share this experience on my blog. Your influence helped pave the foundation for who I am today, giving me the courage to put myself out there again and again, to not be afraid of expressing what I really believe, even if it seems naïve, idealistic, or grandiose. Perhaps kind of like this Gratitude Challenge.
So Tim, I would like to thank you for being one of the unsung heroes of my life. You were a great college counselor, but even a better life counselor. I am grateful and privileged to have been under your guidance at such a critical juncture in my young life.