I recently had an opportunity to submit some content to the author of a book on advice given by mothers. I’m sure there are far more that touch me daily, but there are two specific instances where my mother’s voice routinely transcends through time and space. To this day, I still apply these words regularly.
The first was from grade school, when I was one girl in a group of three close girl friends. My mother continually cautioned me about groups of three: “In a group of three friends, someone always ends up with hurt feelings, so you need to be extra careful.” She was right. Today, at the age of 37, I am again one in a group of three close girl friends. It would be very easy to have hurt feelings when I hear the two of them went shopping or lunching without me (even though I do the same). But when I remember my mother’s wise words, I am grateful to have the good friends that I do.
Another memory of my mother’s counsel is from my college years. I had a very tough major in college (microbiology), and I lived in a house with 10 other women off campus. I recall at one point in my junior year, when faced with two major exams (biochemistry and microbial physiology) and a lab report due the following day, I called my mother sobbing from stress and disappointment. My housemates had all just gone out dancing, and I was left alone to study, most likely through the night. Knowing this was not the first time I had found myself in this situation (nor would it be the last), my mother got teary with me and said, “All I can tell you is that the hard work will pay off. I don’t know how or when, but all of this will be worth it some day.” Although I knew that she was just saying what a mother was required to say in a moment like that (what else could she have said?), it did comfort me. And she was right; those tough moments taught me to prioritize, focus and deal with stress. Further, my career accomplishments reinforce that, although it may not always yield what I thought it would, hard work does pay off.
I realize that some of you, instead of getting sentimental at this point, are asking, “A microbiology major? Doing marketing?” My response is simple: “Hey, I graduated with honors in 3.5 years from one of the toughest undergraduate programs in the country. I’m a tough, smart, hard-working chick who is scientifically minded, strategic and creative.” If that doesn’t work, I say, “As a sophomore in college, I developed a creative series of experiments that resulted in my discovery of an organism that could degrade carbon tetrachloride, a priority pollutant with the EPA.” That usually shuts them up. (Thanks, Mom.)