In honor of #WomensHistoryMonth I’m posting about women who inspired me.
Teresa Miller (then Teresa Carey) was a student working part time when a conversation with her changed the trajectory of my life.
I’d graduated high school a couple years earlier and was working at the Chestatee Regional Library; happy to have an ‘office job’ rather than continuing to work at the cotton mill where I’d worked the summer after graduation. Teresa was a couple years younger and a student working part time.
“Why don’t you go to the junior college?” she asked.
Growing up in a blue-collar family, no one had ever encouraged me to go to college. Not even a teacher. My friends were on the graduate; get a job; get married; have babies track. Our families couldn’t afford college and I didn’t think I was smart enough anyway. The friends I have now will need to read that last part again–I didn’t think I was smart enough. (It wasn’t until I was about 40 that I became enamored with my own intelligence!)
Teresa told me that most students she knew didn’t have parents who paid for their college. Most worked their way through and got student loans, grants or scholarships. As for not being smart enough, she explained that anyone could get into the junior college. Plus they had remedial classes for anyone who wasn’t ready for college-level courses.
My boyfriend scoffed at the idea that I was going to start college. “College is for smart kids and people with rich Daddy’s,” he protested. “And you ain’t neither one a them.” I didn’t listen.
“What will I major in?” was my next question. Teresa said that since I loved clothes, accessories, hair and makeup maybe I should study fashion merchandising.
She told me about a friend who was studying that and working part-time at the local Belk store so she would get experience along the way.
Based on that conversation I took the SAT, registered for night classes and got a job in the cosmetics department of the local Belk store. That job eventually led me to moving to Atlanta and working for Liz Claiborne for seven years. My last few years at LC were as a regional trainer. Afterwards I started doing corporate training on my own as a contractor, which led me to speaking and writing.
Thank you, Teresa!
You never know when a word of encouragement or a conversation will change the course of someone’s life. Let’s celebrate Women’s History Month by thanking a woman who helped you in some way and by paying it forward.
Thank a woman. Help a woman. Create a movement.