academically gifted

Many long hours spent in the O'Neill library with my incus, stapes, and malleus vibrating to this gem: 

It’s not what you know, but who you know.

Many golfers know the trick to playing a great round of golf is to have a few beers. Just kidding! The real secret to success is consistently playing with golfers better than yourself. Even though the scenario can be intimidating, it instantly alters your mindset: you're focused and willing to learn. Each shot is played to the best of your ability, and you look to the better player for new skills and habits. I've learned there is great value to playing the game of life under similar circumstances. 

When I wrote "wildfire" I told you a secret. Well, since it is the season of giving I'll tell you another: I was Warner Huntington III of Boston College. 

There was a family connection, and a phone call. 

Before I go too much further, I need to give this snippet some context and background. I didn't even want to go to Boston College. My long-time dream had been Stanford. It was the only school I toured, and, without the persistence of my guidance counselor, it would have been my only college application. 

Bless Ms. DeBoer's heart for narrowly helping me avoid disaster. With her persuasion, I submitted exactly two more applications. She framed the task (wasn't that process just awful?!) as though I was simply placating MOTS and my Grandma. In reality, she was saving my ass from community college when the rejection letter from Stanford arrived. 

In all its glory, that small, thin envelope did, in fact, arrive. I let a few tears roll down my cheek as I opened it, and then it was done. By some miracle, the feeling of devastation never arrived. In many ways I think my beloved literature teacher had already prepared me for this moment: "Now girls, listen. This is very important. You will end up exactly at the school you are meant to be." No truer words have ever been spoken. 

MOTS was all about Creighton, and my Grandma wouldn't shut up about Boston College. I had been accepted to Creighton, and waitlisted at BC. But I wasn't about to stay home. The phone call was made, and I Shipped Up to Boston

I arrived on BC's campus in the fall of 2007 completely sight unseen. (Except for the few images of the iconic Gasson Hall I had seen while filling out the application.) And I never looked back. 

I immediately fell in love. The people. The campus. The classes. Looking back now, the thought of Stanford makes me laugh. I would have never fit in with those California vibes. BC quickly became home, and the people my family. I never imagined myself as an East Coaster, but somehow, my Grandma knew all along that it would be the perfect fit. 

Her months of nagging were not wasted, and she received the ultimate vindication the summer after my freshman year. Once again I was gushing about how great BC was, and she smugly said, "See, Grandma was right." I couldn't help but nod in agreement. She was. 

I didn't know it then, but that phone call was her best (and final) gift to me. I have never been surrounded by so many brilliant and talented individuals. Sitting in those classrooms, I constantly felt inadequate and out of my league. I walked into BC thinking I was smart (I did have a 4.0+ in high school after all!), but my peers quickly humbled me. Sitting next to friends with a 2320 on their SAT or who had chosen BC because an Ivy League didn't pan out was intimidating, and at times absolutely soul crushing. Especially when a curve was involved. My classmates redefined brilliance.

In addition to intimidation, I often felt like a fraud and carried guilt that I had stolen a more deserving student's spot. I had robbed them of their "Stanford dream" all because I knew someone, and they didn't. We have all been told that it's who you know, not what you know. For a long time I gave this phrase a negative connotation. Unqualified individuals landing in positions they don't deserve. I let this image undermine my credibility as a student at BC. Not only was that depiction wrong, but it was also damaging to my self-worth. 

A connection didn't lower my IQ. Getting placed on the waitlist by my own merit was proof that I was qualified. I was good enough. I could hack it in BC's over-achieving jungle. I was temporarily stuck in a holding pattern for qualified applicants. But I belonged. And even though I had a who, I also had the what.

I only wish I had realized that sooner, because it was a game changer. 

When I walked off that course in 2011, I couldn't have asked for a better round. Playing in that challenging environment forced me to work harder and dream bigger. I cherish the memories that scorecard holds. I learned alongside some of the best, and I hope to one day pay it forward by being someone's connection. Because there's no shame in asking a friend-of-a-friend if you can join a better foursome. In fact, I highly recommend it.