Y’all know I like to talk. Y’all know I bleed purple with the best of them. And y’all know I jump on every opportunity to give back to the people and organizations that invested in my success and in the adult-ish person I am today.
If you recall, I gave a moving, song filled speech to the leadership of TRiO back in February in Tyler. That opportunity was granted by the UB greats, Jenny and Jeff. This weekend I had another amazing opportunity to speak to the current students of Tarleton Upward Bound at their first meeting of the year.
Hard to accept that I’m adult-ish enough to be the guest speaker, rather than the student in the audience. Who in the heck let that happen?
I don’t know how motivational my speech was, or how awake everyone was, but we sang “head shoulders knees and toes” to kick it off. It was a great feeling to give back to the program that played a huge part in getting me to where I am today. I learned so much more than college readiness and success in UB – met my favorite redhead from Hogtown, learned about love and life, and have an extensive family of TRiO achievers – past, present, and future.
I don’t know where God is taking me, us, with these open doors and opportunities but he continues to bless us. What a mighty God we serve!
Good Morning Everyone – are we awake? No? Well let’s wake up! Everyone standup, it’s time for a quick, good old fashioned, Head Shoulders Knees and Toes, ready?
Ok now, again I ask – are we awake? Are you sure? Should we sing again?
Thank you for having me this morning. It’s exciting to be back in this room, I feel 17 again, waiting for UB updates, instructions, and of course, paying attention to Jenny.
The first meeting of the year is always the best, you haven’t seen everyone since summer, right? Lots of gossip and memories to catch up on? Trust me, I’ve been in your shoes – today is the first day of the journey towards another epic summer session and it’s exciting.
My name is Sunny Brous Erasmus and I was in your seat not all that long ago. I bridged from Tarleton UB in 2005 and spent the next 8 years working directly with UB on the campuses of Weatherford College and Texas State.
I think it’s important that we get on the same page, learn a little about ourselves this morning, and hopefully it will not only keep us all awake but maybe just maybe each of us will take something away from our time here together. In light of the devastation of Harvey, and on the forefront of Irma, it’s easy to count ourselves lucky to not be struck by such tragedy and hard to imagine the full magnitude of the destruction. We’ve seen the pictures, we’ve sent prayers, donations, anything we can to help those in need, and we’ve all gone to bed thankful that we don’t live in Houston.
Yesterday I caught the end of a conversation on a radio talk show that was discussing the predictions of Irma and what the local and state authorities are telling residents. The host of the show repeated something an official had said in an interview that had hit hard with him:
If you do not evacuate, do not call 911. No one will be there to answer.
Let that set in a second. (pause)
- from an early age who are you taught to call for help?
- In an emergency, who do you call for help?
- In any situation where help is needed, who are you trained to call?
But what happens when no one is at 911 to answer? Kind of put things into a different perspective, huh?
So let’s take that perspective and apply it our lives right here, right now, as we sit together in this room on the campus of the greatest school in the history of ever. If everything you knew to be true, fact, solid was suddenly false, fiction, unstable – what would you have left? What would push you to continue? To conquer? To be successful? Dare I say it, to be happy?
For the sake of time and emotional energy, let’s narrow it down to 5 things. 5 concrete, unwavering, non-negotiable pieces of the puzzle that is your life, right here, right now, today in this room.
Think outside of material items – those can be replaced. Think outside of your comfort zone – we’ve just survived a natural disaster together – hypothetically – we can create a new comfort zone, we are resilient, right?
Do you have your 5 things? Or 3 things – I mean it is Saturday and I’m putting you on the spot, I’ll cut you some slack.
I’m going to tell you my 5 things and hopefully you’ll leave today with something – a thought, maybe an idea, a change in perspective, something. Promise me you’ll leave with something, I’ll make us sing again if you don’t!
My first is family – I know what you’re thinking, cop-out. Family is my foundation, it is what gets me up in the morning, carries me through good days and bad, and makes my world go ‘round. Sometimes when I open my mouth my mother comes out. My passion for education comes from my grandfather. My ability to laugh when I only want to cry is from my sisters. My family extends beyond the boundaries of blood or marriage – my definition of family is the people who have loved and invested in my success.
My second is my marriage – yes I consider my husband family, but he is so much more. You see, 2 short months into this game called dating I had to ask him the hardest question I have ever asked anyone in my life:
Are you in this with me? Because this is going to get worse before it gets better, and better is death.
I haven’t survived a natural disaster, but I have had my world rocked to its core. 15 days before my 28th birthday, and 10 months before I met my sweet husband, I was diagnosed with Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, or ALS. I was just rockin’ along, enjoying my 20s, and BAM terminal disease. I wasn’t ready, I’m still not ready, but 2.5 years later I’m still rockin’ along and my husband holds my hand and my heart as we navigate this disease together.
My third is education – just like you, I am first generation – I was low income – and UB was the answer to a life that was different than I knew. My education is something that defines me, I earned these degrees, I cried in the library on Sunday evening trying to understand the foreign language that is statistics, I ran myself ragged from sun up to sun down determined to maintain a couple of part time jobs, complete homework, and keep my A in socializing. UB trained me for 6 years of undergrad and grad school – I mean, who in their right mind goes to school – willingly – on Saturdays? And for 6 weeks in the summer? C’monn Now – I was conditioned for those kinds of expectations. Of course we discussed important things like science and history, but that’s not what got me through the late nights and early mornings – you try living 4 teenage girls in a suited dorm, without parental supervision and get sleep – not happening! We’ve got entire too much to talk about.
My fourth is my teeth – sounds vain but these babies are my money makers. Do I take care of them like I should? No, but I am thankful for them every morning, smiling back at me in the mirror in a cloud of morning breath. And on the day before Good Friday when I broke my nose by finding the floor with my face, they were the first thing I asked about. Big, crooked, and a snaggle tooth to match my mother and grandmother – they are an extremely important part of who I am.
My fifth and final is love – super-duper cheesy but stay with me, this is good. Love is fluid, it can take on many shapes and forms. It’s more than a feeling, it’s tangible, it can be seen in actions, it can be transferred by a hug, it can be heard in a word. Love is my faith in a God who empowers me to love others because he first loved me. Love is smiles from strangers at the grocery store, holding the door open for me when we both know you’re tired of waiting on me to get there, and love is the investment in the success of others. With love, anything can be accomplished – the worst of days, the most devastating of diagnosis, and the feeling that the entire world is stacked against you.
So now you know the five things that will enable me to get back on my feet after the dust has settled, the water has been drained away, and I’m left to start over completely. Knowing my five things: family, husband, education, teeth, and love is what puts the rest of my life into perspective. They are what defines me as a woman, a dog and cat mom, as the Director of Development and Events with Junior Achievement.
The best part of knowing these things about yourself today, as we sit together in this room on the campus of the greatest school in the history of ever, is that it didn’t take a hurricane or a terminal diagnosis to come to this stage of enlightenment. We are bonded together by our UB family, and your success as a student, as a graduate, as a parent, is crucial to everyone in this room. This room of people is invested in your today, your tomorrow self, and your future – so what are you bringing to the table? How are you empowering those around you to succeed at this game called life? Your five things, or three for the slackers, is your investment in this program, in the success of yourself, and the collective ability to persevere when times are hard.
At some point in the relatively near future, all of us will be asked to answer the age old question, Tell me about yourself. Whether it’s in a job interview, or on a college application, or in a scholarship essay, or on a dating site – you will be asked that question eventually. I read an article recently on CNBC by Suzy Welch that gave this advice:
“One or two small details that show you are self-aware, empathetic or any other positive trait you’re hoping to demonstrate can go a long way.”
Well, after today, even the slackers of the bunch have 3 responses.
So Good luck this year. Go get’em tiger. Make us proud – make yourself proud. Enjoy this time in your life because you’ll never get it back. And always, always, always listen to Jenny – she knows everything.
Thanks for having me.