Choice takes a backseat to chance

by Susan McCormack Metcalf '97

I can’t pinpoint the exact moment I became a “Scripps woman.” I don’t know if I was born one, or my four years at Scripps turned me into something that didn’t exist before. Most likely, Scripps cultivated certain aspects of who I already was and gave me the courage, confidence, and hope that I could lead an adult life that was full, significant, and happy.

When I left Scripps, I felt that my education had prepared me for a vigorous career in…something, where I would leave my footprint and my little space in the world just a little better. I spent my 20s exploring careers that I felt were “maybes” of my life’s purpose — journalist, promoter of the arts, and then, ultimately, public educator. Each time I made a career switch, I had a bittersweet moment in which I wondered if I was making the right decision to transition out of a field in which I had already achieved some level of success but that didn’t entirely satisfy me. Each time, however, I also recalled something in my Scripps education that gave me the strength to embrace change and face it head on. I knew that I was in charge of my destiny and that only brave decisions would lead me to true happiness.

At 30, I became a new mother and lost my father within the same summer. Choice suddenly took a backseat to chance. Not only was I now responsible for a new life, I inherited responsibility for two grandmothers in their mid 90s and a mother who had never really worked or been required to make life’s difficult decisions. My focus changed from “saving the world” to sorting through financial accounts, arranging for assisted living, and planning funerals. I began to lose sight of my Scripps education, at least the academic part.

Five years later, I realize my Scripps experience has always been with me, giving me the strength to continue on, the courage to believe in myself, and the ability to make the best decisions for myself and my family. I don’t know how much is directly due to the level of confidence my professors had in me to complete complex assignments, the encouragement of the entire Scripps community to pose new questions and solutions to problems more global than those I face now, or the serenity of the campus that inspired me to stop and find something of beauty and peace each day. All I know is that I am grateful to have had the opportunity to spend four years at such an amazing, nurturing, challenging place as Scripps. Its cumulative effect will forever play a part in who I am.

Susan Metcalf taught junior high English for six years and has been a junior high assistant principal for the last two.


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