An ivy league education is a gift. Yes, you have to earn it. But earning your high status position is not the only reason you enjoy that spot. I believe that it is equal parts effort and luck. Even the unlucky people at Harvard were lucky. No one, and I do believe the wording is accurate, no one gets to Harvard without help. Someone cared. Someone mentored. Someone took an interest. Someone sponsored. In my case, the people who adopted me refused to sign the consent so I could attend Harvard and as a 17 year old I was still a minor and under their thumb. They contended that I simply wanted to attend for the prestige. I would only get pregnant if I went out of state and more importantly, they wanted that “b***h to suffer.” I had the problem of needing parental consent when I did not have anyone in my life who truly deserved the title of “parent.” I told a male teacher who liked to touch my leg and kiss me on the mouth to loosen me up and have me “ease up on the mean” that came so naturally to me when I was uncomfortable. Still, that was all he demanded and I was too young to know that those actions were intended as a prelude, an introduction to a dream deferred and then thwarted. At the time I thought he considered me like a sort of daughter. I had such faith in my somewhat faulty assessment that I did his bidding. He told me to forge the necessary signature and send the acceptance notification back to Harvard, at the same time politely declining Cornell and Dartmouth. I did not know he planned to visit that non-parent, with another teacher, and the two of them would heap the praise on the non-parent about how wonderful the parenting must have been to produce an offspring so successful….yadda, yadda, yadda. The paperwork with the signature I had forged was followed by other papers with genuine signatures. I was allowed to go because the person who hated me had been deceived into believing it was to her credit that I had been successful. Years have eased my anger and I can now admit that it is no small thing to be an unwanted black child and have people take me in. Being clothed, fed, maintained in a school district that was of such quality that I could get accepted to Harvard–these are not small things. No matter the motive, I had more than I would have had if my mentally ill birth mother had kept me in the shopping cart she pushed on the streets of the continental United States when she pan handled between stints in psychiatric hospitals all over the map. I was fortunate, if not loved. You do not get to Harvard without good fortune that you could not produce for yourself no matter how hard you tried. I was lucky.

I worried that I had thrown away my good luck when I was old enough to make my own luck by choosing drugs, to the extent my own emotional/psychiatric issues allowed me to choose. I feared I had lost “it.” “It” was the confidence in self that radiated from Harvard Upperclassmen. There was not school spirit in the sense of a pride over a we-ness, but people felt proud in themselves, and it never came across to me as arrogance but as the surety of belonging to rarified circles that is so solid the surety is unconscious. I no longer felt positive that I had maintained my intellect and I wondered if I could fit in to the world that could have been mine–even if I was just there to visit.

I had the most life affirming experience I have had, maybe ever

I am going to tell you something. I was in a conference with some high level legal people, some of the highest level positions in the state were represented by these people. I was conferring with them, but mostly we had been and at that time were, in opposition to each other. I cannot be more specific, other than to say people get into these positions when they are appointed by high level elected officials. Someone recorded the meeting. It was me and three men, respected, titled men who had earned their positions and had no reason to look at me with anything but contempt. To my amazement, as if I was listening to someone else, I heard a woman who fit it. Who understood what was being said, even when there were efforts to talk over her head. What was truly amazing was that easy confidence I had noticed in others. This woman was not outclassed, or even outdone. She was me. Now I know.

I haven’t lost it. Now that I know I have it, the next step is to decide what to do with it. I will keep you posted.

In the interest of full disclosure I make this admission to you my beloved readers

P.S. I would like to be advanced enough to not care about being regarded as intelligent, I would like to be a Buddhist and walk away from all ego attachments. I am still vain and shallow and want to be intelligent and able to contribute to society in a way that bears fruit, fruit that remains. I care what other people think of me, including what I think of myself.

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