Some photos can be so deceiving and can even change your memory of any given day. This photo of me and my dad was taken on graduation day in 1971 in front of CCM (County College of Morris), where I earned an Associates Degree. We look very close and happy to be together to celebrate this momentous occasion, don’t we? In reality, my dad and I were in conflict about so many things on that day, including my continuing education plans.
I wanted to continue college in Boston, as my brother had before me. Armed with my acceptance to Boston University, I broke the news to dad and he was not supportive, emotionally or financially. Dad said so matter-of-factly that a degree was not important for “girls.” I was also about to make the biggest mistake of my life by marrying someone who was very wrong for me, and frankly, my dad tried to talk some sense into me about that, but I was too rebellious, too stubborn, too alienated to listen. But most of all, I was determined to prove him wrong about what a “girl” could accomplish in this world.
Because I loved my parents so much, I made a very bad decision that year so that they wouldn’t disown me. I wish I could get a “do-over” on that. But I will never regret the decision to attend Boston U to earn my Bachelor’s Degree. I paid for my BU education with scholarship funds, loans and by working a part-time job every day after classes, and I managed to graduate with a Bachelor’s in Science, magna cum laude. I lived off-campus in the Back Bay, and I supported myself best I could. On weekends, I drove to New Jersey to visit mom and dad because mom always made sure I had enough to eat. She surreptitiously packed the trunk of my car with steaks and chicken and sundries, just so I wouldn’t starve.
I love this picture and I love my dad, but seriously, on that day, while we posed for that photo, I could have flipped him the bird for minimizing the importance of my education!
Writing about a career that spans over forty years is challenging at best. My “career” or better put in the plural, “careers,” started after college in 1973 when I began what I thought would be a lifelong stretch teaching high school English. Turns out that vocation was derailed by a divorce and the rude awakening that came with being on my own at 25 and having to support myself. After we sold our house as part of the divorce settlement, I began life as an apartment dweller and I hated it. So I vowed to save enough money to afford a home of my own. My dad worked for Bell Laboratories in Whippany at the time, and he was worried about me and thought I would be more financially secure if I had a job in the Bell System. “Ma Bell” took care of her people. My teaching job at the time paid $12,000 a year. Dad told me about an opening in the Anti-Trust Department. The Labs’ corporate legal team was involved in the Litton Anti-Trust litigation and they were hiring those with degrees in English who could summarize depositions and assist with witness interviews. So in 1978, I left teaching to begin my career in the Bell System and this entry level job paid an annual salary of $17,000; so I thought at least I was moving up, financially, that is. I still mourned the loss of my primary career, but it looked like there would be many “teaching” opportunities within AT&T, at many levels.
After spending a year or two at Bell Labs, I transferred to AT&T’s training department and in a Bell System career that lasted about 15 years, I worked my way over to sales and marketing and eventually became a product manager. Today, sifting through the photos that I will feature in my LifeTime Book, I came across this graduation photo taken at the beginning of a new position as an enterprise phone system sales executive for AT&T Business Communications Systems, sometime in the 1980’s. I can still remember my first sale to a bank in Fairfield, NJ—a “state-of-the-art” voice and data PBX system. The bank president was thrilled and the commission was generous! The Training “Academy” in Denver, Colorado was affectionately referred to as “Darth Vader University.” Funny I don’t remember the names of even one of the guys in this photo, but maybe some of them will read my post and send me an email.
I have collected quite a few photos now, and I’m beginning the process of selecting the dozen or so that will punctuate the text in my book.