Last night I had my first meeting for the Board of Directors of the Weber State Alumni Association. It was held in a spacious conference room on campus. As soon as I walked into the room, I was greeted by the slender president of WSU, Chuck Wight, and his even more slender wife, Victoria. I inwardly geeked out a little as I chatted with them.
A table by the entrance displayed purple folders and assorted WSU paraphernalia. I picked up the folder with my name on it and made my way to an empty table. Nancy, the Executive Director of Alumni Relations (and the only person in the room I knew), came over and hugged me. She looked at my stuff and asked, “Did you get your scarf?” I had not, so she grabbed one for me. It was silver and silky, with the WSU logo printed all over it. It was adorable and I was thrilled. There were even more WSU-branded items at my table, including an alumni pin and a deck of playing cards. And when I opened my purple folder I found the greatest treasure of all: a WSU ‘A’ lot parking pass, good until next August!! Y’all– that’s pure gold. I would have given my left arm for one of those when I was attending WSU!
The smell of chafing dishes filled with artichoke and spinach dip, Swedish meatballs, and bacon-wrapped chicken filled the air. I piled as much as I could fit on the tiny black plate (hey, I’m marathon training. Need to fuel up.) and sat at my empty table. I looked around the room at the others, most of whom seemed to know each other. Later, as we introduced ourselves, I realized they did indeed know each other. Oh, and also by this time, there were others sitting at my table so I wasn’t completely alone.
The table right next to mine was filled with the Young Alumni Association members. The Emeriti Alumni Association members took up a few tables. And then there were members of the Student Alumni Association. Men and women, young and old; many of them (myself included) decked out in purple.
When I told some members I was new to the BOD, they exclaimed, “Well you look like you should be a Young Alumni!” Total stroke to my 40-year-old ego, right? Little do they know I actually could be on the YAA. They are a group whose members graduated within the last decade. I graduated as a non-traditional (aka OLD) student in 2013. In any case, I’m happy to have my spot at the BOD table.
We spent the next hour doing an orientation. At the end of the evening, the Emeriti members gathered around a piano in the corner of the room and the rest of us stood at our tables and joined them in singing the WSU song “Purple and White”. I’m not going to lie: I didn’t know the words AT ALL. Fortunately I know the WSU cheer “Great, Great, Great,” so when we got to that part I totally nailed it.
All in all, it was a great night. I hurried to my car (I had to get to back-to-school night for our kindergartner) and as I headed off campus, I felt tears stinging my eyes and a lump in the back of my throat. What the hell was wrong with me?? Why was I so emotional? And I had this epiphany:
I had been invisible for so long and now I finally felt SEEN. Sheryl Sandberg wrote “Lean In,” challenging women to “sit at the table”. I had spent so many years waiting on and serving the people at the tables- literally- that I never dreamed of anything much bigger than that. And I can tell you from my 15-plus years of serving and bartending, I was very invisible. At best I was objectified. On average I was ignored. At worst I was belittled. FIFTEEN years of this.
But now… now I’m sitting at the table. A part of me looked around the room last night and thought, “I don’t belong here. I’m not worthy.” And another part of me thought, “I worked damn hard. This is exactly where I belong.”
I’m on the WSUAA Board of Directors. I am at the table. I am leaning in. I am seen. Finally… finally.