It is truly an amazing thing when someone sees something in you which you do not see in yourself.
I am reminded from time to time of a professor that I had at Holy Cross. She passed away a couple years ago. Not unlike the other professors at Holy Cross she was a tour de force. She changed the way I saw the world as so many others did during those years. We first encountered one another during an evening showing of a documentary on Robert Motherwell, an abstract expressionist painter. I don’t remember if she ran the discussion after the documentary, or if she was in the audience. I know I said something that I still believe to be true today about how abstract expressionism is the by-product of the artist’s pure emotion. Rather than paint a story to elicit emotion from the viewer, the artist shows angst, joy, and sadness in the lines and shapes. The jagged or curved edges communicate on an emotion to emotion level. This relieves the left side of the brain of its need to process the storytelling of, let’s say, a Rembrandt or a Michelangelo and transmit it to the right side of the brain. I know I stated it far more succinctly in the classroom that day. Anyway, I guess this particular professor liked the response. She came up to me as I was packing up my notebook. She told me what I had to contribute to the discussion was excellent. Then she invited me to take her architecture seminar during what would be my final undergraduate semester. Seminars were slightly higher level classes, which I thought at the time one had to be selected by the professor to elect. I was wrong, but it still felt pretty great to be asked to join the class. She believed in me when I didn’t believe in myself.
I had always thought that Holy Cross was way out of my league. After all, I had not read the canon that all these prep school kids did. I certainly did not have the test scores, and at best my high school grades were average. During the admissions interview, I must have done something right, because come the following March I received the big envelope. Three years later, with this dear professor, I had the same experience, the seal of approval that I was all right. Still, most of the time I feel all wrong. Thus, it is necessary to look back at times like these to remember that the better judge of my worth is reflected back to me by others.
Today, I pay homage to her and all the others and whisper a quiet “Thank you.”