A miracle occurred on the day I wore the traveling scarf! I've been searching for community my whole life, and as a single person could never truly find acceptance anywhere. Coming to UD for Engineering school years ago, was when I first experienced a hint of "community" and I was very influenced by it. In 2004, I converted to Catholicism under the tutelage of UD's Father Jerry Chinchar, who was the first person in my entire life who taught me that as a human being my life was precious! Even then, when I went out into the community parish, as a single Catholic with no Catholic family, I was unable to find any "church home" other than the UD Chapel, and UD has really been the only "community" I've ever known.
I've been in search for community my whole life. I tried lived in a convent for 6 months, and even there, I could find no acceptance and no evidence of this elusive concept known as "community". In fact, my whole life, I have been like Kevin in the movie "Home Alone," as he walked down the street on Christmas Eve looking from the outside in the windows of houses as families enjoyed the Christmas holiday together. Believe me, walking on the street on Christmas eve with no place to go is one of the most heart wrenchingly lonely experiences there is. I never been a part of a "real" family that actually hangs together, and now that my workaholic father has died, all I have left is my elderly mother who is in a nursing home, and a brother 1000 miles away who has nothing to do with me.
Last year, when I chose the University of Dayton to come back to school as an NTRAD, (my cool nickname for "nontraditional student") to pursue a new avocation, I was hoping to experience this "community" I had read about online.
On March 19, the day I wore the traveling scarf, I have to admit that I was at the lowest point of the semester in how I felt about myself. In fact, quite honestly, I was nearing the point of no return, and rapidly approaching a decision to give up trying to fit in anywhere ever again, stop reaching out, and stop trying to do anything with others, including playing music.
Even students who used to be friends who played duets with me last year now pass by me as if I don't exist and disconfirm me when I try to communicate with them. I was beginning to lose my faith and give up on the human race. I mean, after all, if you cannot find "community" and acceptance in a Marianist University where compassion is considered the norm, then where in the world can you find it?
After sustaining an injury in mid-August, during the last month of fall semester I was finally able to get down to business on my schoolwork and compositions, and made great progress. The performance of my work "The Black Hole" with the Gamelan Orchestra on December 2, 2011, was a huge success, but as a female composer, I was not recognized for my work. For some reason, I was even denied the opportunity to study composition again.
From the moment I put the scarf on, I suddenly felt better about myself, and even a little bit positive. I could feel the positive energy of every woman who wore the traveling scarf before me. I found myself walking on the campus with a newfound confidence and almost felt like a different person. I performed better in my music class, and when I sat down in the KU dining hall for lunch, where I usually sit alone, all of a sudden out of the blue, a traditional student I knew from the astronomy club walked right up to me, plopped right down at the table with me, and talked with me for 30 whole minutes! What a gift! And I have the "sisterhood of the traveling scarf" to thank for it!
What was even more amazing is what she said. This student expressed the hope that I would be back next year, she actually VALIDATED MY EXPERIENCE! She told me that a traditional female student friend of hers is currently undergoing the same issues I've had.
What a wonderful gift it was for me that day to be validated and to discover that my experience has been real, that it was never 'just me,' or 'all my fault.' I did the best I could. Oftentimes, it is common practice to scapegoat a victim, blaming the victim for getting hurt, and this has been an unfortunate fact of life in the female experience throughout history. And this is one reason why many of us have ended up wasting our gifts and talents, and been robbed of our potential.
Traditionally, it has always been difficult for female composers to be accepted and recognized, especially in academia, so the path I chose was not going to an easy one.
Historically, the only way female composers have been able to succeed has been to cater to the male ego, find a male ally, find a way around the male ego, or attempt to avoid it by joining a convent. One female composer, who has a 20-year history of hundreds of successful works and is revered as one of the finest composers of our day, lost opportunity while involved in academia. Why does this still happen?
If only we as women would validate each other more often. Fewer of us would give up and fewer of us would recycle the same mistakes over again. More of us would succeed, and this could make a big difference.
Considering how many times in history we women have reduced ourselves to playing "second chair in the fiddle section of life" in order to appease the male ego and survive or reach goals, just imagine what the world would be like now, if all women throughout history had been given 100% opportunity to truly shine, with not one woman's skills, talents, abilities or gifts squelched out of existence or wasted. Wouldn't that be a wonderful world? My question is when are we ever going to have this opportunity? When is this ever going to happen?
The next day, it was my turn to pass on the traveling scarf to my next "sister," a very sweet kind NTRAD (nontraditional student like myself) in grad school, Michela, who has a passion for making the world a better place through higher education! She actually took the time to sit with me in the KU Galley and get to know me. We enjoyed talking together and she expressed an interest in some future concerts. She seemed very compassionate, so I shared some of the experiences I've had at UD.
The Traveling Scarf has been true blessing to me!