How to Take Charge of Your Own Story

Along with learning to tell her own story, Michele Barnwell ’89 offers some advice on how others can do the same:

  1. Life is messy. Give yourself permission to get a little messy too. You’re allowed to be a little scared, stressed, or however you start feeling when you decide you want to take charge of your own story. Feel feelings! Bring ’em with you. If along the way naysayers call you a lunatic, unmanageable, or insubordinate because you had the audacity to believe you could do a thing they didn’t think was possible, that’s PERFECT! You’re a pioneer.
  2. You get to have dreams. With whatever you’ve got and with ALL parts of you mixed in together, dream with abandon. Whole hog. No matter how many times you stumble, get doubted, or feel like an imposter. You’re not excluded from having dreams of any size for ANY reason.
  3. Be really good to yourself. Sounds pretty munchy-crunchy but, as I’m learning, this makes a huge difference in how I take charge of my own story. What “being good” to myself has meant is: pausing in a moment of stress, figuring out what I really need in that moment (support, a snack, a disco nap, whatever), and giving myself exactly that.
  4. Accept support. The day my mom and I drove up to Wesleyan to talk to an admission officer (about why I’d been rejected, gulp!), my mom reminded me that I forbid her from speaking when we got there. Oopsy. (I was afraid she’d beg Wes to change their mind). Welp, she didn’t listen to her scared 17-year-old daughter. Thank God. Instead she boldly asked them: “Why didn’t (my daughter) get in?” I wanted to crawl under the floorboards with embarrassment. But it changed everything for me. Her one question shifted the freaking matrix and led Wesleyan to reversing their decision.