Friday, January 08, 2010

Silver Linings and Serendipity (Part 1 of ?)

I am a true believer in the old adage that every black cloud has a silver lining.  The bigger the cloud, the bigger the lining.  I made a resolution this year to never lose sight of that.  This is the (somewhat long) story of how the tumor that was supposed to kill me instead led me live a most extraordinary and wonderful life.

In order to get at the spinal cord and remove the tumor, my surgeons first had to remove the backs of the ten vertebrae where the tumor was growing.  (This procedure is called a laminectomy.)  The laminectomies and radiation treatments I had after the first tumor excision weakened my spinal column and caused me to develop a severe (90 degree) front to back curvature of my neck and upper back.  The operation to stabilize the curvature and associated complications caused a four year gap between my junior and senior years of college. 

By the time I went back to school, the cost of tuition was way up and my eligibility for financial aid was way down.  My frustration with and anger about this led me to get involved in student politics at the university level.  I was elected Student Government (SG) Treasurer and during my term in office, I became active in the state student association.  At the end of my term as SG Treasurer, I ran for SG President.  I lost that election, but one week later was elected President of the state student association.

At the same time, the Governor of Michigan launched an Executive Intern Program.  The students chosen would spend ten weeks working directly with one of the members of the Governor’s Cabinet during the day and attending special classes with political leaders at night.  I beat out over 500 other applicants for one of these 22 full-time, paid positions and moved that summer to the state capital, Lansing, to work with the director of Michigan‘s Department of Management and Budget (DMB). 

The internship was an amazing opportunity.  Not only did it provide me with the opportunity to get a first class education is my first love, state politics, being in Lansing full time allowed me to immerse myself in the state student association, the office of which was located just down the street from the Capitol Building.  I really didn’t want my time in Lansing to end.  Luckily for me, it didn’t have to.  A permanent employee at the DMB decided to extended her leave of absence, and my bosses there offered me the chance to stay on.  Since the six credits I could get for the experience would give me enough to finish my degree in Public Administration and graduate, I jumped at the chance and made the move to Lansing permanent.

And then, serendipity. 

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