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The Invitation

You have been accepted to attend Arizona State University (ASU) as a student during the 1982 - 1983 academic year.

The letter I frantically ripped open had more information and was likely better stated than that but that sentence is the only thing that I remember.

It was early July and the fall semester at ASU began mid August. It was very late to receive a University admissions acceptance letter but considering I had submitted my application in the middle of June it was right on time.

I was inspired to apply to ASU by a comment Kenneth Horton made. Kenneth was a friend I’d known since Jr. High School but had not hung out with since. We crossed paths and were discussing what our futures held and he brought up the possibility that he might go to ASU. I had considered other universities but didn’t even know ASU existed. In fact, ever since I began the process of meeting the requirements to attend West Point, I stopped considering any other school.

Somehow, by my senior year, I had become the Battalion Commander of my High School’s JROTC program. I am not from a military family and am not sure why I even signed up for the class as a 9th grader in Jr. High and continued my enrollment in high school. I’m not sure exactly what kept me coming back, maybe it was the regimentation or the clear lines of command. I enjoy learning about leadership and being given opportunities to lead and maybe that was enough to keep me tuned in.

I believe it was Major Perry or one of the Sergeants who ran the JROTC program that contacted the West Point gymnastics coach without me being aware of it. I don’t think I’d ever expressed an interest to attend West Point. I’m not sure I even knew they had a gymnastics team. When I became aware of the possibility that I could receive an appointment to attend West Point and compete on the gymnastics team, every other college option became less important.

I had no idea how I was going to pay for college anyway, I just knew I was going to go. Even as a senior prior to the West Point opportunity, I believed it was going to happen somehow. I applied to the University of Nebraska which had the best gymnastics team in the country at the time. I applied to the University of Iowa which had a pretty good gymnastics team. I applied to a couple of other schools and was accepted to most of them. I knew I was not a good enough gymnast to get a scholarship, nobody was recruiting me. Where the money would come from to pay for school was a mystery but I didn’t have to worry about that with West Point. Other than some fees, the army takes care of everything and when you graduate you owe them service in the military. This seemed to be a good tradeoff and I decided to take the deal.

One of the final steps in the admissions process for West Point was passing a physical. I had begun getting physicals every year as a high school athlete because it was a school requirement. Not once had any Dr., who examined me for sports clearance, identified any issues that needed attention and so there was never any doubt that I would pass the physical.

Turns out, the doctors at the Air Force base that the Army arranged for me to visit for the examination, put me through the most extensive physical in my life even to this day. I knew there was a problem when the Dr. doing my ear examination with what looked like an interstellar space telescope called another Dr. over to take a look and then summoned a third Dr.

Perforated Tympanic Membrane is what they determined I had and it means “hole in eardrum.” I immediately remembered all of the earaches and fluid discharges that occurred over the years and the doctors that would prescribe ear drops and suggest ear plugs when I swam. None of those doctors ever diagnosed the hole in my eardrum that my future quickly escaped through.

We went and got a second opinion and my parents made it clear that they would support whatever decision I chose. The operation to repair the hole was not uncommon but it scared me when the Dr. told me all the things that could go wrong. The percentages were small and maybe even minuscule but it was possible that I could suffer facial paralysis or that the skin graft they put over the hole would not take or that infection could occur and lead to more problems.

I was keenly aware at the time that things like surgery cost money and while I didn’t fully understand how healthcare worked, I knew that money was not something my parents had much of. They counseled me not to worry about anything and that they would do whatever it took to get the repair done if that’s what I decided to do.

I had no idea what my future would consist of if I did not go to West Point. It was June and I had already graduated from high school. I had no intention of going to any of the other schools that I applied to. I decided to not undergo eardrum repair surgery and my West Point option dissolved with that decision.

After Kenneth Horton mentioned ASU, I did some research and was surprised and excited to find out that ASU had a gymnastics team and they had a nationally recognized architecture program which is what I decided I wanted to do when I was in the 6th grade. There was the added bonus of sunshine and palm trees and freedom to explore anything and everything my heart desired.

When I got that acceptance letter and read the words they might well have read, “Your dreams have been accepted into reality for the 1982 - 1983 academic year.

I was inspired in 6th grade to become an architect, a teacher and an Olympic gymnast and I knew that I would have to go to college to accomplish a portion of that dream. To this day, I smile every time I think about how what inspired me in the 6th grade won the battle for my future. The Army had me in it’s grips and out of nowhere, circumstances snatched me out and positioned me to be receptive to opportunities that lined up more fully with my dreams and aspirations. I didn’t know ASU existed until a couple of months before I hopped on a plane to visit and everything I wanted and needed at the time was waiting for me when I landed in AZ.

I’ve learned that when I am inspired, the universe welcomes me and creates paths for me and even more amazing than that is my suspicion that the universe is the cause of my inspiration to begin with. Is it possible that inspiration is really an invitation to be and do what I’m here to be and do?

I remain grateful!

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