The Sunday Roast: Guest blog by Cindy Petersen

Today is our second post in “The Sunday Roast” Series. Cindy Petersen is a May graduate of Mount Mercy University, and her story is truly an inspiring one. Cindy is currently the owner/publisher of Iowa’s newest community newspaper, The Hiawatha Advocate (click here to check it out). The newspaper industry is a struggling one, but Cindy is living her dream right now. If you have a business and/or the financial wherewithal to help support her dream, please check out the advertising and subscriptions page – a full year subscription is a mere $30. Cindy also publishes regularly on her blog, “Write to the Point” if you are interested in reading more of her work!

Cynthia Petersen, graduated May 20, 2012 from Mount Mercy University
in Cedar Rapids, IA with a BA in Journalism

Graduating from college at 49 is nothing spectacular. People much older than I have done it. But changing the course of my life is. And that is what I believe I have done.

Some people talk about fate, and destiny, and believe that ”everything happens for a reason.” I, for one, believe that we are the creators of our own destiny and that life is what we make it. But I didn’t always think that way.

Seven years ago, I looked at where I was and I made up my mind that I wanted to make my mark in this world. I wanted to do more than just exist. I wanted to do something spectacular.

I spent years taking life as it came, raising 4 children, and dealing with life’s little tragedies.  But I learned how to remain calm in a crisis, and I became a problem-solver. I learned how to manage my money and how to make ends meet. I was a mediator, a counselor, a housekeeper, a chauffeur, and everything else that a mother does.

Now I realize that I was preparing for something spectacular.

I wanted to be my own boss and so I thought opening a restaurant was the way to go. I spent hours upon hours on the computer researching how to write a business plan, and why a marketing plan was so important. I chose all the plans for my restaurant; what I would name it, where it would be located, who my customers would be, what my menu would entail, how much everything would cost. I did everything I needed to do to make my restaurant a success. But in the end, it came down to a lack of funds.

And though it hurt me to have to give up that particular dream, I can see now that I was still only preparing for something even more spectacular.

As I got on my knees and prayed to God for chance to see my dream come true, I included that if this didn’t work out, I would go back to school and get a degree. (My father had said to me one day after reading an article I wrote, ‘Forget the restaurant, go back to school, become a writer.’)

And the rest is history. I graduated Sunday with a BA in Journalism. But not only did I graduate, I also received the President’s Award from Mount Mercy University’s president, Dr. Christopher Blake, one of the top three awards given to graduating seniors. I was also nominated for two other awards; Who’s Who in American Colleges and Universities, and the Sisters of Mercy Award.

Getting the award itself was nice, but the satisfaction that I had done something to change the course of my life was what I really received that day. This was what I had been working for the past four years; that I had done something spectacular.

And I’m not done.

Most of you know that I started my own business last year and began publishing a community newspaper in February this year. Every lesson I have ever learned has prepared me to take on this huge undertaking.  But I still couldn’t have done it without going back to college. It was the last piece to my puzzle.

Something spectacular? You bet it is.

But it doesn’t stop there. It has only given me more reasons to find out what else life has in store for me and what I have in store for life.

The Sunday Roast: A Conversation Between Friends

Note: Today is the inaugural edition of “The Sunday Roast: A Conversation Between Friends”, a semi-regular feature of guest posts. I am always happy to take submissions for “The Sunday Roast”. The only criteria is that the author write honestly about something that is important to them, or about which they are passionate. (Today’s post was inspired by an interaction between me and a friend – your guest post, however, need not have anything to do with me or with something I’ve written about on Jenion!)

Today’s Guest: Molly Altorfer

Molly’s self-description on Twitter says it all:  “Aspiring SuperMom. Communications & marketing freelance strategist. Wannabe professional golfer. News junkie. Mid-life grad student.”  You can find Molly on Twitter @m_altorfer or on her blog Molly Altorfer::Freelance

“I wouldn’t have been friends with you in college. You would have scared me.”

Jenifer uttered these two statements mere moments after I told her a less than flattering story about me from college. How less than flattering? Well, I rate it an 11 out of 10. The story involved me being furious with one of my college roommates because she refused to (ever) do the dishes – including her mountains of used, gelatinous-encrusted pots and pans. In a temper tantrum worthy of John McEnroe, I demolished a wall with a tennis racket in the rental house I shared with six other women. The look of pure disgust and fear on the face of my one roommate who witnessed this episode was enough of a gut check for me. Did my temper go away? No, not entirely, but I think I do a relatively good job of controlling it now. I consider it a process.

Over the past few weeks I’ve thought of Jen’s response to my story, which I had never shared with anyone else. Ever.

Jen was completely non-judgmental. And it wasn’t my behavior that she questioned – but her own. As I understood Jen’s evaluation of me at that time in my life, I would have been too competitive, too intimidating and too forceful for her to even consider having a friendship with. She’s chronicled in this blog about how she was often gripped with fear about her own insecurities, and I interpreted her comments to mean that I would have been “too much” of anything, and everything for her tender, fragile self.

What I didn’t say to Jen at the time – but have thought several times since is, “I wouldn’t have been friends with you, either.”

In case you’re just reading this blog for the first time, here’s a news flash for you: Jen was fat. At her highest weight, she clocked in at more than 350 pounds. The “college Molly” wouldn’t even have registered Jenifer as a person, let alone someone worthy of befriending.

That’s a pretty shocking statement: I would not have registered her as a person. Embarrassing, but true.

Here is the back story, but please note that this is not presented as an excuse for my behavior. I went to a private college in Minnesota. As I look back now, no one was overweight. Seriously. I cannot think of one person who I knew – either personally or in passing on campus – who was obese. Jen and I have had this conversation about the “skinniness” of my alma mater and she thinks (and I agree) that it likely has to do with the socio-economic makeup of that particular school, which includes a lot of middle- to upper-class students from the Twin Cities. Greater resources often provides greater or increased access to healthier foods and exercise, thus equaling a campus that is obsessed with health, fitness and size 2 J-Crew jeans and sundresses. (No one was fat, but I could talk a blue streak about classmates with serious eating disorders…but that’s another story).

So without coming into any sort of contact with an overweight person or anyone who was struggling with obesity issues, I had some alarmingly negative and entrenched stereotypes of people who were overweight. Lazy? Check. Lack of self-control? Check. Unclean? Check. Unintelligent? Check. You name them and I can almost guarantee I had them.

So how is it that I now count as one of my best friends a person who was formerly fat? I’m not sure how we connected when I was working at Mount Mercy, since Jen and I worked in markedly different areas. Of course, I am incredibly glad that we did find a common bond. Jen is the person to whom I know I can tell my secrets and that they will remain confidential and who is always ready for a good laugh or a snarky comment, and she is also the Godmother to my daughter. So it’s pretty apparent that I cherish her and our friendship.

What is astounding is that she alone has had the power to reverse all of my negative, hurtful and harmful stereotypes about people who are overweight or are dealing with significant weight issues. We were friends before she started this blog and her food challenge, but I would argue that our friendship has deepened during that time. What I’ve learned from Jenifer is that there is incredible power in disclosing and bringing to the light of day our fears, hopes, insecurities and desires. She proves that to me every week – and each Thursday I am more in awe of the cogently written and wryly described tidbits of “Jen-isms” that she offers to her readers.

I didn’t intend for this post to become a “Jenifer is the best” entry, and I know she wouldn’t want that anyway. But I do wish to convey that Jenifer has tapped into the power of the written word – and in a way that is eloquently yet simply conveyed to me and to others each week. Her struggle with weight issues is visible – but there are legions of us out there who struggle with issues that cannot be visibly critiqued by others.

Jen has taught me that there are restorative and healing powers in voicing what’s on your mind so that others may benefit from your experiences, mistakes and successes – and even the power in dredging up old college stories.

Tennis anyone?