Wide Open Spaces: A Maryland Gal’s West Coast Tour
By Grayson Willis, Theta Beta (Towson U), Educational Leadership Consultant
While others may have prepared for their ELC journey brushing up on the Governing Documents or shopping for travel essentials, I listened to Wide Open Spaces by The Chicks on repeat (don’t get me wrong, anyone who knows me knows I did my fair share of shopping too). Close to 3,000 times from the time that I got the job in February until now. It has become my anthem of sorts, and a reminder that the best things in life are beyond our comfort zones.
I found myself far far far away from my comfort zone, on the west coast for almost the entire semester. I did not get the opportunity to go home to Maryland during our breaks, but instead found myself exploring new places. I will admit, I had a bit of west coast culture shock. I kept thinking to myself, how can everyone be so nice? So easygoing? I have always considered myself to be fairly go with the flow, but after spending a semester on the west coast I am a bit more of a control freak than I would have previously admitted to.
However, I learned more than I ever thought I could. Not just about recruitment or the AOII officer structure, but about finding your place 3,000 miles from home. Each week I relied on the kindness of strangers, and I have never seen such generosity from people I’ve never met. From advisors who took me to dinner and cheekily told me that I could get a much needed glass of wine, to members who gave up their rooms so I had a place to sleep that week. Each and every week, I was moved by the sacrifices that our members made to accommodate me, and even more so by the unspoken connection that we shared. Women across the country opened their doors to me and allowed me a glimpse into their lives. It has been my privilege to share in so many intimate moments with them. From staying up late giggling talking about crushes, to last minute bid day preparation, to retail therapy excursions at Marshall’s, I have found that an AOII is an AOII from coast to coast.
Not in my wildest dreams could I have imagined what a transformative experience this semester would have been. I have been blown away by the new foods I have tried, places I have seen, but most importantly, the people I have met. There are tears in my eyes as I write this and reflect on my journey thus far. My heart swells with gratitude, and I think back to the lyrics of Wide Open Spaces. As The Chicks said, “a young girl’s dreams no longer hollow, it takes the shape of a place out West, but what it holds for her she hasn’t yet guessed,” and I could have never guessed what being an ELC would hold for this Maryland girl.