New thinking from doing dishes with Mom
My mother, a 1926 graduate of the College of St Catherine, had the soul of a passionate teacher. As a caring mentor she needed no words to read the mind of a teenager, whether a student or a perplexed daughter. One spring day, in the throes of mother-daughter dishwashing duty, she broke the silence with the words that changed my life. In her authoritative way she casually advised, "You don't have to be a teacher, you know."

In fact, I didn't know that. It was 1963 - for women graduating from college sans diamond, the options were teaching or nursing. Most of the women I knew, most of my mother's friends, were teachers. Great teachers had taught me to think - to ponder the idea of progress; to rue people's inhumanity to each other; to reflect on the essence of poetry, architecture and sculpture; to reach out to the vast universe of planets and ideas waiting to be explored! And yet, the very thought of becoming a teacher was bleak.

My mother's artfully dropped comment launched me on an independent path I still trudge. I was unleashed, free to learn for the love of learning! At graduation I marched boldly into a future filled with promise - the world was my oyster (of the sort that produces a precious pearl). And that has made all the difference.
Mary Treacy, Minneapolis

English majors can do anything

I tell people that I chose an English major because I'd rather read literature than textbooks. Certainly true, but it was not the determining factor. It was a conversation with my professor, Gary Litt. I wasn't even supposed to be in a freshman comp class, but I had woken up the morning of my AP Comp class, my senior year in high school, sick with strep and unable to take the test that would have gotten me out of it.

Funny how things work out. Mr. Litt broke my addiction to the five-paragraph essay and gave the best writing advice: "Once you know a rule, you can break it." Near the end of spring term, he invited me to his office for a chat.

"I think you should become an English major."

"But what does a person do with an English major?"

"Anything they want."

He was right.
Jennifer Hernandez, New Hope

Choosing the seminary
I was standing in my hotel room in Cincinnati, Ohio. I was a textbook sales representative at a national sales conference. I began to think about all the things I'd like to do - and realized the one piece they all had in common was my need to go to seminary. So I did.

I graduated from United Theological Seminary of the Twin Cities, and didn't do any of things I'd thought about in that hotel room. I did interims (which I didn't know anything about when I started seminary) in nine different settings for 16 years until I retired. Loved them all.
Mary Kay Sauter, Maple Grove

A chance meeting in the P.O. line
I turned around impatiently to comment to the stranger behind me about the slow line at a post office in April 1982. I was surprised to see a striking and interesting looking person, but we talked only briefly. A few months later I was walking out of my neighborhood grocery store and I saw this same man walking into the store. I was with my two pre-teen daughters. When we got to our car, I told the girls I needed to run back into the store to buy another item.

I went down the aisle where this man was shopping. He saw me this time, remembering the post office exchange. After a few minutes he asked if I would like to have coffee sometime. That was the beginning of a great romance that ended in us getting married several years later. (Sadly, he died nine months later.)

The man was Ron Daws, who was as interesting as he first looked - an Olympic marathoner, an artist and author. I so often thought that the decision to go back into that grocery store, while a little sneaky (and took courage I wouldn't have had on many days), was a major turning point in our lives!
Mary Hanson, Minneapolis

Of Australian travels, pen pals and zines
A big day in my life was when Sue and Mark suggested we go to Australia for a science fiction convention. I'd been to conventions in the U.S., and had been interested in Australia for many years. I even had a pen pal in elementary school, when I used a pen to painstakingly write letters. Writing became much easier when I learned to type.

In college, I learned about science fiction fandom and the printed zines that people used to express themselves and keep in touch. I joined several publications, including one based in Australia, and wrote comments to others. It was exciting to see my writing in print.

The trip to Australia was ... incredible. I continue to write (with a computer) and get acquainted with people that I sometimes meet at conventions. I coordinate a publication of pen pals.

I am grateful for that nudge from friends that led to wider horizons.
Jeanne Mealy, St. Paul

Writing is my side hustle
In 2001, I moved to Philadelphia, met someone, and my relationship status changed. So did my relationship to writing.

One morning, post brunch, we sat outside, reading the paper at our table, the sun bright and high.

"Look at this," I said. "It says here they're looking for columnists."

"You should do it," he said casually.

We'd only been dating for about two weeks, and I hadn't told him I wanted to write, hadn't told him that actually, this is all I'd ever wanted to do. I applied for the position and got it. Over the years I've maintained a steady freelance career. I've had a column or two, and have even tried my hand at fiction. Writing is my side hustle, my great love. "Are you writing these days?" my friend asked me last weekend. "Yes," I said, smiling. "I'm always writing something."
Hilal Isler, St. Paul

Learning laboratories
October 15, 2014: The day I delivered my TEDx talk was a pivotal day in my life. This experience provided me with the platform to share my vision of education for social change, where the classroom is transformed into a learning laboratory. Students become leaders who develop innovative solutions to pressing social justice challenges. For example, my students raised awareness about the tangled web of mass incarceration - which has far too many entry points and far fewer exit points. We supported Restore the Vote (coalition supporting voting rights restoration) and the Campaign for Prison Phone Justice (challenging prison phone kickbacks) in order to advance policy reform related to the criminal justice system.

This experience also ignited my passion for launching my organization, Planting People Growing Justice Leadership Institute. Today I teach and train ordinary people to unleash the extraordinary power in their hands to make a difference in the world.
Artika Tyner, St. Paul