One step inside Carnegie Mellon’s Baker Hall was all it took for a flood of memories to come rushing back. I peered down the iconic sloped hallway, which was designed to transport machinery back in the day, and then climbed this winding staircase up to the English Department — nostalgic for my years as a student here. Little did I know back then, when I rubbed Hamerschlag’s nose for good luck, that all I needed in life I already had: the confidence to try, the willingness to fail, and big dreams.
Here I was twenty years later, back on campus.
Had it really been that long ago since I sat in these lecture halls or in the roundtable classrooms of Survey of Forms, Interpretation and Argument, and Literary and Cultural Studies? Nothing had changed. Everything had changed.
I read from my debut historical fiction, Return To Me. It doesn’t get any better than that. Then, I got to share my experiences with students. I think, or at least I hope, that my take away was to try everything. Say yes to every opportunity that comes your way — even the ones that take you out of your comfort zone, especially those. That’s how you grow.
If an internship exists, apply. If it doesn’t, create one. Ask a professor if you can work for them, research for them, have coffee with them. Ask. Being turned down, told no, or that you’re crazy, isn’t the worst thing that can happen. It’s probably the best. Sometimes you need to be told no. Failure is a beautiful thing.
At the advice of my older brother and sister, I interned on campus. I wrote for The Tartan campus paper, Focus (the faculty and staff newspaper), and worked one-on-one with the editor of the Carnegie Mellon magazine. I approached the head of the public relations department and asked her if I could write press releases. By the time I was interviewing for summer internships, I had a decent portfolio of writing samples. I spent the summer prior to my senior year interning at Bozell PR and Advertising in New York City and accepted a full-time position with Westinghouse after graduation. I continued to work as a professional writer in some capacity for various technical companies throughout the years, earned my master’s degree in marketing communications, and now, when I’m not writing the next scene of my manuscript in progress, I blog for an award-winning digital marketing agency.
Have I failed over the years? Many times over. I still am. And I’m so grateful.
Thank you Sharon Dilworth! Thank you students! I was impressed with your many questions. I hope, if nothing else, I inspired at least one of you to follow your dreams today. I’m still following mine.
Congratulations on your presentation. You are a wonderful writer and I’m looking forward to your next novel.
Thank you, N.J.! So glad to hear it. Have a wonderful day. Carolyn
Lovely piece, Carolyn! How fulfilling to go back and speak at CMU!
Thank you, Julie! I’m loving ROOVILLE. Here’s to putting ourselves out there, and returning “home.”