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Julie Ann Allender, Ed.D | Psychologist, Pueblo, CO

From Regrets to Achievements

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By Julie Ann Allender, Ed D 2012

With this honor of speaking to you today I would like you to learn 5 important things.

1. Regrets do not have to be forever.

2. You have choices ahead of you that will create the person you will become.

3. You can choose to be what others want you to be or become the person you were meant to be.

4. You can learn from your mistakes.

5. That regrets can become achievements.

A few years ago I read Wayne Dyer's book Excuses BeGone. Even though, I had been working on my own personal growth for over 40 years, Dyer's book woke me up to some regrets that I still needed to face. I had fallen prey to something that so many of us do > Excuses. It was so much easier to blame others than face the issues.

I am standing in front of you today because I chose to deal with one of my biggest regrets. I finished my doctorate from Psychoeducational Processes (PEP) in 1977 and officially graduated January 1978. In those years women were just beginning to fight for equal rights. The ERA, which never passed, was a big item and women were fighting for the right to be able to have equal rights, to be able to have our names on the cover of a book, not just a pen name and where women could be taxi cab drivers, construction workers or drive a motorcycle. I know it sounds strange today, but 34 years ago it was VERY different.

I graduated from the University of Illinois, Champaign-Urbana in 1973 and was an invisible student in their Liberal Arts program. While there I had produced the first screen presentation of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dream Coat and my name was not on the marquee.

Instead they gave me a black card with Producer and my name on it to keep for posterity. That was supposed to make me happy.

I then went alone to Europe for a year, visited 50 cities, a young woman in a man's world doing something that women didn't do. It turned out to be a wonderful experience and was the true beginning of my learning to build much needed self-esteem. I came back thinking I was really together. After all, I had just spent a year by myself traveling to 50 cities in Europe.

In 1974 I became a graduate student at Temple where I was to spend the next 4 years doing my master's and doctorate. My oldest brother Dr. Jerome Stanton Allender was a full professor, a well-respected member of the PEP faculty and my brother Robert Allender was 2 years ahead of me earning his doctorate in the PEP program. I was excited to join them and once again expected that I would be working on equal ground. Boy, was I in for a surprise. Even Dr. Rod Napier, another full professor and faculty member, commented to me at one point saying, "You just aren't like your brothers." Well, duh, I wasn't like my brothers. I was a woman or as we were called in those days, a girl.

One of the well respected women professor in the PEP program told me I should be doing something practical, not academic. Dr. Ted Amidon, who was not able to be here today to share in my honors was my dissertation chair and was a guiding light. Interestingly enough in those years it was the men who were my support, not the women.

I gained a lot from PEP. PEP gave me skills and the tools to face many of the things I disliked in the system and a means to make change. What is interesting to me now when I look back I realize how young and naive I was at that point. How smart could I have been, to not go to my own doctoral graduation? How could I have done so much and not take on the honor of my own achievements?

I understand it now, but it took 34 years to gain clarity of the issue. It became a huge regret. After reading Excuses BeGone I knew that I needed to face this regret of not having gone to my own doctoral graduation and also to face the faculty and staff I had avoided for those same 34 years.

I had dinner with my brother Jerry; the now retired professor, and told him how I felt. I reminded him the reason I hadn't gone to my graduation was because he and my mother, who was an independent career woman and had worked most of my life, both said they would not come. I realized the support or the encouragement I needed wasn't there. I realized 34 years later I had very little support. I was a woman. Women were not encouraged then as they are now so it was easy to "just not go." I knew that my brother, Jerry couldn't change what had occurred and my mother was no longer alive. I knew I had to do something for me, now, to make that regret an achievement. I told Jerry what I wanted. I asked him if he would get me the hood and tassel that I would have gotten if I had gone. He said, "I can do that" and for my 61 st birthday he handed me the hood and tassel and hoped I wouldn't notice it didn't have a year on the tassel. I did notice and we both laughed.

He said, Temple bookstore just didn't have a 1978 tassel in stock!

I also realized a short while later, the hood & tassel still wasn't enough. I still had the regret of not walking for my graduation so I called Dr. Larry Krafft who was the only faculty member left at Temple from my graduate program now called AOD and said, "Larry, I know this is weird, but I want to walk." He agreed it was weird, but said he would talk to the Dean.

I didn't really think it was going to happen so when the assistant dean, Valerie Gay emailed me saying it was possible and said to call her I was not only shocked, I was in tears. I was really going to get my dream and be able to put my regret on the achievement list.

I immediately called my brother Jerry and asked him if he would come to my graduation. He didn't have a clue what I was talking about, but said without hesitation, "I will be there." Then I told him what I had done.

I then called my son, Jonathan and asked him if he would come to my graduation and he said the same thing my brothers and I would have said to our mom, "I will see if I can fit it into my calendar." I was heart broken. When I realized it was what I too would have said to my mom I also realized too late how hurt she must have felt when she had achievements and her 4 children would have said, "I will see if I can fit it on my calendar". I understood much of her anger sadly too late to be able to share it with her.

I called Jonathan back and shared my learning and how I didn't want to harbor anger like my mother did and hoped he would choose to come. I knew though if he didn't, I didn't have to be angry. I would understand. Understanding my mother's pain was another achievement in facing this regret. When Valerie Gay gave me the actual date I called Jonathan. His response this time was, "Since it is on Friday mom, I guess I should come in on Thursday." My son was planning to come, another achievement.

I called this short talk, from regrets to achievements and that is my message for every one of you today. There are so many things we avoid and end up putting on our Regret Lists rather than our Bucket List. There are so many excuses we make to avoid having to face our fears and protect ourselves from getting emotionally hurt. I am a psychologist and see that in so many of my patients. They too have seen in me with this experience that even those of us that seem to have it all together also have regrets we have to face and can choose to leave them as regrets or make them achievements.My challenge to all of you today is:

1. To read Dyer's book Excuses BeGone so you won't end up with a long Regret List.

2. Remember the words of the author, Bob Greene who wrote his book The Life You Want: Get Motivated, Lose Weight and Be Happy. Greene said, "An excuse is an obstacle that you choose to place in front of yourself. We do it for a variety of reasons, but in general, we do it to justify not changing. When you are out of excuses is when you are ready to change."

3. Remember just because the tassel doesn't have a year on it, doesn't mean you can't still someday move the regret over to the achievement side.

4. We all need a Bucket List. Something to help us set goals and give us something for which to strive forward.

5. From regrets to achievements, a means to build success, self-esteem and good feelings about oneself and others, rather than get stuck in accepting failure.

For me it is 1978, for all of you it is 2012. If I had walked in 1978, I wouldn't be honored today in being able to share how I got from regrets to achievement. I want to thank all who helped me get to this achievement and hope all of you who are graduating today will have the power to make all of your dreams come true.

Copyright ©2012 Julie Ann Allender. All Rights Reserved.