The Decision That Changed My Life

We all have aspects of our lives over which we have had little or no control.  And, we all have experienced serendipitous events that affected us in many different ways.  But can you point to the one decision you made that influenced the course of your life like no other?

One Friday in December, during my senior year of high school, I got the letter that would determine my path and set in motion so many of the wonderful things that make up my life.

“We are delighted to offer you a place in the University of Notre Dame Class of 1979.”

Fighting Irish

I applied to Notre Dame because the father of my BFF was an alumni and suggested it might be a good fit for me.

“OK, sure, I’ll add it to my list.”

I had never set foot on the campus.

I had never seen a single football game.

I did not know that the University had only started admitting women a couple of years earlier.

I had no idea just how cold and snowy winters in South Bend, Indiana could be.

I knew almost nothing about the place.

But once I read my letter of acceptance, I had an overwhelming feeling of certainty.

I was going to become a member of the Fighting Irish. It just felt right.

Being at Notre Dame during the very beginning of co-education was neither a plus nor a minus for me. I didn’t choose Notre Dame to exercise my right as a woman to enroll in what had, for over a hundred years, been an all male institution. I was totally oblivious.  It didn’t even occur to me that I was part of something historic.

Notre Dame Graduation

Notice the ratio of males to females.

Funny story. One day during the spring of my senior year I ran into the father of one of my high school classmates at McDonald’s.  We engaged in some small talk and I asked the dad if his son had decided where he was going to college.

The dad said, “Well, he would be going to Notre Dame if they didn’t let girls in. He’s on the wait list because the girls took his spot.”


The dad asked where I was going. “Oh, I’m one of those girls who is going to Notre Dame!”

The epilogue to this story is that the son did end up going to Notre Dame, flunked out, reapplied and finally graduated.

But I digress.

With the blessing and support of my amazing family, in August of 1975 I traveled the thousand or so miles from St. Petersburg, Florida to South Bend, Indiana to start the next phase of my life.

On campus I would meet the women who would become lifetime friends and the godparents to my children.

In accounting class I would meet my future husband, the father of my children.

As a member of the Ombudsman organization, I would meet my future husband’s roommates.

I would introduce his roommates to my roommates – then later attend their weddings.

I would visit Senior Bar (a lot) and find my “moving to Chicago” roommate.

I would celebrate my Confirmation in the Log Chapel.

And would be married in The Basilica of the Sacred Heart in the center of campus.

I would interview for jobs and choose an opportunity with one of the “Big Eight” accounting firms in Chicago.

Following the lead of the first one in our group to buy a house, we would move to the suburb in which we raised our kids, added another group of dear friends and that we still consider to be “home”.

It’s hard to comprehend that a place I spent a mere four years of my life, a college I selected based upon a grand total of zero hours of research, would have such a profound and long lasting impact on my life. My dearest friends, my husband, my children, my entire adult life all started with one decision.

I’m a very lucky girl.

Notre Dame Tailgate party

What decision has changed your life?

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  1. This is a great post! Love it! 🙂 I feel like there are so many decisions that have changed my life, it would be hard to pinpoint just one!-Ashley

  2. What a fantastic post! I can’t imagine choosing a college without even stepping foot on campus first. That completely goes against my plan-everything-to-the-smallest-detail nature.

    I remember touring countless colleges my senior year of high school. I also remember there were some that within just a few minutes of being there I would say to my parents, “We can leave now. This place is definitely not for me.” I’m glad I attended the college that I did. I had such a wonderful time, and have some great memories from it!

    • I only visited one campus during my search. But when it was time for my kids to pick a college we toured every one! I think the “feel” of the campus is really important. I just got lucky!

  3. What a great story! I love that you met your husband in class. And very cool that you got married on campus!

  4. I’m reminded, reading this post, of the analogy of some decisions being like the hinges on a large swinging gate. The movement starts at a small place but the influence swings wide and encompasses much. What was that movie? Sliding Doors – where a few split seconds at the train station change the direction of the protagonist’s life – and we see both ways it could have been/gone. Fascinating to consider. Sounds like the 4 years at Notre Dame were meant to be for you.

    • I love the movie Sliding Doors and think of that phenomenon often. You are absolutely right about the hinge and door metaphor. I’m going to remember that one!

  5. mo, what you wrote makes me want to send my kid to notre dame. i mean, we are catholic! but more than that, it just sounds like such an amazing experience…what community, what family! my husband has mentioned it a few times (he watches and roots for notre dame in sports) and up until now i’ve always said, “we are not sending out kid to south bend, indiana!” but now i will definitely look into it. although i am secretly hoping that colleges will be abolished and kids will go straight from high school into running their own startups.

  6. Notre Dame??? What an incredible school!!! Love the tradition and the Irish roots… My best buddy, KTG’s father had his car horn hooked up to the ND fight song. Funny thing… he never went there but he loved it. Great post.

    • Yep, Notre Dame! The fight song is another thing I didn’t know before landing on campus. Since then I’ve porbably heard it no less than a million times!

  7. Mo thanks for sharing your story, your life story no less. I always think of that movie Sliding Doors and the decision I made to sneak out as a teenage girl to go to party. The night I met my husband. If I had stayed home what would be different???

  8. A historic decision! Wow, Mo, one of the first women to attend. That’s awesome. And look at all it led to. Unfortunately for me I can pinpoint the decisions in my life that I wish I had not made. But then I think about how those decisions have shaped me into who I am today. Great post. I’m answering your questions for the Sunshine Award in my post on Wednesday.

    • You’re right, Kim, it is both the good decisions and the not-so-good decisions that mold us into who we are. No regrets!
      I’m looking forward to reading your Sunshine Award answers!

  9. I noticed lot of Chicago breeds went to Notre Dame. I went to Purdue!

    Great story, love it!

    • There are lots of folks like my husband and I who moved to Chicago from Notre Dame for our first job. Being the closest big city, it attracts a lot of grads!

  10. Great story, Mo!!

  11. What a great post! Gratitude for the outcome of your decisions is taking credit for the good life you’ve created. Bravo!
    Barbara Coleman recently posted…The Best Advice I Never Got: “We Must Be Willing to Give Up the Life We’ve Planned…..My Profile

  12. That was a GREAT story! I loved the digression and I’ll give it a big ‘ole “SO THERE!” to the father whining his son didn’t get in. Choices in life are something, aren’t they?


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