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November 2, 2007

5 Women To Learn From

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Face Your Fear


THEN: Scholarship student at Harvard

THE MOMENT: I flunked out sophomore year - I had never failed before. I later realized it had been a cultural meltdown - I was a black, rural girl from the Northwest.
I went to Thailand, thinking I'd write a brilliant treatise on female Buddhist nuns that would make everyone sorry for how they had treated me. When I got to one monastery, I suddenly knew I had to become ordained, live in the forest, shave my head, and take a vow of silence. I was often terrified and bored, but something in my upbringing wouldn't allow me to leave. Every day, you had to figure out what terrified you the most, and do it. Until then, my life had been about how to position myself to get positive feedback and awards. There, I learned to define identity and success on my own terms. (I later wrote the thesis and graduated from Harvard.)

NOW: Professor at University of Pittsburgh; won PEN award for her memoir, Meeting Faith; completed a PBS film, My Journey Home.

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