I just returned home from the 33rd Annual conference of the Alliance for Historic Landscape Preservation held in Fort Worth, TX. In early February, I submitted an abstract for my research on Oak Hill Cemetery in Cedar Rapids, IA and I was selected by the education committee for a student scholarship presentation at their April conference. This was my first such venture into the real world of academics. I was to deliver a 15-minute presentation to professors and practitioners from several disciplines, all working in the area of advocacy for the preservation of historic landscapes.
Surprisingly, I wasn't nervous; at least not in that nauseated, gut-wrenching way I sometimes feel when I am in over my head. I admit, I was a little intimidated by the names and qualifications of those listed in the membership directory. Some were scholars whose papers, journal articles, and books I have cited in my research. However, I had worked relentlessly on refining my presentation, and with the wonderful support and guidance of my major prof, I was able to deliver a polished PowerPoint. In addition, upon meeting these wonderfully generous and talented people, I realized that they were truly interested in my research and welcomed me with open arms into this very specialized world of advocacy for historic landscapes.
It was suggested by several friends upon hearing of my upcoming trip to Fort Worth that I tell a joke to break the ice before presenting. I am not very good with jokes, so I just figured I would forgo the funny stuff and plunge ahead into my lecture. But praise the lord, before I left, a professor friend of mine called to see when I was leaving and if I was excited about presenting. I was to leave early Wednesday morning, and yes, I was excited to present. She told me that the first time she presented her research, a friend had told her it was time to put on her "big girl" panties. This was my opener! It was perfect. Almost all of these Alliance people were close to my age, so I felt I could pull it off. I opened with this quick story; I told them right off that I had 'em on and I was ready to roll. Even the curmudgeon in the back row cracked a smile.
Although I am probably more closely aligned with the Depends crowd, I felt that it was time to put on my "big girl" panties. If I was going to do this, I wanted to make a respectable impression. I wanted to be taken seriously for the work I had done with regard to my research. I think I accomplished that these past few days. I made some great friends. I even had a prof offer an invitation for me to come present to his studio. He wanted his students to experience my passion for these everyday landscapes. I said I would have to take a rain-check, but I was humbled that he had asked.
Mostly I am thankful. I have such wonderfully supportive and caring friends who just happen to be my professors who continually push me toward these exceptional experiences. I am always amazed at the bountiful rewards that fall into my lap when I make that extra effort and reach for the stars....and those panties.