June 29, 2015 admin

PURPOSE: “She’d Taken the Time to Know Me”

by Cecelia Beirne

Age 68. New York, NY

I was meant to teach, to be a communicator, this is my purpose.  More than 20 years after I ended my teaching career I received a letter from a former student instructing me.

An excerpt:
“I vividly recall an experience I had with Ms. Beirne – the last in a long line of unfortunate gladiators besotted with the unholy chore of seeing me through a math class that didn’t involve basic shapes and large colorful toys. I was sitting at her desk after school one day, waiting like the condemned for extra help – but rather than wedging another dense loaf of insane-seeming foreign code through my skull into the cold, mathless mass of cold cheese within she told me that she’d read a story I’d written and how much she enjoyed it.

She’d taken the time to know me – not the outsized sense of failure I felt in her particular subject – but the real adolescent human who was standing at a pretty important crossroads.  In that moment she lifted me high above my self-imposed limitations and see into limitless possibility.  I don’t think I ever let my brain regret what it wasn’t again, only sharpen and enjoy what it was and is – me . . .”

She’d taken the time to know me – not the outsized sense of failure I felt in her particular subject – but the real adolescent human who was standing at a pretty important crossroads.

I never wanted to be a teacher.  I rebelled against the expectation in the 1960’s that I should want to be a secretary, nurse, nun or teacher, against the hope that  I would be blessed with a cop or fireman husband, have a bunch of kids and live in the suburbs.   Instead, I hitchhiked through Europe, got a Math degree, joined VISTA and moved to San Francisco in 1968.  I taught for 10 years, earned an MBA at night and did well in structured finance for over 20 years, during the mortgage boom.  My father had committed suicide when I as 13 and I know now that I worked hard, very hard to be self- sufficient.

I read the student’s note (above) as I was leaving my last position in the investment world.  I remembered that team members often said that they learned more from me than from anyone else.  I thought about the evening when I was very frustrated as I tried to explain the benefit of one financial ratio over another to a young intern on our way home from work.  After the young man got off the Metro a middle-aged stranger across the aisle complimented me on my fine mentoring skills.  I thought that I was yelling at the intern. No, you were teaching him, he said.
On a spiritual note, I recently recalled that I came back to the Catholic Church after many angry years.  I found God in the   connections, in those moments when you lock eyes with someone, maybe a stranger, and you recognize your humanity, when you experience the joy, the beauty of life.

I have learned to be open to those whose experiences are more extraordinary than I can imagine. 


I no longer work full time.  I teach Personal Finance in workshops in Cambodia and in New York City public schools.  I have learned to be open to those whose experiences are more extraordinary than I can imagine.  I have expanded my understanding of what it is to be human.  I am beginning to learn from the Buddhist view of life.  It is not about me, I try to remember, and that has made all the difference.
I spent many years battling to go against the expectations for first generation Irish-Americans.  I now know that connecting, communicating with others – teaching – is my purpose in life.  I am grateful for the adventures, the pleasures, as well as the mistakes along the way.  I am also glad for the wisdom about how to direct my efforts in the precious years ahead.  I can inspire confidence in others, I can be inspired.

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