Mary Lee Holmes – University of Alabama
It seems in life that when most people attempt something great like weight loss, starting a new business, etc… they look for the easy way out. Look at infomercials for losing weight. What do you typically see? You see a pill that will magically melt the pounds away, or the machine that will provide magazine-cover type tone and definition. In my opinion, life is not meant to be as simple as hitting the easy button. In fact, the easy way out often leads to disappointment. When I was younger most things such as sports and school came pretty easy to me. When things got tough, I would run from hard work rather than stick to the commitments I had made. When I was eight I tried to learn how to play the piano, after a few months the songs got harder, and I quit. I tried to played guitar, same story. I decided to take up golf and as soon as my tournaments went from easy wins to barely placing, I slowly began to lose interest. My habit had become so redundant that I hardly noticed the pit I was forming until one day, my dad looked me in the eye and said, “Well I guess it’s about time to sell your clubs, might as well quit, seems to be your answer to everything else…..”
I had first heard about the Southwestern Advantage sales internship from Alec Lunsford. I honestly didn’t remember filling out a survey and told Alec I wouldn’t make it to the meeting. My mind was made up. I was about to hang up the phone until the words, “the average intern makes a little over $8,000 dollars” came through the receiver. I decided I could possibly squeeze 20 minutes in my day to hear a little more.
Money is what hooked me in at first, but it wasn’t what kept me around. At my first meeting Alec went over the different advantages and challenges that we would face. He then briefly showed all of us the product samples. I remember thinking how upset I was that I hadn’t had the handbooks when I was in high school. I made note to ask my mother if she had turned a door-to-door college student away when I was in high school. (My mom would have been the mother that was too confident that I didn’t need them because I made straight A’s.) From the first meeting, I was truly stunned by the product and saw absolutely why parents would buy them. I couldn’t see why any student wouldn’t want to have them, especially with that awesome conjugation chart for foreign languages. Yes, the product was great but that wasn’t what hooked me in either.
What hooked me in was that I could work for what I was worth. When Alec gave the example of being the kid that makes the same as the guy next to them but always feels like they worked twice as hard, that was exactly who I was. I came from a family where using the words, “I’m tired” was not only not said but punishable. My father is ex-military and no matter how hard you work he always believes you can work harder. My whole life, I’ve been very fortunate to have had the opportunities provided to me by my family. Typically, I have never been able to say that I was the reason I had a great paying job; someone else would usually pull a string for my desirable position. What the Southwestern Advantage internship presented to me was an opportunity to prove to everyone I could work hard and do it on my own.
During my first summer, I sold in New Berlin and Waunakee, Wisconsin. When I found out I was going to be in the North, I was honestly terrified. I had never traveled to the North before except for when I had visited New York City and Chicago. All I could imagine were flashing lights, busy streets, sample books, myself and my cowboy hat. I was your real live “country comes to town”… Funny thing was that it wasn’t anything like I had imagined. Actually the first person I saw after I pulled into my new home away from home was a man wearing overalls, how ironic, I thought. My first day on the book field was quite an experience to say the least. “Oh are you the BAMA solicitor? We’re not interested.” Was one of the first of many similar responses I heard that summer. Coincidentally, my first week happened to be the same week President Obama was in town and to my surprise, my front license plate which said, “BAMA,” short for the University of Alabama, was mistakenly interpreted as short for “O-BAMA” therefore deeming me the BAMA solicitor. From being called the BAMA solicitor, to hanging out with moms and receiving my big check in Nashville, Southwestern provided me an opportunity that I don’t believe I could have gotten anywhere else.
Selling books is the hardest thing I’ve ever done. However, I’m continually thankful for the challenges and advantages Southwestern helped me overcome. I do believe there are two types of people in this world; one who finds an excuse and one who finds a way. My way of viewing life is no longer to get by with the minimum to accomplish things, now I try to get the most out of anything and everything I do. My dad always asks me, “Mary Lee, how do you get a nickel out of your pocket?” the answer is, you got to put something in there first. If you put a lot into your Southwestern summer you’re going get a lot out of it.
Other than the huge sense of accomplishment and pride that I got from my first summer; another thing that I love about Southwestern is the incredible people that I have met along the way. Regardless of the money I made last summer, the hard work I put in was well worth the friends I came out of the summer with. The other hundreds of hardworking college students that I have been surrounded with have become some of my best friends. Why wouldn’t someone want to be surrounded by people with positive attitudes, great work ethics, go getter type personalities, and people who never see a challenge as impossible? Not only did I make life-long friends through the company, I actually still stay in touch with different people I sold to during the summer and now they too have become very good friends of mine. The friends I’ve made through Southwestern are the people I want to be surrounded with for the rest of my life. There are a lot of really great people in this world, you just need to go out exploring…
Southwestern isn’t simply about marketing a great educational product, it’s about becoming the person you want to be in the future. At this point and forever, I am NOT a quitter. Ever since the eye opening conversation with my dad to completing my first Southwestern Advantage summer, I’ve come to realize that anything great is worth working for. You reap what you sow. I truly believe that what you put into your southwestern summer is exactly what you will get out of it. Some people are okay with just being ordinary. I believe in working hard to produce an expected end result. Yes, I did sweat, yes, there were days that I wanted to quit, yes, my mind did try to tell me to stop, but no, I never quit and that is what separates those who experience a Southwestern summer from the average person.
Update: Mary Lee received a $45,000 scholarship to Samford Law School, largely due to a personal statement she wrote on her Southwestern experience.