Know Where You Came From, and Take it with You.

That's my Great Grandmother - After a solid day of hunting, hence the duck.












I just had a milestone birthday. It was wonderful. Filled with the love of family and friends and the knowledge that I am, for the most part, exactly where I’ve always wanted to be at this age. A pretty incredible feat.

This milestone has allowed me the excuse of a quarter life crisis, personally I believe in the “three year cycle” (just gleaned from Felicity, (yes, I watch bad 90’s dramas on Netflix.)) Every three years you go for a “dive” of sorts, you step back, or fall forward, in one way or another and go through a growth spurt.

These are immensely tough, exciting, unnerving times. Looking back on what I’ve experienced in the past 25 years, I think these “cycles” fall somewhere between the quarter, mid and 3/4 (our parents, the Baby Boomers, will invent that one) life crises and the “three year cycle”. If we are really accepting of life and what it has to bring, give and show us we’ll realize that to go through these times is a blessing. No matter how frustrating they can be.

For me, whenever I go through these times I always look to someone I’ve known for help. More often than not, it’s my mother. She’s always there with sage advice. Looking back at my childhood dreams and professional aspirations, it’s kind of shocking that professionally my life so closely resembles hers. At the same time, it’s really not shocking at all.

Then there are the times when you realize that person is also human. Recently my mom shared with me the fact that she, when found in a crisis or crossroads, often looks to mentors. Ok not really all that shocking, but what’s shocking is that I look to the same type of mentor that she does. Characters. Her’s are most notably played by Katherine Hepburn and Lauren Bacall, mine are Audrey and Katherine Hepburn (no, they’re not related, and if you didn’t know that email me – we have to chat.)

During this conversation I realized I was looking toward characters in my life that were more closely related. Most specifically, my Paternal  Grandfather – Simon W. Oppenhuizen  and my mothers Paternal Grandmother – Katherine Cornelius Bunde. I can’t tell you what I would give to sit down and have a long Sunday brunch with the two of them. Oh how I would pick their brains.

Grandpa was a self made man. Quit school at 16 to work and support the family, started several businesses, had three patents to his name and once, famously, dragged my father off the golf course by his ear for poor sportsmanship. He was an amazing man devoting his life to learning, knowledge and hard work. Earning his college degree in his ’60’s. He was the man who called every time term ended from my first grade year until junior year of high school to ask what my grades were. God forbid, I had a poor grade, the silence on the end of the phone was deafening. The praise and support equally so when he knew it was just a hard subject (cough, math, cough.)

Grandma Bunde, what a trip. I wish I could have known her better. She was around for most of my childhood, and sharp as a tack the entire time. Most famously known for a bit of advice: Camel colored anything is never out of style. Also, on the opposite end of the spectrum, she once shot an entire mink coats worth of skeet at the shooting range. (She was given the dough by Grandpa Bunde to actually purchase a mink coat.) That woman had a dead eye, and wit to go with it. She raised a child on her own in the 1920’s while working full time as a clothing buyer for Herpolsheimer’s Department store in Michigan. (The Department store featured in the Polar Express for those of you who aren’t from Grand Rapids.) Sending her son to Cranbrook Prep School and then on to U of M.

This is just a short glimpse into two of my mentors. I could go on for hours. The leson here is, we need to hold on to these little stories and anecdotes. They are more than worth their weight when you’re in a tough spot. Especially as a young professional. It helps you to remember that nothing is permanent, and you have the blood of amazing people in your veins. If your mentors happen to not be related, don’t fret. You know them, you’ve spent time with them, now go have a real, or imaginary, chat with them.

I promise you’ll feel worlds better afterward.


2 thoughts on “Know Where You Came From, and Take it with You.

Add yours

  1. Whitney, this is a great piece of writing and shows wonderful insight into the power of stories of those who have gone before us. I hope lots and lots of young people are reading this! You’re an inspiration!

    1. Thank you Pam! That means a lot, I’m just happy to reach out to a handful of folks if that’s all I can get to.
      Hope all is well!

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