Stories from our Alumnae Community

Lynn DeLean-Weber ’87 was an economics major and a Mary I. Bunting student at Douglass. She is the CEO and co-founder of Edelbrand Pure Distilling in Marthasville, Missouri, and serves as an officer in the Missouri Craft Distillers Guild, representing almost 40 craft distillers across the state. She taught early childhood education as an AMS Montessori teacher for 10 years, and during that time completed her M.A. in Education from Maryville University with her thesis, “The Parent Cooperative: A Model for Early Childhood Education in Rural Communities.” She is a donor to the AADC and has participated in several AADC programs. Here is her story, shared on February 16, 2021.

Be Fearless and Make Mistakes

I sit at my desk on a chilly day in the middle of this global pandemic seeking some comfort. For the past 10 months, I have felt like I’ve been riding a Tilt-a-Whirl. Every morning I climb on, strap myself in, and off the ride goes, spitting me out at the end of each day feeling off-kilter and out of sorts. It is exhausting.

Still, I have not lost my footing, and the experiences collected from 62 years of living might be responsible. So I’m writing this missive to my Douglass sisters, especially the younger ones, who may be thinking life is not fair, that opportunities are being stolen away by the pandemic, or perhaps harboring anger, bitterness, or grief. It is my hope that what follows will offer encouragement at a time when so much seems beyond control.

Looking back on my teens and twenties, challenges and disappointments seemed huge and at times, overwhelming. I now realize those moments were shaping who I would later become. I now see them for what they were: invitations to learn, take risks, and develop resilience.

As a teenager, I did not have much confidence in myself or my abilities. I was never one of the popular kids at school. I was on the fringe, always looking in from the outside, never feeling fully accepted. I worked hard to make good grades but never felt like I measured up to the smart kids. I graduated from high school with one goal in mind: To become a teacher. Nine months later, there was no more money to continue college, and I had to drop out.

Life got very real very quickly. And while it was terrifying at the time, looking back with the benefit of perspective, I feel lucky to have been challenged in that moment. It gave me the chance to reach deep inside and learn something (many things, actually) about myself and gain invaluable lessons for the rest of my life. As for college, it took me nine years of night school, but I got the degree – a B.A. in Economics (thank you, Douglass College) and went on to complete a M.A. in Education 26 years later.

Life has taken me in all sorts of directions these past 62 years. As a teenager, all I wanted was to be a teacher, a wife and mom someday. Life delivered on those dreams and then some, but what a crooked path:
• Montessori teacher/Preschool director
• Frisbee freestyle champion/Mountain climber/Student pilot
• 14-year corporate career, started as a secretary and left as a director
• Owner of a tree service company
• Owner/founder of a competitive fencing academy with an Olympic coach
• Owner/founder of a small-batch distillery
• Board president for several non-profits

Douglass sisters, you are standing in a most remarkable space in your life. Yes, it is in the middle of COVID-19, where the horrible impact is still unfolding. Where losses are profoundly deep, where fractures in what our society believes and how it behaves are being exposed.

It is tempting to sit still, to be consumed by the uncertainty. Complaining feels good and you can certainly find others willing to join in. Placing blame feels even better, doesn’t it? Waiting for others to take action is understandable, even justifiable. But I encourage you to take a different tact.

Life is one big uncertainty with problems, challenges, barriers, and…should I keep going? But it is also fascinating, opportunity-filled, and awesome. At every turn, look for possibility and then dare yourself to follow it. Do not wait for all the questions burning in your head to be matched with perfect answers. Waiting until everything is certain may cause you to miss opportunities that might not appear again. Do not allow self-pity or bitterness to take over. Lean in. There are opportunities waiting to be discovered if you are willing to look. Consider volunteering in your community. You most certainly have skills and experience that could help others. Step up and share. The need is deep. The people you meet will touch your life in unexpected ways, and you will leave your mark on theirs.

Lastly, you will find that deep inside there is a voice guiding you. Honor it by listening to the clues it reveals. Be curious and open to opportunity. Be fearless and make mistakes. Failures and setbacks are opportunities to learn in disguise. Be prepared to work hard as your life takes shape because in time you will find sure footing and clear direction. And you will find the answers you seek along the journey ahead of you. In fact, you will discover that most of the questions and concerns burning so deeply in your mind now are not as important as the ones that are burning in your heart.

As for me, I retired from teaching four years ago. My husband is about to retire to step full time into our business. The reason I’m a mom is about to turn 30 and get married. No more degrees in my future, but absolutely looking for opportunities to keep learning. And I’ll leave it to you to guess which of those bullets I’m still involved with. Give you a hint: my days and more than a few nights are spent in the company of some very talented folks (all ages) who are navigating this new normal with creativity and courage. Yep, I get up every morning and climb on that Tilt-a-Whirl, strap myself in, knowing it is going to be a wild ride.

Stay well. Be curious. Dare yourself.

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