Forty years ago this month, I walked across the stage and received my diploma from the United States Coast Guard Academy. After the ceremony, I had the cadet shoulder boards removed and replaced with the officer boards by my family and fiancé. I would be one of the first fourteen women to graduate from a military academy.

I have worked on and planned to have a book out about those first four years. I do have several chapters written, but time seems to be spent elsewhere. Likewise, the Academy decided to commemorate the event and asked the fourteen women to provide wisdom or quotes to pass on the graduating women in the class. Which is great and an honor, until you realize that forty years of wisdom have to be condensed to a couple of sentences.

There are quite a few things that I say often that could be used. I posted to facebook and asked what wisdom they thought I should use. Immediately an ex-employee posted, “That’s really not ok.” What was somewhat surprizing was one of my female classmates Tami Rose posting, “OMG, I can hear you saying that when we were at CGA!” I didn’t realize I was the only one that said it at the Academy. I thought I got it from someone there or on ship. Still, as useful as it is, it is not very wisdom-y.

One of my favorite quotes is from Steven Covey: “Win-win or no deal.” I add “Steven Covey taught it and I try to live it.”

Two other quotes are on the wall going into the lobby. Arnold Schwarzenegger: “You can have results or excuses. Not both.” Or the Zig Ziglar one: “If you want something you’ve never had, then you’ve got to do something you’ve never done.” But those are the wisdom of others.

Another ex-employee, Mindy Crisp said “The best advice you ever gave me was to anticipate needs and to see projects through to completion!” We talk about cycles and cycle completion a lot at Guardian Animal, but the talk is too long for this need. Although I do say, “answer the question they should be asking.”

One of my fellow writers, Pam Hall, said “I like what you posted recently about learning something, teaching something, and accomplishing something every day.” Yes, I do. Often I will make employees tell me something they have learned, taught and/or accomplished before they can leave for the day. A male classmate, George Asseng agreed he liked it. I hesitated, because didn’t want to use it for wisdom, if they all already knew it.

George agreed, “not sure who to credit this to but agree I’ve heard something like that often in CG. Another similar thought that I often heard in CG is strive to leave things better than you found them. I think you are on to some great advice.” That is true!

I thought about something deep: “In times of life and death, look to the light. It got me through a widow-maker concussion on Eagle and overboard through the props in boarding ops.” My swab year roommate was quick to post, “What’s this about, “overboard through the props”??!?!? ??” I replied,”Teresa McClellan, It’s a long story. But I survived.”

A current employee that is headed to vet school, Katie Link, said, “I honestly really like the rule thing that’s hanging in the bathroom.”

“Dr. Wixsom’s Law: It takes multiple people doing multiple things wrong to really screw something up.” Which really means if any one of you do your job, this will be okay. So, do your job well.

There were several that must have started from my time on the rifle and pistol team. “Grip the gun like this!!!” “Squeeze the trigger and don’t close both eyes when you shoot.” “Breathe normally.” Unfortunately, I don’t remember saying those things (even though, I know I do).

I do remember saying: “Are you sure you want to do that?” Often, actually.

I can tell what my writing group thinks I say when

John Wright said that I said, “Writing your chapter is the least painful choice. Or did I make that one up.” Yes, John, I hold you and Mary accountable for actually writing, not just talking about writing, now what have you written?

Another classmate, Tim Powers, suggested, “It’s not the end of the world!” Do I really say that? I can kinda hear that.

An upperclassman, Steve Darmody suggested, “Find your true self and be that person. It will have its challenges but, in the end, it is your only realistic option.” Pretty sure that was not me.

A classmate, Edward Wieliczkiewicz who I went to the fourth class dance with asked, “Why did you go to New London in the first place…just saying that may be a good starting point…” Unfortunately, this momentous and positive change in my life happened because “I was bored. Don’t know that is inspiring.” Maybe that is wisdom, it was good for me.

A peer from M’Kinzy’s friend’s parents, Deb Porter said, “The thing I’ve noticed about you, MJ is that you are wise to ask and follow the question. That’s what you *do* more than something you say, which makes you an excellent leader…following the question is important for all.” Interesting observation from someone on the periphery of my friend group.

Wisdom that I have used in counseling often and as late as Friday morning: “there is nothing that you can do that we cannot fix, but I must know it. I must know the full truth and be able to trust it completely. I cannot go out to talk to owners unless I know the truth. I have nothing if they cannot trust me.” Indeed, we consider telling a lie a cardinal sin. Lie and you are out. Never, ever lie to me. Period. I forgive a lot, but not that.

In forty years, I don’t think the Coast Guard has gotten better at hard deadlines. When we entered the barracks of the Academy they realized the almost forty women would need somewhere to shower and pee separate from the men. This was realized almost too late. In this case 2020 graduation we only a couple of days to ponder my forty years of wisdom, so I submitted this:

You have worth, but not at the expense of others. There is no one you cannot learn from and yet teach. So go forth and learn something, teach something, accomplish something every single day. Learn. Teach. Accomplish. Everyday.

MJ Wixsom