For our April First Friday program, we welcomed alumnus Andrew Q*
. who spoke to students and faculty about the help he received before, during and after his post-grad year at Tilton School. His focus was on how those ten months helped him come to terms with who he was, which also made his return to Tilton School possible
. First Friday is a speaker series featuring stories honoring inclusivity and empathy. It’s about exploring the challenges of the “Hero’s Journey” as shared by those who found the process to be more important than the product.
As an underachieving senior at public school Andrew was accepted into college, but heard about Tilton from a friend who was excelling there. Driving to his interview, Andrew’s car broke down, but a mechanic lent him a van and he made it to campus. Right away he felt, “this place gets me” and wanted to be part of a school that had structure and great people (his interviewer had put Andrew at ease by calling his tapping foot “a sewing-machine leg”). But self-doubt and concerns about tuition costs left him unsure of his future not only at Tilton, but in the world.
Deciding to defer admittance to college, and using the proceeds of an insurance settlement from an injury in a car accident his junior year, Andrew arrived at Tilton ready push himself. He ran cross-country, made the Honor Roll and tried to impress Mr. Landroche in writing. But it was Winter Wilderness and it's challenging three-day solo camp-out that changed his life, as a student and as an adult.
During his solo, he had time to reflect, finding success and determination on his own. “For the first time in a long time, maybe ever, I felt peace,” Andrew says of the experience. He was accepted to a top state school where he thrived due to his dedication to the structure he learned at Tilton School.
“My post-grad year at Tilton had a profound impact on my physical, emotional and spiritual well-being,” Andrew says, “It was a great place for helping me focus and stop underachieving.”
Just months before graduating college, life threw Andrew a curve ball. The dream job he had secured with a Big 5 Accounting firm dissolved when the company filed for bankruptcy. Upon graduation, his demand for a job of similar prestige ended his accounting career. He chased sales, but resented it, and spent four years in a downward spiral.
It was a call from his Tilton School friend that sparked his turnaround. That call led him into a recruiting firm where he found a job as an accounting recruiter, his future wife, and the structure that he thrived under. Eight years later, he was married with two young children, and a great career in accounting software sales. Upon hearing a customer speak to how the software Andrew sold helped the customer be a better parent, Andrew started to embrace his non-traditional career path. When sharing a blog post he had written on the experience with Mr. Landroche, Andrew was expressive on how important Tilton School had been. His mentor suggested Andrew share that experience with Tilton, which was the catalyst for Andrew’s return to Tilton, five years later.
In 2015, life threw Andrew more than a curveball. Sales awards, a house and a growing family, he felt it was not enough. He was his own worst critic. Despite suggestions from those who loved him, Andrew would not discuss the car accident from his past and claimed his injuries were behind him. But the death of his three friends kept haunting him. Only after receiving an ultimatum from his sponsor, was he ready to accept to accept what his therapist had been suggesting for ten years:
“I hear the words Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Does she mean me?”
Things he learned at Tilton as a teenager would now help him cope with PTSD an adult. Andrew got back into running in 2015 and finished the Boston Marathon in 2017 and 2018.
“I never thought I could do the March Hill Run, let alone a marathon. I could. And I’ll do it again. You will each do something in your life you never thought possible,” he says. Andrew decided to speak openly about his PTSD for the first time at Tilton, because it might help someone. “I’m not a hero, I help others because it helps me.”
When fear creeps in, Andrew visualizes the Winter Wilderness Solo. He expressed to the students, he didn’t the know the ending to their path after Tilton or the best way for them to express their feelings. He did express how grateful he was to teachers, friends and family for all their help, and how some of his failures helped him shape future successes.
“Tilton helped me achieve things I never thought possible, including being at peace with myself. I hope Tilton can do the same for you. My name is Andrew, and I’m a salesman.”
*Andrew wishes to keep his last name private due to the personal nature of his story.