• gregferrara

You Don't Belong Here

This weekend brought back a painful memory. Let's flash back to around 1998. Dawn and I had been married for just over a year. I had transitioned into a job role with IBM in the winter of that year. This was an amazing opportunity for me and our family. I hit the ground running and got my sales career off to a healthy start, exceeding my revenue and client satisfaction targets.

After a year or so I was speaking with a colleague (we will call him Jeremy), and the subject of education came up. Many of us were in our early to mid 20's, and the division of IBM I worked for was the perfect landing place for this demographic. Jeremy was a 2nd generation IBM'er with a degree from a well known North Carolina University. He asked me where I had gone to college. I replied that I didn't have my degree. After high school, I enlisted in the United States Marine Corps and upon leaving the Corps, worked a variety of route sales and tech support jobs to build my experience and résumé. As he was listening, he abruptly cut me off and replied with a curt "You don't belong here", and immediately turned and walked off. I was stunned. Hurt. He shunned me. Shamed me? I couldn't believe someone would say that to me.

Over the years, I consistently met and exceeded my revenue goals. I even won some landmark deals for my division that gained national attention from the corporation. As the years passed and I grew into different divisions and job roles within IBM, Jeremy's words always rattled around the back of my head. "You don't belong here". They made me second guess myself. Often.

During this time, I had been growing as an aspiring musician serving my parish each weekend and leading an ensemble for liturgy. There was an amazing music team at a parish in Marietta GA that was hosting conferences and demonstrating how to lead prayerful and beautiful music within the mass. I wanted to be like them. THIS is what I really wanted to do. I started finding and digesting everything I could to improve. This desire never left me.

I continued growing and networking as a music leader. I eventually transitioned into a full time music ministry role at my current parish of Holy Trinity, and served the church as I raised my family with Dawn. In 2015, I saw that Berklee College of Music was offering undergraduate degrees through online study. I spoke with my pastor Father John about my desire to grow so that I could take our music program to a higher level. He encouraged me to jump in with both feet, and helped me with my education. Growth came quickly through the rigorous curriculum, and I worked and balanced everything to knock down the requirements for graduation.

During commencement, Alex Lacamoire addressed the class and told the story of how he felt rejected and awkward as a child. Music was his superpower, and he always felt out of place in school until one day his principal gave him the opportunity for his peers to hear him use that superpower. That moment was transformational, healing, and changed his trajectory forever. As he told this story, my mind flashed back to a moment of hurt in an IBM office 20 years ago. As I reflected and related my life to his, I experienced a deep moment of healing from the wound of that conversation. I also felt a peace and belonging like I've never felt before. I knew I was exactly where I was supposed to be. I had found my people. I was home.

The Lord speaks to all of us, and calls us to live a life of serving Him and others with the gifts that He has given us. When we seek Him, and listen to His voice, we find fulfillment and see the fruits of the Holy Spirit surrounding us in our lives. He will place people and opportunities in our path to receive Him and that will help us grow in to what He created us to be.

"Be who God created you to be, and you will set the world on fire...." - St. Catherine of Siena

Jeremy, you were right. I didn't belong there. There was a different road for me to walk, and I am so grateful you helped me see it.

2019 Berklee Commencement


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