Kirsten Miller

Vice President

Location: Chicago, IL

"I still have much to learn, but I’m so thankful I didn't let other people hold me back."

Tears of anger were streaming down my cheeks as I stormed out of the office of my parents’ accountant. I was 24, and had just been told the graduate degree I had intended to pursue — and with it the salary I’d be earning in my chosen field — weren’t worth the cost of one year’s tuition.

My parents had me meet with their CPA because (presumably) I wouldn’t listen to them. They set up a meeting between their long-time “finance guy” friend and their bullheaded daughter in the hopes that maybe he’d get through to me.

He almost did.

Instead, it was my parents who put the nail in that coffin. After the three of us stood up to leave their accountant’s office, my mom said, “I’m sorry you won’t be going to grad school, honey.” What?! I thought.

“Who said anything about not going? Did you guys try to get him to play me? To convince me, on your behalf, not to go?”

I fumed.

“I cannot believe you would do this to me,” I shouted.

And that’s when I stormed out of their accountant’s office, angry tears streaming down my cheeks, and decided I was moving from Western Washington to Chicago.

I graduated from Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism a year or so later.

So far, I haven’t fared too badly. I took a web producer job with the Chicago Sun-Times immediately after grad school, and within four years had worked my way up to Assistant Managing Editor of Interactive. Now, nearly 10 years after meeting with my parents’ CPA, I’m a vice president in the digital practice of a major public relations firm. I still have much to learn, but I’m so thankful I didn't let other people hold me back.

For the record, I still have a notebook sitting on my desk filled with laminated letters and titled, “Graduate School Acceptance/Rejection Letters.” It houses nine rejection letters, along with two acceptance letters.

I smile every time the notebook spine catches my eye.

(I should say that in hindsight, I doubt my parents set up a meeting with their accountant to sabotage me. But that’s how I perceived it at the time, and since “perception is reality,” it no doubt affected my decision. They actually ended up being tremendously supportive and even helped me move across the country.)