PLYMOUTH -- Tackling the process of writing a column can be a challenge.
Pour your heart and soul into the words framed by the computer screen. File it. Then, move on to the next.
And then there’s Meagan Barron.
Every young adult reaches a crossroads; a place where their life can branch off into any of a number of different directions. Fortunately for Barron, a 2011 Plymouth High grad, she reached her crossroads in the high school weight room, right near the desk of her father John, the school’s football and track coach.
Taped to the mirrored wall behind that desk is a Tribune column on Barron from her senior year, Sept. 10, 2010, to be exact. At that time, she debated the rhetorical question: Are leaders born or developed?
With four years as class president and the president of the IHSAA’s Student Advisory Council on her resume, the 5-foot-7 three-sport athlete (volleyball, basketball and tennis) was able to speak with a measure of authority.
She staunchly stood by the belief that people are born to lead. Confidence and integrity just kind of happen. Given her background and positive nature, an appointment to the U.S. Naval Academy seemed like a cinch.
Life has a way of complicating plans. The appointment never came. The scramble for options ended with a hasty decision to attend Mary Baldwin College in Staunton, Va., an all-female school of about 800 nestled in the mountains of Virginia. She joined the Virginia Women’s Institute for Leadership Corps of Cadets, which is affiliated with Virginia Military Institute. About 25 percent of the Mary Baldwin student body is in the military program.
Her dream was still alive - become a commissioned officer in the Navy and pilot a helicopter off an aircraft carrier on search and rescue missions.
Turns out, Mary Baldwin was a pretty tough gig.
Barron said she spent her freshman year “being yelled at and screamed at” by the upperclassmen. Turns out, the VWIL’s philosophy is that a great leader has to be a pretty good follower first.
Consumed by the military lifestyle, which Barron loves, she was also freshman class president and a key component on a basketball team that didn’t win very often.
Fast forward to the recently-completed school year, when the stress and demands were ratcheted up. She was elected sophomore class president and was now on the other end of the yelling, but something just wasn’t fun. She quit the basketball team before the season started (leaving the Fighting Squirrels with just six players), and when she came home for Christmas break, she doubted she would return to Virginia.
“I was so lost,” Barron said. “I couldn’t accept that I had changed as a leader.
“I love the formality and the structure of the military. That was missing in basketball. It wasn’t fun anymore, so I quit. The coach (who was fired shortly after the start of the season) said I would regret that decision. I had a friend (at Plymouth) who said I would regret my decision.”
She constantly heard the stories of her friends and their “normal” college experiences. While they were partying on a Friday night, Barron was collapsed in her room recovering from a week that barely left time for meals.
She faced her friends, former coaches and former teachers at Plymouth and sheepishly told them of her plight.
While in the weight room, she was taken by the story taped to the mirror.