My first interview for this series is with my dear friend Elizabeth. I first met Elizabeth when we were both working in the English department at the University of Arkansas. These days, she is shining brightly on the executive communications team at the Walmart home office. She will gladly craft a thoughtful response to your handwritten letter to the late Sam Walton anytime.
Here is Elizabeth’s interview, recorded over a year ago on June 3, 2015:
1. What were you like as a teenager? I feel like I can answer that question in two parts: before my mom died and after my mom died. Before my mom died, which was when I was 16, I was super self-absorbed and apathetic about school. And then afterwards I became really driven and responsible. Because my grades had been slipping a little bit. I mean, not bad, but just not–you know, it was like going from As and Bs to As, Bs, and Cs. And my aunt and uncle got on to me about it, and I was like, “I’ll show you. I’ll be incredible.” And then I was basically a straight-A student. I was also deeply religious, which–I sort of wish I had spent a lot of the energy that I spent on that on my schoolwork or something. Or writing, but I’m also sort of glad that I was so into my church, because when my mom died I had that network.
2. What have you always wanted? Attention. Which is embarrassing. And also lots of praise. And my mom was very–and I am like this with George–she was always telling me everything I did was so great. You know, I say to George, “Oh, that is a shoe. You are so smart. You’re the smartest baby!” And my mom was like that too. But the thing is, that’s not really how the world is. Normally nobody really notices when you do something incredible. So then I end up being let down when I think I do something nice for someone and they’re like, “Oh, yeah, that’s nice.” And they’re not like, “Oh my gosh, that’s the greatest thing ever!” I think I probably expect praise more than I give it, which isn’t really fair. But I am really enthusiastic. I’m like, “Oh my gosh, this is so amazing!” And I think that’s why we’re friends, because we’re both like that.
3. When were you most proud of yourself? I was really proud of myself for graduating college early and graduating with pretty great grades. It wasn’t a four-point, but I graduated in three years. I don’t necessarily think that it got me any more ahead of the game. But still, that is something I’m really proud of. I graduated Phi Beta Kappa. I still wish I had not have gone to summer school. I sort of wish that I had internships or had more work experience. But I was very proud of those things.
4. What advice would you give to your ten-years-younger self? Okay, 19-year-old self: break up with your high school boyfriend. He was my first real relationship. I got involved with him like six months after my mom died. And I really latched on to him, and it became a pretty toxic relationship. Sort of co-dependent. And I wish I had just broken up with him and dated. I did travel, but I sort of wish I had dated different types of people and not been like, “Oh!” you know, pining after him. I dated him for three years and broke up with him right before I went to England. Which, thank god.
5. What is your personal motto? Be well-bred, well-fed, well-read, and well-wed.
6. Who do you aspire to be like, and why? There was a professor that I really liked. She was really smart and worldly and in excellent shape and pretty. There’s also a really cool woman at Sam’s Club. She’s a senior vice president. Ebony just profiled her. She was a chemical engineer. She invented clear Ivory soap. And then she went on to work at Sam’s. Now, I don’t really necessarily want to do, or could do, any of those things. But I admire them.
7. What is the nicest thing anyone has ever said to you? A boy that I went to high school with said that every time he read the Harry Potter books, he imagined the character Hermione looking and being just like me.
8. What would you do if you knew you could not fail? Write a novel. I mostly write about my mother and guys I used to date, so I’d probably stick with those topics. But I find it really difficult to come up with plot. I can write about a character, but it’s harder to write about stuff happening.
9. What would you like to be remembered for? I obviously want to be remembered as a good mother, and I want to be remembered for generosity and thoughtfulness and wit. And I want to be someone who will always have an interesting story.