Thursday, May 17, 2012

The Finish

Nearly 21 years ago, I graduated high school.  I was a nerd - I liked school & made pretty good grades.  Up until my junior year, my plan was to pursue a career in teaching.  Hands down without a doubt - education was where I would be.  During my junior English class one day we were discussing future career plans, I said "teach".  I remember the teacher (who I won't name as I believe she still teaches at my old high school) rolling her eyes and proceeding to tell me what a thankless job it was.  Now I don't know that I "heard" her as she intended me to receive that message, but I can tell you this - my dream was crushed.  I felt like a deflated balloon.  In hindsight, I REGRET that I allowed her to make me fell the way she did when she made that comment.  Suddenly, I felt like I was in a tailspin trying to figure out what to do with my life.  My parents always encouraged me to be what I wanted to be - but I couldn't erase the words the teacher had written on my heart.

I shifted my focus toward healthcare -- I quickly identified nursing was NOT for me, but thought perhaps radiology technology would be a better fit.  Problem solved?  I was accepted into the RT program at Forsyth Tech and received a small scholarship after graduation.  I never really felt comfortable in the program - almost like a fish out of water.  Once we started clinical rotations - I knew it was NOT for me.  I tried to hang on as long as I could but I was MISERABLE and finally quit.  I had no idea what direction I would go next and started working full-time.

For many years, I regretted not finishing my education.  I made 1001 excuses about why it wasn't the right time or why I couldn't go back to school.  In May 2008, my husband suffered a massive heart attack.  Really quickly, I learned the value of time - we aren't promised our next breath.  I began to reflect on my life  -- there were some decisions I'd made in life that I could change and others I couldn't.  I started a "bucket list" and one of those items was finishing my education before I turned 40.   It was one regret in life I had the power to do something about.

In January 2009,  I met with Dean Williams at Salem College.  I intended to ease myself in by taking summer classes and then going full-time in the fall.  Next thing, I know I'm enrolled full-time in the spring!   The rest shall we say was history.  For the next 3 years, I worked full-time, attended school full-time, and attempted to be a good wife and mother along the way.    It would have been easy for me to change my mind - my husband lost his job the NIGHT I had orientation to start classes - maybe I shouldn't?   But I pressed on.   The following summer he had another small health set-back - maybe I shouldn't?  but I pressed on.   I've had more than enough opportunities to make reasonable excuses these past 3 years - but I pressed on.

On Saturday, May 19th -- I will walk across the stage at Salem College to receive my bachelor's degree in Sociology.   I will  check-off one of many items on my bucket list.   I know there are many people who have questioned my decision to return to school or did not understand why I wanted to at this stage in my life.  And that's ok.  I know it was the right time and the right thing to do -- too many doors opened when I thought they were closed;  a class offered when it shouldn't have been until the following semester;  a small scholarship out of the blue.

If I tried to thank everyone who has helped make this journey possible, I would surely forget someone by name.   It is the incredible support of family and friends  and my faith that have got me to this point.  You believed in me, when I didn't believe in myself.  You encouraged me, when I needed it most.  You picked up my child after school, and cared for him until I was out of class.  You rejoiced in my small accomplishments as well as my large ones.  YOU knew I could do it.  And Saturday - it will be in celebration of you supporting me!

Some of my inspirational quotes along the way...

"For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future."  Jeremiah 29:11

"You gain strength, courage, and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face.  You must do the thing, you think you cannot do" ~ Eleanor Roosevelt

"I would rather say 'I did it' than 'I gave up'"

"If not now, when?"

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