Graduation season is upon us, and it has me feeling a little nostalgic. This month marks five years since my own college graduation, a day I thought would never happen. Five years ago I walked across the stage, praying I wouldn’t trip, and received my Bachelor’s degree in the Science of Nursing. It is my second proudest accomplishment to date. Becoming a mother has a firm hold on the top spot.
College isn’t for everyone, or so I was told.
I wasn’t a traditional college student, meaning I didn’t head-off to college following high school graduation. Not because I didn’t want to, but because I didn’t believe I was smart enough. Typing those words now, feels almost alien. My lack of self-confidence, and the fear of failure, closed the door on my dream of college before I even graduated high school. College isn’t for everyone, or so I was told. I accepted this as a fact, and moved forward with my post-graduation plans.
I told anyone who asked, I didn’t want to go to college. That was a much simpler response than trying to explain my intellectual deficit, and the fear I would be laughed out of a crowded auditorium. Not to mention, I didn’t have the funding to pursue a college education.
After high school I started an eight to five job and got a small apartment, where I was content, for a while. As the days passed, I realized the monotony of an office job was not a good match for my out-going personality. Two years of computer screens and paperwork was all I could handle; I quit my office gig and enrolled in cosmetology school. I worked a minimum wage job in the evenings to pay the bills. Less than a year later I graduated and started working in a small salon. I had amazing clients, great co-workers, and I loved what I was doing. It was a perfect match for my creative nature. When I was behind the chair I was happy, and I spent my days making people feel pretty. Or handsome, if you’re into that. (We all know the power of a good haircut.) During my time at the salon things began to shift a bit. For the first time in my life, I felt confident.
I felt confident.
This new-found confidence was a direct result of two people I met within months of each other. They were my fork-in-the-road people. Meeting them changed the direction of my path. One, was a boy. (Of course it was, right?) He was the perfect blend of handsome and funny. We met through mutual friends, and I spent the better part of a month rejecting his requests for a date. He was almost too handsome, and too funny- he had to be damaged goods. Eventually, he wore me down, and I agreed to one date- dinner and a movie.
He picked me up on-time, and took me to dinner. The food was about as average as it could be, followed by one of the worst movies I have ever seen. When we pulled into my drive, I had all but written him off, then he cracked a joke that made me laugh. Like, a real belly-laugh. We spent the next four hours sitting in my driveway talking and laughing. As I climbed out of his truck, one of my favorite songs came on the radio. It’s the same song we danced to on our wedding night four years later.
The second fork was a woman who worked next to me at the salon. She burst through the salon door one October day, with a costume shark nose and a box of salon products. She was taking the place of a co-worker who moved away. That co-worker was a close friend of mine, and I was dead-set on hating her shark-nosed replacement. We worked side-by-side for the next few weeks as I tried my best to hate her, but I couldn’t. She was hilarious, and an infinitely-wiser version of myself. We became fast friends.
If it wasn’t for these two, there is a good chance I wouldn’t be typing this now. My friend, 28 years my senior, often recounted life lessons she learned the hard way, in hopes of steering my ship in a different direction. She called me on my shit, and taught me a kind of forgiveness and empathy I hadn’t previously known. She reminded me, we are not victims of our circumstance. We have the power to change.
My husband, who was just my boyishly-handsome boyfriend at the time, has supported every dream I’ve ever had. He has willingly held my hand as I stumbled blindly down dark paths, without a light. His confidence in me has never wavered, even when my own was nonexistent. In moments of uncertainty, when I’m sure I’ve gotten myself in over my head, he is there. He picks me up, slaps me on the ass and tells me to get back in the game. He is my rock. (Or, if you are a FRIENDS fan, he is my lobster.)
The support of these two people enabled me to face one of my greatest fears- failure. I was accepted into a fantastic nursing program, and as I toiled through the rigorous course work, they were both there for me every step of the way. I don’t know how many ledges they talked me down from, or how my times they made me laugh when I wanted to cry, but I don’t think I could have made it without them.
On a beautiful May afternoon in 2011, I graduated, Summa Cum Laude, from one of the most prestigious nursing programs in the state. (Go Baker!) Thinking back to that moment still brings tears to my eyes. From this vantage point, it’s hard to believe I ever doubted myself.
I wish I could go back in time and talk to the girl I was. I would be the support and encouragement she so desperately needed. We forget the power of something as simple as an encouraging word. It can change everything.
The world, truly, is your oyster.
If I have learned anything from my journey, it’s this: We are all faced with different obstacles in life, but it’s important to remember that no dream is unattainable. No obstacle is too great. You are limited only by your own fears. The world, truly, is your oyster, if you are courageous enough to fight for your dreams. Don’t let anyone tell you, you can’t. I was tired, poor and often discouraged, but I now believe there is nothing that can’t be accomplished with hard work and determination.
Your path may not be straight or without peril, but you can do it. I know you can, because I did.