Thursday, February 12, 2009

Following your dreams

If any of you, who for a second, wished he/she could get a degree, but you don't have the time, or the money or the self confidence, you need to reconsider.

Since I was in my late 20s I yearned to go to school and get a degree in Art or Literature. I had gone to community college for a year and a half. I took secretarial classes and hated every moment of it. One day, at my wit's end, I trashed all my books in the garbage and went home crying. I didn't want to be a secretary! I wanted to be an artist.

In 1974, if a person said they wanted to be an artist, they were laughed at. Seriously. I never got one bit of support from anyone anywhere. "You can't make a living being an artist." That's all I ever heard. Unfortunately I listened and I believed. No one ever mentioned to me that money isn't everything. No one told me to follow my dream. I heard about how talented I was, but I guess people meant that in a "she is so talented, but she needs to learn shorthand"kind of a way.

When I was around 30, I went on a retreat and stayed in a dorm at Western University. It was just a weekend retreat, full of spiritual renewal and friendship, but something happened to me there that never left me. It was late in the evening, my room mate and I were talking about our dreams and aspirations, and we both confessed that we wished we would have gone to college.

Maybe it was the atmosphere of the dorms, where we imagined life as a college student. We glanced out the window down into the large square below, where we pictured students hustling to their next class or studying under an autumn covered tree. Even though the student square was dark and empty, I saw myself there, discussing Dickens or Bronte, drinking coffee or sketching.

In reality, I was a 30 year old wife and mother. My husband and three kids were back in Garden City waiting for me to come home and be mom again. Our family lived paycheck to paycheck. Sometimes I managed to take a community education art class or writing class. It filled the void. But, there was never a thought of going to college. I felt I had missed that bus.
My goal then became to try to influence my children to go to college when their time came. My oldest son went for awhile, but lost interest. My two youngest just never had any interest, and that's fine, since it's not for everyone.

But it was for me. I never stopped thinking about it. I knew I would never live in a dorm or go to football games, but I still wanted a degree. It just never was that important in the grand scheme of things, though. That is until my husband left me.

At the age of 39, I was faced with divorce and instant poverty. Something that can be pretty devastating to anyone, but there was a silver lining around it. I could get grants and go to school. So, I went back to my community college and found out that there were about 25 credits waiting for me that I could still use. Soon I had 30, then 40, then 50. I changed my mind a few times and accumulated 79 credits. By then, I knew I wanted to skip the associate degree and go right on to a Bachelors Degree. I discussed this idea for a year, debating on the affordability of it, and trying to figure out where to go. I sure didn't want to go to a big college.

The ball really started to roll in August of 2007. My friend asked me to go to Oakland University with her because she wanted to get into their Master's Degree Program. I went along for the ride since it was about an hour away. I waited outside of the adviser's office where my friend was applying for admission.

Twenty minutes later she walked out, a big smile on her face. "I'm in!" she said. She was so happy and excitedly talked about her plans all the way home. Although I heard most of what she was saying, I was having an internal conversation of my own. If she can do it, so can I.
This 25 year old friend already had her Bachelor's Degree and Teacher's certificate. I heard myself say over and over, "what the hell are you waiting for??"

That night I applied for a student loan. I chose Madonna University since it was closer to my home and it's a small private college. 76 of my credits from Schoolcraft college were transferred to Madonna. I now have 98 credits with 7 more on the way.

Going to school was probably the greatest gift I could have ever given myself. I'm 53 years old now and I have such a wonderful sense of purpose and happiness now. I have other dreams and aspirations. They might have to wait till my education is complete. But, because of that education, I may be able to obtain those dreams one day; a trip to England and a house with a library. They are next on my list.

If there is something that you've always dreamed of doing, whether it's getting a degree, climbing a mountain, or learning how to sing, do it. Don't let other things get in the way. Find a way! Don't listen to negative people (which is hard, since they are everywhere). Set little goals that will lead to your big goal. Replace "I Wish" with "I am". If this 53 year old, disorganized, scatter brained, Attention Deficit, anxiety ridden woman can do it, so can you!

Going after a dream and achieving it is the most empowering and satisfying thing you'll ever feel.

Once again, here's one of my favorite quotes...
If one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours.
Henry David Thoreau
Now go out there and follow your Dream!

1 comment:

TheClayMuse said...

What an inspiring post! I'm only 26 and it took me 8 years to get an Associates Degree but it was worth every late night study session before an early work day! Never let anyone tell you that you can't do something, and don't convince yourself of it either.. that was the hardest part for me!
Congrats and good luck finishing up those credits!

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