The spring before we learned of my father’s cancer, I was attending a local community college. Dad had retired the previous year. He and my sister decided to take a course too so they registered for Economics and I registered for English 101. Our classes were on the same evening so I would meet them after work and we would hang out prior to our class and after class stop for ice cream. It was a very good time period.
In the summer he found out he had cancer and was given months to live. As we watched him deteriorate from his illness I continued with my classes. I was very far from receiving my Associates degree at the time. One day while cleaning up after a picnic in the yard Dad followed me in and told me that he was very happy about my attending college and doing so well. He said he would be there to watch me get my degree. I went along with him and said I was going to keep going until I graduated from either Harvard or UCLA. Well Dad died that December and it took me another seven years before I received the degree. Through that time I only took classes when I could afford them and sometimes had to withdraw due to family or work obligations or my own self defeatist attitude. I was a single mom of two and then three children during the seven years. There were many ups and downs but I never gave up my focus and knew one day I would have a two-year degree.
When I had a little over half of my credits I quit one company to accept a supervisory position at another. It lasted six months. When they let me go I thanked them – yes I know raising three children and losing a job, you think how could you thank them. My cousin who was the same age as me died in a car accident and I realized that I may never achieve my goal of a two year degree if something didn’t change. The lay off gave me the push I needed. I joined the Army National Guard at the age of 32 and began attending college full-time while working a part-time job. It worked for us, not too much money but we made it. It took me one more year before I walked across the stage to receive my diploma. Along the way I met people who encouraged me to continue on for a BA degree. I didn’t think it was possible but went for an interview with the Sociology Department at a private college and was accepted. I had been on the President’s and Dean’s list which surprised me and my family I think.
After two more years I walked across the stage again at the private college In 1994, I received a BA in Sociology while working two part-time jobs and the Army National Guard while raising my three children. My family helped care for my children while I worked and went to college but my children and I had dinner together most nights and spent weekends together except for the one weekend a month I participated in National Guard.
It was there that I met a female General who became my mentor. She encouraged me to continue on for a Master’s degree. Gen. Burke felt that I was accustomed to studying and my children were comfortable with their lifestyle so why not. Never had I thought of working toward an MA degree. Receiving an Associates was a miracle and then a Bachelor degree, that was a double miracle. She was very persuasive so I did continue on and even accepted a Congressional Fellowship in Washington, D.C. My son was attending his first year of college as my daughters and I headed to Washington for ten months. In 1996 I received a Master’s Degree. I realized dreams do come true if we take one step at a time and don’t give up on ourself.
When I located the UCLA Writer’s program the idea of working on a certificate didn’t seem so far-fetched. I enrolled in my first writing class in 2008. I didn’t take it seriously until 2010. I had received positive feedback on my writing so I registered for the Non-Fiction Writing Certificate program. It brought back memories of my father and him telling me he would help. When I attended my graduation from UCLA on June 27, 2014 tears filled my eyes. As my name was called, I looked up and said, “Thank you Dad.”
If you want something bad enough, if you can feel it, taste it, give up time, money, energy and focus it will come to you. Don’t give up and don’t use excuses like your family won’t let you, you’re a single parent, you don’t have the money, you don’t have the time, you aren’t smart enough – those are just blockages that can be overcome. Be the role model for your children, nieces, nephews, their friends, for family, colleagues, and others in your life. Share in your successes and let others see you shine. We are all shining stars and have a gift to share. What is your gift? Are you pursuing your dreams? If not now, when? The time is never right to get started so why not take a step in the right direction today.
Love and Light,