I will officially graduate tomorrow. I will walk nervously across a stage to an unknown presenter and accept my rolled diploma secured with a shiny ribbon. The official document displaying my Bachelors degree in Human Services that I diligently plugged away at for six years. I will smile as I go along, knowing within myself that my other classmates will never know the giants I have slain to get to this monumental moment in my life.
They were larger than life most of that time.
I am sure I will cry once I am back in my seat, and I will remember that every tear I have cried in the past, and every tear I will be crying tomorrow will be worth the joy of realizing what an accomplishment getting my Bachelors degree has really been.
It was one of the hardest goals I have ever achieved in my life.
My upcoming graduation has been nothing less than a miracle, and crossing that stage will be a true example of the courage I have had to muster to ignore my surroundings and the negative forces in it, and push forward, even on those days when I wanted to burn my books and smash my lap top, among many other daily obstacles.
Yes I had those days, more than I care to remember. Sometimes it was many days in a row. One time I think it lasted for a month and then there was that time when I had decided to just give up.
Yea, I did that too, to the point of completely quitting.
So I bowed out quickly and quietly.
I disappearing into the shadows as I listened to those voices (and those doctors) in my head that kept beating me up, or should I say beating me down and slowly killing my dreams. My dreams of doing good and helping others find their courage. That was why I did it in the first place, to make the world, or at least my little corner of it, a better place for the people living in it. But sadly I was becoming one of those people I was initially out to help.
I was slowly being surrendered to the negative.
But then I had a day of clarity.
It was that moment hidden in among all of the confusion and doubt and assumed impossibility that my thoughts shifted and I looked beyond the sickness and the words of death from the doctors and the words from those who thought they were doing me a favor. I looked beyond the negative people who were consoling me and telling me "Its OK to quit, you're sick, you should just hang it up, what if you get sicker? You will never be able to do it."
And It was in one of those negative moments that I decided I would NOT be defined by sickness and fear and lies ... and I boldly picked myself up out of the pity pit and made up my mind, in that very instant, that I would finish college, no matter the depth of the pit I was in.
The work was not easy. I worked harder than I ever thought I could at something. And I look back now and still wonder, how did I do that? I remember the 4 a.m. bed times after writing out chapter out-lines and reading whole text books and writing seven page minimum papers. I remember how hard it was to take control of my health and lower the medicine and wean myself off of oxygen and set the oxygen tank aside and heal my lungs. I remember my mentor's telling me, "We are so glad you are back, we were worried, we didn't think you were going to make it back."
And I wonder where did that push come from? I wonder that to this day. And clearly there is a fighter in me, one from nature and from nurture. It proved to me that the two together are a driving force when they need to be.
That time in my life was so hard, too, because I had to be my own cheerleader. I had to work beyond my sickness and disability, because I knew in my heart I was not going to be the victim of a sickness. I knew I could not let it win and I know now that my shift in attitude and my thinking positive thoughts improved my health. Even on the days I thought I was dying I was positive, and every morning, filled with thanks, I woke up.
I studied at home and met with my mentor in his office every other week, and beyond that, I was on my own. I had to get out of the house in snow storms during my winter classes wearing oxygen and driving to school because I didn't want to miss my meetings. I had to get the work done, I had to meet my deadlines, I had to prove not only to my mentor but to myself that I was an enthusiastic learner and a dedicated student with a professional attitude.
Apparently I have accomplished that, and I have no words for that feeling.
There were layers of myself that began to surface that I was not aware of in my previous world of sickness and failure. And it felt good to start to see and feel what I was really made of.
My grades were a great example of my success. I only got one C in six years.I got 10 A's and I forgot to count the B's but those letters sure do look good on paper.
I read and typed and spoke my opinion and learned a plethora of information about adolescents, the elderly, the mentally disturbed, teen mother's, the differences in the male and female brain and the shocking dynamics and bitter truth about the Great American Family of the 1940's, 50's, 60's and beyond; Which to my surprise and my well educated opinion never truly existed. Ozzie and Harriet did a splendid job on television during their claim to fame and to this day, that is exactly where those families live, in the television. It was fascinating to learn about and time well spent, and history that is not taught in school.
And my greatest accomplishment over these last six years has been my fortitude and my the final goal, my graduation.
So many things happened within the last five years that could have stopped me, and that almost did, but I fought back with a strength I didn't know I had. The list includes my mom dying, another divorce, moving to another home, getting sick with a lung infection after years of lung problems and ultimately loosing my job because I was not getting better; It was a job I loved and I miss to this day. I was left jobless and almost penniless but not without something strong and positive coming up out of the ashes ... which would be me.
Me with my degree and pride in the fact that I did not let the voices win.
Admittedly, had it not been for college, and if I had not trusted God in every detail of my life everyday, I would still be on that pity train. Thank the Lord I got off that ride. I learned to survive and thrive in some very difficult circumstances and I thank God, my studies, and my friends and family for their constant support; I had more cheerleaders than I was aware of.
In the end what matters most is that I found my way out of the pit, I didn't let the dark
win and there was something alive enough in me to shock me back to the person I was before I got scared and sick and withdrawn, and if I can do it, anyone can. All that is needed is a slim glimmer of hope and the knowledge that we were made to forget the haters and remember that "WE can do ALL THINGS through Christ who strengths US." Philippians 4:1
His word has never meant more to me than it has over the last six years, especially this promise. It is proof positive to me that He is always with me. Even when I felt alone and especially during that dark time, the days I thought I would die, the days I didn't want to take my medicine or use my oxygen, the days I focused only on giving up. The light is always brightest in the darkest places, and I remember the "YES I CAN do it", and I proceeded out of that darkness.
And now, starting tomorrow, I will be off on a new adventure, and I am so excited. I know there will probably be a few ruff spots ahead, but I only have to remember the last six years, look at my diploma and remember my graduation tomorrow to remind myself that if I can do this, I can do anything. There are only the limits that we put on ourselves that keeps us down.
We were all made to do great things and I am so excited to see what is ahead for me. I believe we will all be surprised at the good we do in this world. So if anyone is down, keep your chin up ... there is something great out there waiting for you too.
I can proudly say I am very impressed with myself and I can, just for one day, pat myself on the back and say great job and I am so glad that I held on.