Saturday, June 14, 2014

Give yourself permission to pursue your dreams



Memories shape our lives, sometimes even shape our futures if we let them. When I was in my early twenties, I was completely adrift. I'd graduated from high school, and didn't want to go to college. I talked myself into thinking that I didn't need it, that I could be equally as successful without it. In some cases, it's true that you can be successful without college, but not with me. Despite everything I said about not needing college, my not attending college weighed heavily on me. The lack of a college education was like a millstone tied to my ankle. And before anyone asks, no, my family never made me feel that way. They never acted like I was wasting my life because I was only working a part-time job and not going to college.

The final tipping point to action stemmed from the books I was reading at the time. I was a typical young Christian woman in her early twenties so I read a lot of Christian romance. Every time the heroine made a success of college I felt a pinprick of guilt. But it was Debra White Smith's book First Impressions that clinched it for me. The heroine, based off Jane Austen's Elizabeth Bennet, was a college graduate who was younger than me. I had waited 5 years out of high school, was now 23-years-old and Lizzie had surpassed me in her college success. I couldn't let that happen, and I couldn't live with myself knowing that I was letting an education slip through my fingers and swirl down the proverbial drain.

I went to college. It took me 6 years to finish my degree, very long years it sometimes seemed, but I made it to the end. And I wouldn't trade those years of education for anything in the world. I admit, the time I spent in a secular college perturbed me in how carefully I stepped around my classmates and professors, not wanting to offend anyone with my Christianity. Some of that stems from being an introvert and some from being homeschooled, but by the time I completed my AA degree, I knew I wanted to finish my education in a Christian university. I wanted to learn how to be strong in my faith, to state it honestly in front of people who didn't share it, and be proud of my beliefs because they were not just my parents' beliefs, but mine too.

It was time for Regent University. Don't mistake me. I'm not pushing college education on anyone. If someone chooses not to attend, it's their right and privilege to do so. In fact, I know some of my readers don't attend college and never will, and that's fine. What I'm saying is that I needed to attend college, to prove to myself that I could do it, that I was capable and qualified and victorious. All of which I did prove to myself and to my family and friends when I finished. I wouldn't trade my 3 years at Regent for anything in the world. I learned so much about myself, about other Christians, and about ways I should be viewing the world. I learned writing techniques I would have never discovered without college classes, and I realized that while the Lord may not call me to be a full-fledged, published writer, that I am being called to work in a publishing house someday.

Why all the musing about college education? I celebrated my graduation with a party today, hosted by my parents. Some of longest Colorado friends were there, and some of my newest friends from Compassion. We played croquet on the lawn, visited under the canopy, and everyone congratulated me on my accomplishment. The thing is, I didn't want that party until today. I didn't want any acknowledgement of my arduous 6 years spent pursuing higher education. I just wanted to slip on through with only my family congratulating me. Crazy, right?

Is it wrong to take pride in a job well done? No. Is it wrong to pretend to be humble when, in fact, you did a terrific job? Yes. Praise doesn't come naturally to me because I hate for people to think I'm arrogant. But if I'm skilled at something, gifted at something, and worked hard to attain something and finally did it, with a pretty awesome GPA to boot, what's so wrong about celebrating?

What this post boils down to is this . . . pursue your dreams. Give yourself the chance to let others congratulate you when you do something well. Stand proud and strong when you accomplish something. This isn't an excuse to be a jerk about your accomplishments, but when someone congratulates you, don't deflect it. Accept the congratulations for what they are, and figure out how to apply that accomplishment to your life. Learn from the experience. Make excellence and integrity your theme, be it in college or some other part of your life. Don't do things halfway. If you're going to reach for a goal, go all the way. I may write just for fun for the rest of my life. But if I make it into a publishing house, I'll give that job my all because I have trained myself to pursue my career and my education with excellence and determination.

I will never revert to the young woman who let 5 years slip past before going to college until a novel snapped her out of the lethargy. I would smack that younger version of myself upside the head now if I could because I wasted all that time. But there's no place to go but forward, and so forward I go.

12 comments:

  1. It's hard to learn to accept praise for doing a good job, but we all need to learn to do it. I find it so frustrating to talk to other people who just deflect compliments. I want to shake them and say, "Just say THANK YOU. That's all it requires. Thank you!"

    Time is never wasted. You learned things out of college as well as in, so your younger self doesn't need a smack. She is part of who you are. :)

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    1. I think I need to work on the idea that time is never wasted. I suffer from that thought a lot, that I'm wasting my time if I'm not doing this or that or being productive in some way. But maybe, just maybe, the years I spent out of school gave me time to figure out what I wanted to do. I had time to rest from school (which I never really liked), and find a direction for my life. It's funny how I took a total 180 from my goal to be a librarian, a dream I harbored for years and ultimately decided to walk away from.

      So, yes, you're right, time is never wasted. I might not always see the purpose in time I want to think is being wasted, but it will ultimately serve that purpose. Can you tell I did some ruminating over your reply over the last few days?

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    2. Someone once said that in our quietest times, when we are accomplishing little, God does His greatest work in our souls. Whether or not that is true in EVERY instance, I don’t know, but I do know that in the periods in my life when I have felt the most frustration, indecision, and ineffectiveness, He has forced me to deal with various aspects of my own personality that needed dealt with. You matured a lot in your time away from school. School was not blocking it, but you changed a lot in that year, and it helped you figure out what you really wanted to do, as opposed to what you THOUGHT you wanted to do. :)

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    3. One of my favorite times at work is the prayer time on the 2nd Wednesday of every month. We can join a prayer group or go pray by ourselves, so I went and sat outside in the "Resting Place" that has benches and read my Bible and did some praying and wrote out some thoughts and it was lovely. It was just me and the Lord, something I don't experience as often as I should. Quiet times are important, crucial even, to healthy spiritual growth.

      My dad actually helped me with the idea of working for a publisher someday. He was surprised it had never occurred to me, and so was I. I love books, always will, but I don't always love the absurdly sappy junk that Christian publishers dish out, so it would be nice to help change that, find some new writers, add a few new sub-genres so Christian fiction doesn't slowly die away because it's not keeping up with the interests of its readers.

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    4. You know... I've toyed with the idea for years of starting my own publishing imprint or whatever you'd want to call it. Because "absurdly sappy junk" is exactly how I would describe a lot of Christian fiction -- it's why I really don't read a lot of it unless someone I trust recommends it.

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  2. Wow, such a great post, Carissa! I am also graduating this year, and I, too, was at first a very reluctant student. I'm so grateful my parents knew me better than I knew myself at the time, because college has taught me so much, not just academically but about other people. I've attended secular schools but met many Christians who gave me encouragement and a new perspective. Like you say, we should be healthily proud of our success. It's a compliment not just to us, but to the people who have helped us succeed. :)

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    1. Yes, it's definitely a compliment to those people in our lives who have supported and encouraged us during our pursuit of higher education. My parents never actually pushed me to attend college, and if they had, I would have pushed against them. I think they knew that which is why they let me come to the understanding about attending college on my own.

      And congrats, Marian, for being so close to graduating! That last year is by far the best because you're so close to the end. It doesn't matter how much work you have because that light at the end of the tunnel is right there!

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  3. This is a really great post! I've actually been doubting myself and my choice to pursue a college degree for a while. I took the summer off to think about it. This post has helped.
    I waited two years after high school before attending the community college I'm still at now. I wasn't sure what I wanted to major in, or if I even wanted a college degree. I've already changed my major once and am still uncertain about what I'm going to do with that major or if it's even the right one. But I'm very sure now that I'll continue with college.

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    1. Ashley, don't let my words push you into attending college. It's not right for everyone and I have many friends who have never attended and I don't judge them for it. You do what is right for you in the long run, dependent upon what you want to do with your life. I took some of those 5 years out of school to weigh a few options and decided to pursue English, something that will come in very handy when I go after a job in publishing in a few years' time. I'm sure you'll do great, whatever you decide to pursue. If you think college is the way for you, go for it with all your heart, soul, and strength!

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  4. It's so hard to figure out the pride thing, isn't it? I'm proud of my children when they do something well. I'm proud of stories I've written. I'm proud of having graduated Summa Cum Laude. Is all that prideful?

    I think it boils down to the attitude. To boasting, partly. If I'm strutting around going, "My son learned to read at age 4, and today he read a 250-page book in just a couple of hours! Aren't I a great teacher?" that would be wrong. If I hug my son and say, "You just read that whole book! I'm proud of you for sticking with it!" that's not wrong. I'm not boasting about him to make someone else feel bad or myself feel better, and I'm not leaning on my (or his) accomplishments to get myself (or him) ahead with God. Or with anyone else.

    Sometimes I think we use the word "proud" when we mean "satisfaction." I get a good deal of satisfaction from accomplishing something. Some days, just emptying and reloading the dishwasher is very satisfactory, and I can "proudly" tell my husband at supper, "I emptied and reloaded the dishwasher already!" Satisfaction in a job well done.

    I'll shut up now. Good for you! An education is a marvelous thing. As Sherlock Holmes said, "Education never ends, Watson. It is a series of lessons with the greatest for the last." Congratulations on completing another step in that series!

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    1. Satisfaction is a good word for my feelings about graduating. I've finished something, accomplished something, and it was very satisfying to reach the end of that one goal. I don't like pride or feeling like I'm being prideful by accepting praise, so the word "satisfaction" is a good switch for me. Thanks for suggesting it, Rachel!

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