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.