I Think You Made a Mistake!
“I think you made a mistake. I’m Magna Cum Laude.”
“Nope, you’re Summa Cum Laude. You made the top 5 %. Congratulations!”
As I stood at the graduate check-in, I listened to the representative say those words. He had already given me my two tassels for the two honor societies to which I belonged, but this was a complete surprise.
I worked hard for my 4.0, but I don’t think the magnitude hit me until my name was called to cross the stage to receive my diploma. I was the second to be called across the stage from the College of Liberal Arts. Second in ranking. Overall, there were 7500 graduates from all four colleges. I made the top 5% overall and number two in my peer college.
As I stood there listening to them call my name and read out my rankings, I looked at the crowd in the arena. Then it hit me! And I have to say that a part of me, well, all of me, was so darn proud!
Proud of myself that through all of the obstacles of the last four years, I persevered through and never gave up.
I know that I shared a couple of weeks ago, but I want to lead you on a part of my journey. Why? Because I believe that somewhere out there, someone reading this may need to hear that pushing through is more than worth it. Believe me, if I can, anyone can.
I began my journey in November, 2011 transferring only nine credit hours. I had raised my family and wanted to achieve a lifelong dream. So I entered college at the age of 54. Yep! You read it right! I am in my 50s. But that is just a number – means absolutely nothing unless you let it.
One year into my studies, I developed a brain tumor at the base of my skull. I ignored the headaches and blurred vision for as long as I could. Finally, I went to a doctor not knowing what was going on and thinking it was just stress from college. At least, that’s what my friends and family kept saying. They said this because they called me an over achiever, a perfectionist, obsessive – all because I was determined to get A’s because that was my best.
After one visit and an ultrasound, the tumor was found and surgery was scheduled right away. It was removed and measured at 9 cm long and 2 cm deep. The surgeon removed two inches of muscle and skin at the base of my skull along with the tendrils of the tumor reaching toward my brain stem. Fortunately, for me? It was benign. And through it all, including the recovery, I stayed in school and kept up with my assignments, never skipping a beat.
I continued to work full time, go to school, and take care of my grandson. Here is where I tell the story of my youngest daughter, legally blind and unable to drive. She was able to hold down a job, so I drove her to work each and every morning. I took care of her son during the day, picked her up in the evening and did my schoolwork. Her job was located in the Napa Valley wine country – a 2 hour drive each morning and evening. But I kept up and never skipped a beat.
Last year, it was decided that I had to have a total knee replacement. Rather than take a leave from college, I kept going. In fact, the day of surgery, I had an assignment due. So, I got up early, turned in my assignment, and went into surgery. More assignments were due two days later. There I lay in my hospital bed, laptop opened in front of me, iPad opened to my textbook, smartphone tethered for a Wi-Fi connection.
My physical therapist came in for my first time up from bed. He had to wait. I had an assignment due. The nurses trying to administer pain medication to keep my pain management under control had to wait. I had an assignment due. Again, I did not skip a beat. Each and every assignment, quiz, and paper were on time. And I kept my 4.0 GPA.
So, fast forward to now. I hold two degrees – one in Journalism and Mass Communications and one in Political Science and Government – double majors. I kept my 4.0 in both. Why? Not because I am an over achiever, a perfectionist, obsessive. No, because I demand the best from myself and will not give less than 100% in anything I do. Ok, Yes, I am an over achiever, a perfectionist, and obsessive.
But you know what? I wouldn’t change it for anything in the world. I made it! I made it through ungodly obstacles. I made it through all of those people that teased me and taunted me about my GPA. I refused to listen to them. I sacrificed doing things I really wanted to do, even putting my books on hold.
But, here I am. Not only did I do it, but I set my goal and never lost sight of what I set. That is my message today. It would have been so easy to have given up so many times. I’ve been through heart break, physical pain, emotional pain, mental pain, but I set my goal. I had my dream. There was no way I was going to let anyone take that away from me.
That is my message to you today. Don’t let anyone – and I mean anyone (including family) take it away from you! This is YOUR life! Live it. Dream it. It is not easy, by any means. But dammit! It’s worth it!