“It’s OKAY to be scared. Being scared means you’re about to do something really, really brave.”
― Mandy Hale, The Single Woman: Life, Love, and a Dash of Sass
As my gps mumbles out at me, ‘Turn right in half a mile and then you will be nearing your destination.” I feel it bubbling up to the surface. I mentally try and tell myself “stop”. This is normal. People do this all the time. But I can’t. I don’t do this all the time. I feel little like Mario when he hops for the flag pole. A dream, hope and want realized.
The tears flow. I don’t care. Maybe other people have done this and maybe to them it was just. But to me it won’t ever be just. It is a belief and hope for better things for me and my family. Not financial gains, but spiritual, emotional and physical ones. It is the dreams, hopes and gains that my family and my family’s family often dreamed of. The ones from other suppressed countries or even suppressed mindsets in a society that says you are this or that. It is deciding I will never be this or that, but instead I choose what I am.
I would love to say as I explored each building and place in my new habitat that it was just a building or just place. But each and every single place was a tiny bit of symbolism for this new life, new endeavor and challenge I am placed on. The people are all new faces with new names. They know my name, but I don’t know theirs. I will though and I imagine some will be my gatekeepers and assets to this new role.
In high school, I always felt awkward and I followed what other kids were doing. They didn’t really care about school, so I didn’t. I did the things they did and I felt like a follower. It always felt off some way. Finally, when I finally went to college at 22, I realized who I am meant to be and I am finally her. I am finally okay with being more than just and being vocal with being more than just. And following no one.
People wonder how or why and I often wonder that myself. But I found out back then I liked the challenge. I liked the challenge to my thoughts, principles and shaping my beliefs. When I was 18, I went to college down in Indy. I stepped into my first few classes and was so overwhelmed. The campus was so big and scary. All the unknowns. All the strangeness of a new place, new smells and a new community that I did not feel a part of.
I quit. I quit so I could work a little over minimum wage job. I worked really hard to get a better job and worked even harder for a promotion or two and I really liked what I did. But there was something about that decision to quit that stuck with me and that decision made in fear and the failure I felt from it. That fear has fueled this passion and drive for more and more.
I do hope that it is enough that once I reach that goal, that threshold, that I know I crushed that girl who made a decision based in fear back then. And that I finally allowed my fears to drive me. And I can tell you this first official visit to campus as a PhD student I conquered that. I had been there before, but never as this.
I walked on a big scary campus, with all the different people, places and vocabulary and yes I was afraid just like I was back then. But instead I pushed it back and realized that it was that fear that drives me. That fear that says none of this experience will just be that. And more importantly I will not let it. I am not just getting my PhD. I am doing something. I am pushing passed the hard stuff that tells me I can’t. I am ignoring the voices that say, “It is just school” even if it is my own voice.
I realized during my visit I am driving this ship and I am the captain. That has never been the case most of the life. I mean sure I got to make decisions in my personal life. But I am talking professional and academic. You go to school and they tell you what to study and for how long. They even make up sheets of paper on it. At my previous campus your “bingo sheet” is your map.
And yea my PhD program has that, but it is so different. I decide. Does it benefit the end result? Does it accentuate what it needs to, will you cover the territory you hope? I make that ultimate decision. I make the decision. And yea I have an advisor, but I am the captain. And for the first time in my short three years since deciding my professional path I didn’t quietly own my job or goals in this field.
I owned my job as a high school teacher loud and proud. I owned wanting to tell the narrative of the non-traditional student. I owned wanting to talk more about early college writers and the transition from high school to college. And I never kept quiet because I was ashamed, but more because I didn’t feel like engaging in a fight where they wouldn’t change my mind anyway. In many college settings my school is seen as the enemy or as taking students, which lets just be honest is money. I have been afraid to tell other academics I choose to work in k12 and the early college concept because when I do all the sudden I am the enemy.
And I am not. The true enemy is a college system that has student loan debt at an all time high. Students cannot leave school without massive amounts of debt weighing them down. When you compare the cost of college and amount of support students get to other countries academic make ups for college ours is kind of skewed and dare I say antiquated or even inflated. Therefore, if I can be a part of the process that lets students afford college and students who likely never considered college then yes please sign me up. But that is another fight for another time.
Yes, I am nearing my destination and this travel will be long and hard and fraught with many moments of doubt I am sure. But as long as I always see it for what it is I know the finish line is around the corner. It is my dream. It is my goal. It is my love. It is my passion. It is my word. It is my conquering a fear. And it will never be just that.