In my early twenties I left college two classes shy of receiving my bachelor's degree. Life was incredibly busy at that time. My son was one years old. I was working a lot. Money was tight. I told myself I would only take one to two quarters off and then start back up to complete my degree. Two quarters turned into two years, and before I knew it I was 35 years old. I continuously felt regretful I never went back and finished. On a November day in 2010 I called Seattle University, ordered my transcript and made an appointment with the dean. I wanted to know what it would take to finish what I had started. During the 13 years I was away some of the requirements changed. Instead of only needing two more classes to graduate, I now needed four. Two of which were upper level political science classes.
My first day returning as a 35 year old mom, I sat in the 400 level political science class with a bunch of college age students. I read the syllabus and listened to the professor lecture about the importance of participating. She said no one could sit quietly in the back. She would call on each of us daily. The content and amount of required reading was UNBELIEVABLE. I had to read and re-read every paragraph over and over again, continuously pulling out my phone to look up the terminology. Even after all that reading, I arrived in the classroom petrified the professor would call on me. I had very little comprehension of what I had read for three hours the night before.
I cried every day for about two weeks. Those voices taunted me, tempted me into quitting it all. One night as I sat in the bath reading through one of my books, re-reading the same page for the second time, I could hear the dog barking and the kids fighting out in the family room. Out of frustration and desperation, I pounded and splashed the bath water as if I was a two year old throwing a tantrum. Water drenched by books and tears drenched my cheeks. I thought, ‘How…how can I make it through this?”
For the remainder of the semester I was hardly home, and my loving husband (boyfriend at the time) took over all the household duties. I started my day at 6:30 am, worked a full day, and drove straight to school where I attended class until 7:00 pm. After class I stayed at school studying in the library until 11:00 at night. It was what I needed to do if I was going to make it through this period in my life. Because it was hard, because it was a tough battle and because I am fiercely proud of what I accomplished, I will tell you I not only passed….I aced that class.
My last semester at school was spent with my dad as an inpatient right across the street. He was at Swedish Hospital where he was receiving his chemotherapy treatments. I was taking a test one afternoon when I received a call from my mom that changed my life. I spent the last two weeks of my college career studying for my finals in the ICU unit of the hospital. I took my last final a week after he passed away.
I finished all four classes and received my college degree, but it wasn’t without struggle. And it certainly wasn’t without the consideration of quitting.
When my mom was diagnosed with terminal cancer a year after we lost our father, I sat in my therapist office unsure how to move forward. I told my therapist how I wished it was I who had cancer. In many ways, this was my way of succumbing to defeat. I could not face watching one more person I love suffer from this God awful disease. I did not know where I would find the strength to survive the loss of both of my parents in such a short time. In this circumstance, it was my mom who led by example. She showed me what it meant to never give up.
I’ve quit various things in my life, but what I’ve fought through and completed has delivered riches beyond what I intended. Not only did I reach the finish line of my desired goal, I built a resource bank to draw upon when the voices come back. Those nagging little voices that tell me I’m not good enough and I should give up.
I thought about all this as I finished my first day of yoga training this weekend. It’s not that I thought about quitting. I love yoga and I love this dream too much to even consider that as an option. But self-doubt invited itself into my thoughts as I faced what is ahead.
I recalled upon all those times I doubted myself. I drew upon my resource bank and remembered.
The best treasures are received after the toughest battles we fight.
With every step up the mountain, we labor and struggle. Often times, we cannot see our destination through the density of the trees. When we reach the summit we breathe in the beauty and find glory in all the steps it took to arrive.