by Salienna Summer
Semester’s beginning brings work – but also an opportunity for a new you.
It’s here – right around the corner. At the start of the summer, who knew it would be here so soon, so – already! The start of the fall term. I know some of you want to run! This year is my second, and I still have a fleeting moment of acute reservation: “Hmm . . . would anyone notice if I spent the rest of my life on a couch somewhere far away?” But it is here: the school year and of its work.
Stress not. We can do this thing! I know from experience.
I started a year ago thinking, “How am I going to pull this off? How am going to do school well, like I do other stuff?” I hadn’t been in school for 20 years! I was scared. I thought, “Well, if I can pull off a C I will be okay.” “That would be lucky,” I told myself.
Then, the semester started, and before I knew it, I was soaking it all in. A fire started to build in me. I wanted more than a C. I studied. True, I often had to squeeze work in, but I still studied hard. I studied at home, at my kids’ baseball games and swim meets, even in the car. I studied whenever I had a free moment. But I had fun too. I learned that if I wanted a night off – maybe two – I would just have to make up for it. Some days I could juggle it all. Some days, not so well. Some days I felt invincible. Some days I felt like the worst mother, student, friend, and daughter.
But I made it through.
The summer before I started school again I was a little lost – and a lot afraid. I was on my own after seventeen years of a marriage that ended in a contentious divorce, after years and years and years of my ex-husband telling me I could not do much of anything. So, yes, I was scared because I believed that voice I had heard for so long. My kids, who are always my first priority, were scared. One thing I did know: I had to pick up the pieces and start anew. I knew the way to that new place was a career. I needed skills; I needed a future for me and my kids just as so many of you need.
So, when my grades were posted I actually cried. I was completely overcome. Maybe some of you reading can understand my emotion, even if you haven’t had the experience (yet!). Maybe all of you can. So, yes, when my grades were posted I cried. When I saw the A’s I was overcome, because something I thought I was going to fail at I rocked instead. I proved to myself that I was strong and I could go back to school, start over and begin a new life.
For those of you who are starting this journey right from high school, or 20-plus years later after high school, YOU CAN DO THIS. I did. And you can too.
It’s not always going to be easy. You may have moments when you want to give up; you may cry or stress yourself out. But you will have moments of pure empowerment. You will have moments when you are walking around campus like you belong here. You will have moments when you cannot picture doing your life differently. And you will have a moment like I had at the end of the first semester when you feel overcome because you did it! You will have a moment like I had that day, a moment when you feel life is good, a moment when you know you did it and did it well.
The one piece of advice I can give is not profound. It is not earth-shattering. It is simple: help. ASK FOR IT. Ask your peers in the classroom. Ask your professors. Ask your advisors. Ask the tutoring centers that I love, love, love at RACC. Ask your neighbors. Ask your family and friends. My hand was constantly up in the classroom. I should have just left it up in the air. If during a lecture I did not understand something, my hand went up. If I was confused (which was very frequently), my hand went up. You know what? Professors like this! It means you are listening! After class, I found friendly faces in the classroom, and I asked to form study groups. I asked friends and family whenever I needed help with kids and carpools and games and, well, life. It does take a village. And that is okay. There is no prize at the end of this journey if you did it alone. I used my Tribe.
So my friends, let us start this journey together this year. Let’s do this. Good luck!