Guest Post by: Rachel Howard
I had just gotten remarried and was expecting our second son, my oldest was five and from a previous marriage. I had sold all of my belongings and moved on base to be with my new husband. I had always wanted to go to college but the fear of how to pay for it prevented me from trying. By my mid-twenties, I was a single mom working two jobs and didn’t have time for school. When I remarried I had the time but was far past the freshmen age. I feared being the oldest person in class and coming from a poor education system, maybe even the dumbest too. Plus, I was the first person in my family to graduate high school, so there was no one I could talk to. As much as I feared returning to school, I desired to give my children the best chances in life. I finally found the motivation to return.
I had walked into a college advisor’s office and said, “I don’t know anyone who’s gone to college and it’s embarrassing. I don’t know how to start college, how to pay for it, or what I want to major in.” By the time I left her office, I had enrolled in the spring semester classes. I was excited but nervous at the same time. I worried that the other students would be so much younger and judge me for my age. I feared that I wouldn’t be able to keep up.
For the first class I read the first five chapters of the textbook and took notes. I sat down front and center in the class 40 minutes before it was scheduled to begin. I moved to two different seats before settling back in my original front-row seat. Then my classmates started arriving. Some were younger and some older. Some didn’t seem to care about preparing as much as others, but none of them made me feel bad about being in the same class. Actually, they made me feel smart because I had come so well prepared to class – being able to answer the teacher’s questions about the first couple of chapters.
This journey I had started was certainly not easy. I had a lot of responsibilities to balance; full time job, pregnancy, newborn, a spouse in the service who was constantly leaving, an international move, and countless other engagements I had to turn down due to school. And even in the struggle, there were some really great times. I met teachers who became role models. One Professor taught me to be more accepting of other peoples’ lifestyles, while another kept pushing me to do better with every assignment. And Professor Pavlick might be the first man to compliment my intelligence and ability. He was convinced that one day I would be a CEO and that my business ethics would make a real difference in the world. For someone of such success to be so sure of me really made me believe in myself.
Through it all, I had to keep reminding myself why I was doing it. I used a photo of my boys as a bookmark for my textbooks. Quitting wasn’t an option because I wasn’t doing this just for me but for them. I channeled that “mom-strength” and used it to push me through to graduation.
I graduated with a Bachelor’s Degree in Management and a minor in Homeland Security. I looked at my two boys cheering in the stands and felt so proud. I knew I did something right for my kids and that brought so much to my heart, and seeing the proud face of my own mother looking at me with her eyes filled with tears brought so much satisfaction.
If you’ve been thinking about going back to school, just do it. Make a promise to yourself and keep that promise, because when you are 90 years old and looking back on your life, you’ll regret letting fear get in your way of accomplishing your goals. Be a good role model and make a difference in this big, beautiful world we live in.