"What's the most crucial thing you've ever learnt?"
If you would like to post on this subject, please link to David at authorblog or to the Weekend Wandering post this week so that he can track responses. Thank you.
I spent my twenties feeling as though I wasn't good enough. Instead of following my friends into college (I had no money and no family support, didn't understand that I could have gotten loans, etc.), I got married. My high school sweetheart and I got married the week after he graduated from USMC boot camp. We were just 20 years old. I had my first child at age 21. I had my second and final child at age 25. I worked at minimum wage jobs until after my son was 6 months old. At that point, I got a job as an accounting clerk at a home health care agency. Between my job and my husband's job (by this point he was out of the service and working for a convenience store chain), my kids spent a good deal of time with other people. I hated that. I longed for a break in our harried, hassled lives.
We sort of lost everything except each other when we were in a terrible car accident in late 1989. Our only car was totaled, and we were stranded in Ohio. We had to make some very tough choices then. We spent a horrible holiday season living in my husband's stepfather's rental house (which we think was quite haunted). Our kids got very little for Christmas, but we were all safe and warm. I went to work at a forensic hospital (where they put the crazy criminals) on crutches as a temporary accounting clerk. Hubby went to work at the Honda factory 30 miles away. We had borrowed $400 from my mother to get a beater to drive. It took a while for us to pay her back, and I hated that. Life sucked, to put it bluntly. I went around feeling not good enough. I gradually lost touch with my friends from school, because they were now educated and doing well enough. I hated how I felt.
In 1990, by the skin of my teeth, I got a job back in North Carolina (where we had lived during my husband's tour with the USMC) as a computer operator on the Marine Corps base. That eventually led to a job traveling 100%, training users on the system. I was surrounded with people who were more educated and more experienced than me. Many of them were nurses or pharmacy techs or lab techs; it was a military medical information system we taught. We traveled to all of the bases to install, train, and support the system and its users.
More than one of my co-workers found out that I had no college degree and used that against me. I got paid a fraction of what they made. I was home only rarely to see my family, so my husband became a SAHD. It was a very rough time for me. I don't think my kids will ever know how rough.
Eventually, a few years later, I managed to worm my way back into a position with the company which was zero travel. I was elated! Still, I was getting paid a pittance compared to those with college degrees. I felt I would never be good enough. I kept working hard, though, I worked my way up into a job in the DC area doing product marketing for a tech company. I was making plenty of money, but inside, I knew I still wanted my degree.
So what did I do? In 2002, at age 40, when my daughter was about to turn 18, I signed up for classes through the University of Maryland online so that I could continue to work full-time and go to school full-time. Was it hard? YES. Was it worth it? UNDOUBTEDLY!!! I graduated from college last year a week before I turned 45, magna cum laude, a Communications major. And I have now been accepted into grad school at American University.
Of all of this education, what is the most crucial thing I learned? I think it's two-fold, really. I learned that it is never too late to be who you wanted to be, and I learned that I am good enough to do and be whatever I want. I think we all are. We just have to believe in ourselves, set a goal, and focus on that goal.
Thanks, David, for a wonderful question to prompt my blog for the day. Peace - D