Somebody in your corner
Facebook, when it’s not littering your wall with fake news stories, has a way of making you feel nostalgic. This morning, I did the same thing I always do - check my calendar, my messages, email, Instagram and Facebook – all in a last ditch effort to stay under my warm blankets just a moment longer. This morning, Facebook reminded me just how excited and hungry I was for my future.
“Got my cap and gown today! I’m so close I can taste it!” I wrote in 2011.
What could I taste? Graduation. Freedom. My future. All of it. And I was hungry for every single bite.
I was finishing up my bachelor’s degree in electronic media at the University of Northern Iowa, ready for a life beyond the bell tower and hopefully the borders of Iowa. I was sending out resumes as quickly as I could find reporter openings at newspapers across the country.
Little did I know, the following week I would receive an email from the Registrar’s office telling me that, in an accounting mix-up, I was actually three credit hours shy of graduating. However, with some quick thinking, a summer where I spent way too much time in the newsroom and an advisor that was willing to go to bat for me, I was able to turn my exorbitant internship hours into extra college credit.
College was an expectation for me. When I was seven or so, I was enamored with butterflies. My dad coaxed me, like I would try to coax a butterfly off the lilac bloom and onto my finger, to help him build butterfly houses. In reality, all I did was watch, but not only was it father-daughter time, but Dad let me sell the butterfly houses at the craft shows he was showing his swings. The revenue would go towards my college fund.
When I walked across that stage to receive my diploma nearly five years ago, my parents weren’t just cheering for my victory, they were celebrating our achievement. I was the first person in my family to go to college. In some ways, it felt as if my parents and siblings’ hopes and dreams were pinned on me. Although that, at times, amounted to a great deal of pressure, they also encouraged, supported and motivated me. And it seems under pressure is when I tend to excel.
The thing is, I didn’t just make this journey on my own. Not only did my parents and their desire to see me graduate motivate me, I also had teachers throughout my life that saw something in me that I didn’t. Whether it was my fifth-grade teacher who very bluntly told me I was better than the work I was producing, my high school teacher that told me if I’d only learn to use a dictionary I’d be a half-way decent writer or my countless college professors and advisors that took me under their wing and saw my potential when I couldn’t look past my own insecurities.
You never truly get anywhere alone, there’s always someone on this road of life that can change the course or pace at which you’re going. I’m as grateful for the ones who told me I could as much as I am the ones who said, “you can’t.”
Yesterday, I attended the launch viewing party for Iowa native and Iowa Wesleyan alum, Peggy Whitson. I couldn’t help but smile when I interviewed Whitson’s mentor, DP Wilson. Wilson had recruited Whitson, who as Wilson says, wanted to be an astronaut from the get-go, despite people telling her it would never happen.
“She graduated in 1981, there hadn’t been a (woman) astronaut,” said Wilson. “I said, ‘go for it’ and look what she’s done.”
Look indeed. Whitson is now the oldest woman in space. She was also the first woman to be commander of the International Space Station and holds the record for time spent in space for a woman.
As Thanksgiving rolls around and I look back on the past five years, I’m especially grateful for my mentors, my teachers, my family and the ones who told me no. Sometimes all you need to succeed is someone in your corner and another person telling you it’ll never happen to get you to dig a little deeper. And I hope someday I’ll be that person, in the corner, saying, “yes you can.”