Erin Smith

Student

Location: Grand Rapids, MI

"I know there will be days when I still don't want to get out of bed, but I am proud of what I am doing and am so glad I decided to take a chance on my future."

I came home raging with anger. Once again I had been asked to do "just one more thing." My boss was leaving the company and the president wanted to know if I was interested in taking over the office. The opportunity sounded great—except I would have no additional help, would receive minimal compensation and would be left in a postion at a company that had no upward mobility. My poor husband – sensing an impending hurricane– asked what I wanted to do. At first I considered our financial responsibilities. Then I realized I could not take the job; I was not going to settle for a partially rewarding life. I believed my husband and I could make it work.

After giving it much thought, I decided to finally study one of my personal passions: architecture. The only accredited schools were located across the state, so for the first semester, I drove three hours each way twice a week. The stress at home and the struggles in school began taking a physical toll on me. At the end of the first semester I was ready to quit, but I knew this was my chance. So I found a relative who lived halfway between home and school who offered me a place to stay during the week.

In my personal life, I discovered that many of the women in my family were supportive because they did not follow their own desired career paths. My grandmother never went to college because she became a mother, and my mother only went for a shorter degree because she chose to start a family as well. My husband's family was disappointed that my schooling would push any decision to have grandchildren into our 30s, but my husband was supportive and never apologized for my choice.

I will finish my Master's degree in December. Instead of dreading work, I get up each day excited about moving forward. I know there will be days when I still don't want to get out of bed, but I am proud of what I am doing and am so glad I decided to take a chance on my future.