I achieved a lot in grade school, from making the honor roll every report card to placing in the top 10 percent in the California Achievement Test (CAT). I genuinely enjoyed learning and receiving recognition from academic and athletic accomplishments. When I set my mind to something, I reached all of my goals, which made life fulfilling during those times. But my childhood determination faded during my teenage years when peer pressure stepped in, culminating with a life-changing event: I became a teenage mother in high school.
I had and still do have a huge support group, including my mother, siblings and closest friends, who are determined to see me succeed in life. I had no excuse not to finish high school and go directly to college. I had the grades and support from my mother with my beautiful daughter, yet I decided to take a break and work and party with my friends, who were not interested in school or their futures.
I believed at the time a one-year break would not hurt, but looking back, that became a pattern in my life that I’m still overcoming. One year became two years and when I did decide to go back, I picked an easier program. I took another break and did not return to finish the program until two years later, after becoming a wife and mother for the second time. But I was determined to finish the program and I eventually achieved that goal, receiving a 4.0 GPA every module until graduation.
Two years later I wanted to go back to school to get a degree in nursing; I was fired up again and determined to achieve. I passed the Nursing Entrance Test the first time and was accepted to the nursing program. But I stopped the program halfway through after my husband was the victim of a hit and run and my father became ill from a heart attack. They needed me at home, so I put my education and career on hold, falling back into bad habits.
By the time my husband and father had a turn for the better and I decided it was my time to shine again, I struggled to gain acceptance to another nursing program.
Fast forward six years later. I knew I had to start a program and finish it without any breaks for work, family or personal life to finally reach my goal of making a better life for my family.
This past year and a half I have worked two demanding jobs, raised my two youngest daughters, assisted my eldest daughter and her family, took care of my elderly father and grieved the tragic loss of my beloved brother. But I have not fallen back in old habits by taking a break; I’m happy to say that I have six classes left to earn my Bachelor’s degree in Health Care Administration with a concentration of Information. I expect to finish this year.
I know in my mind and heart that I could have accomplished my goals earlier in life, but as Maya Angelou said, “You will face many defeats in your life, but never let yourself be defeated.” I would only add one more thing: Do not take breaks in your career or education.