Thursday, February 23, 2012

Knowledge is Power: How Education Changed My Life..And Can Change Yours

When I was a child I had a vision for my life and where I would be by 30.  From early on I knew I’d be married young, likely without a big ceremony, just elope or head to Vegas, cause I’m a real low key kind of person…nothing flashy. Then I’d throw a large reception.  After that I wanted to have a couple kids and be a stay at home mom and just live and enjoy life and my husband…………………..  Yes I can hear all my friends reading this and laughing.  Sometimes visions are nowhere near the plan God has laid out for us.  How different my life is in reality. I actually didn’t do any of those things and when the time comes that I decide to do them, I doubt they will be in that order or very low key. Haha…sorry Mom.  J Yes many unexpected twists and turns took me off that path and into a very different direction. 

One surprising thing that I have learned from it all is something I never expected to feel so strongly about.  I have learned the true value and importance of education.  It sounds so cliché but I believe it really is the key to success and can set you free.  Knowledge is power.   So often we hear people say that but what does it actually mean? President Obama recently said in his 2012 State of the Union Address that “higher education is an economic imperative.”  I remember that line because of the relevance it has in my own life.  While the President was referring to higher education on a national scale being imperative to the success of our country, I can’t help but acknowledge how higher education has been an economic imperative in my own life.  Literally it has drawn the line between sink or swim, stop or go and quite possibly live or die (okay that might be a bit overdramatic).

 Rewind to 2005….up until then I had navigated through life with relative ease.  I grew up in a family that was not rich, not poor, but definitely a paycheck to paycheck kind of family.  My parents worked hard and I never needed anything.  I had all my necessities and a few wants.  Can’t complain about that.  I was able to go to college which is a luxury that many of my friends that grew up in my neighborhood never had. See college where I come from is an opportunity, not a guarantee.  So I am thankful I had the chance to go and earn a degree from SFA.  All that aside, on April 12, 2005 I was handed a 6 lbs 14 ounce game changer.  I call her Kaily.  Though I didn’t know it at the time…my life had just taken a turn and the outcome of that turn was yet to be determined…it  was in my hands and mine alone.

Soon after my darling was born her dad and I parted ways.  I found myself 22 years old and completely on my own for the first time in my life….and worse….I had another mouth to feed.  Quite far from the way I had imagined things as a child.  For two years I worked and worked and worked.  We were soooooooooooooooooooo broke.  I have literally calculated how many miles it would take to drive to work and exactly how much money I needed to buy gas to get me just there and home.  To this day I can buy a fridge full of groceries for like…$20.  I learned how to survive.  I know what it is like to have nothing. As far as life goes…I think survival tactics are a good thing to learn. While my empty one bedroom apartment was a constant reminder of the things I didn’t have, the one thing I did have was pride….too much pride to ask for help.  And to be honest I never wanted help.  Some of my brokest (is that a word???) days were also my most happy.  It’s funny how you can be at the poorest point in your life and still feel like you have it all. 

Some things that I didn’t have did bother me though and kept me up at night.  Not having an abundance of clothes, shoes or furniture really didn’t worry me.  The things I felt I NEEDED were far more stressful than materialistic items.  I had no job security, I had no career and I had no freedom over my own future. I had no plan for my daughter and no path for improvement, development or advancement.  I felt like I was a fully capable person, but that doors were just not open for me.  And keep in mind…I had a college degree.  Yet still I felt like I couldn’t get anywhere.   That was a humbling moment for me. To this day whenever I see a young girl caring for her child my heart hurts for her.  Because I know…I know how hard it is. And to a girl in high school with a minimal education, supporting a child and hoping for a future must seem like an impossible task with insurmountable obstacles.    

To me, the scariest things in life tend not to be tangible.  In my own life, it is terrifying to recognize an area where I am vulnerable or weak and have no clue how to move forward to change it.  That helpless feeling that you are not in control of your own future or the thought of what could possibly happen to you that you cannot prevent is my biggest fear.   And that is where I was. What if I lost my job? What if I wreck my car and can’t pay for it? What if Kaily needed to go to the emergency room? What on Earth would I do…..scary.  I looked for different full time jobs that paid more and worked part time jobs.  I had as many as 3 jobs at a time, but nothing made much difference in the big scheme of things.  My daughter was expensive and at this point I had no child support or anything coming in….it was all on me and my $30k a year job…..and that just wasn’t good enough. Not for me…not for my daughter…we both deserved better.  Then a little stroke of luck or fate knocked on my door and forever changed things.  Well actually it was just my friend PJ.

He was studying for the LSAT which is the law school entrance exam.  He had a roommate and couldn’t get much studying done at home so would come over to my place to do Kaplan logic games and reading comp problems.  In an effort for me to be able to help him he taught me how to do the games and I had a natural knack for the reading comprehension …next thing you know…I’m averaging 80+ percent on the tests.  That was it for me…I knew this was the change.  So I went to law school. Part time program while working a full time job.  The education I received was Grade A…no question, but most of what I got out of it wasn’t something I read in a book…or 100 books…(there were a lot of books).  No the two largest things I took from that experience  were (i) a change in ideology and (ii) beginning down the road of self-actualization.   

I took a different point of view on life.  I began to view the world as if every fact changes a situation.  And that the freedom of thought is in place to change things that are oppressive.  I noticed that new ideas may seem radical and 50 years later be normal.  I learned that no one can tell you no. 

Second, and probably the most practical and useful thing that education gave me was the security in my own life.  I will never be unemployed.  If I lose my job today I can work for myself by tonight.  I know how to do it, I have done it and I can do it again.  I will never be homeless. My daughter will never be hungry. These are basic needs that I could not 100% be sure of before law school and now I am.  That is the freedom of education.  I don’t have to sit in an office because I can do my work from anywhere in the world and I can eat lunch with my daughter any day I want to. That is the freedom of education. I can earn more than minimum wage and I don’t look in my bank account before I get gas or grocery shop. That is the freedom of education. Oh and I have furniture J small perk. Lol.

I many never earn millions of dollars.  I may never be the President of the United States.  But the freedom of education has started me down the path of self-actualization and even without those things I still have it all.  I can sleep at night. 

I know the road may seem long and never-ending but I encourage everyone to work it out.  Make it happen.  A formal college education or Doctorate program may not be for everyone, but I do believe there is something for everyone.  There will be road blocks but you have to keep going.

There is one thing I don’t tell people because to me it was embarrassing, but at this point it can no longer bring me down.  I think it’s important to share to highlight that no one’s life is without struggle.  You see I applied to 3 law schools, all of which are in the Houston.  I was restricted to the city because of Kaily. I was going to need help and my family is here. I had it all planned out.  So you can imagine my surprise when the first letter I got back was a rejection letter. The University of Houston Law Center told me I am not smart enough to attend their school. Staring at that letter I broke down crying.  For the first time in my life someone told me I wasn’t good enough. I couldn’t educate myself and I would have to stay in my current situation for the time being.  It was deflating….seemed like the yearlong testing and application process was all for nothing. I wanted to curl up and quit.  But I didn’t…and no one should.  Then the second and third letters came and I was accepted….given the chance and ultimately a new life. 

So if you are considering going to school, whether it is a trade school, college, or post graduate program my advice is to take the chance.  You will be amazed at how it changes you.