I’ve been a quiet wreck the past 3-4 weeks.
Quiet, meaning I haven’t said much about it and have kept the emotions exploding within me to myself.
A wreck, meaning that at any given moment during the said time frame, I’ve had tears streaming down my face, physical evidence of the flood of emotions consuming my heart and mind….
Any given moment meaning while I’m driving my car….huffing, puffing, & heaving my 30lb overweight body through a 3 mile run…washing my hair in the shower….eating a peanut butter/banana/honey sandwich and wasting time on Twitter (@addyeB-follow me! I follow back-unless you’re a spammer…or creepy)…changing my 13mo old’s diaper, you get the picture-completely random and quite unexpectedly, I’d find myself crying and clenching my fists….
But not because of stress, although I’ve had PLENTY of it recently….or because of sweat-inducing anxiety (which is NOT fun and tends to happen way too often in my opinion)…or due to a complete, overwhelming lack of motivation or depressing thoughts (you know, the kind where just the THOUGHT of moving wears you out)…No I’ve been a wreck for a GOOD reason-let me explain:
It started at Camden County College’s “Spring Fling” a few weeks ago. Well actually, it started that morning as I was in the shower feeling the excitement over picking up my cap & gown spreading like warm sunshine on my skin. The more I thought about it, the more I thought about the journey it took to reach that point-and that’s when the levee broke, emotions charging through my mind like a rushing current…
4 1/2years ago, I was a single mother living off of a $506 bi-weekly unemployment stipend, and had been separated from the Air Force for about six months. I’d spent those six months fighting for said unemployment benefits, navigating the social services system for healthcare, living with friends, living with strangers, trying to recover from (another) failed relationship (my judgement really SUCKED back then), trying to get my son’s father to indeed acknowledge that he WAS the father, searching for a job, and learning how to adjust to this new role I found myself in: MOTHER.
When I look back over the time since then I see snapshots of myself: going hungry so I could spend the money I had on groceries/diapers/necessities for my son…being homeless and trying to find a shelter for us to live in….endless job searches….working the overnight shift at Target stocking shelves, wondering if I’d ever get back on my feet….having to move back in with my parents and share a room with my sister (I used to feel so guilty about that)….waiting for a year to FINALLY get disability compensation from the VA and another 6 months to FINALLY get into a VA education program so I could go back to school….The agonizing “should I go to school for what I really want, or should I just go for something guaranteed, like medical coding” decision process.(I chose the first option)…having another child and realizing I’d have to put school on hold for awhile….struggling with depression and anxiety the past two years….sitting out in my car in the college parking lot a mere 10 weeks ago, hopes crushed because of a small glitch in the computer system, wanting to give up because I thought graduating just wasn’t in the cards for me-I wanted to give up-badly….
So many disappointments. Failures. Mistakes. Pain. Frustration. Anger….The rigors of discipline. Learning the nuances of time management. Stress. Not knowing how I was going to make it financially. Guilt. Shame….some of the valleys I’ve spent time in the past 4 years have been the darkest and driest ones I’ve found myself in yet….Some of which I never thought I’d make it out of…
BUT I’ve had triumphs and successes too. I’ve been stretched and have grown. Been broken and rebuilt. Refined and remade time and again throughout this journey….
And so when I walked up to the table where they were passing out caps and gowns to graduation candidates, I almost couldn’t do it. There I was, standing in a crowd of people, afraid to step forward and claim the prize I’ve wanted most since I was in kindergarten.(Going to and graduating from college has been a dream/goal of mine since I started school. Yes, I love to learn-I’m a nerd) Afraid that when I gave the lady my name, she’d look over the list, look at me apologetically and say, “I’m sorry, but I don’t see your name.” When I finally got the nerve to approach the table, handed her my ID and received my cap & gown in my hands, I realized my hands were shaking and I had to blink back gallon sized tears….
The same tears that threatened to spill over as I sat in rehearsal yesterday, in awe that I was actually there. This was it…
All the worry about finals, all the pressure, all the fatigue, all the work it had taken to stand with the hundreds of others in the gym who had completed the same journey-It had paid off. I made it. Listening to the various details & instructions being given to us about where to sit, where to stand, who’s hand to shake, feeling the buzz of eager anticipation and excitement made me realize that the journey had been worth it. Every. Single. Step.
And I was/am still in awe that I’m here. It feels surreal to be in the middle of a dream that’s become a reality. I didn’t think I’d make it. Some told me I’d make it, others….others said I wouldn’t. My dad, growing up, he said I would never become anything, that even though I was smart I didn’t have what it took to make something of myself, told me I didn’t deserve to be where I am right now. But when I walk across the stage tomorrow to receive my degree, it will feel so good to know that he was wrong.
I think what has me the most overwhelmed and emotional is this feeling of humility that lays deep in my heart. When I think back and remember the past 4 years, I’m just humbled because I see that I haven’t reached this point because I’m so great, or smart, or organized, or have it all together. When I look at the fact that I’m graduating tomorrow, and all that I went through, I just see God. I see His faithfulness. I see His love, His mercy, His compassion for me. I see Him holding me together when I was falling apart. In the midst of my mistakes, depression, struggles, anxiety, and pain, I see Him navigating me through it all. I see Him giving me favor with my teachers, working behind the scenes to help me get to this point…using people in my life to encourage me to keep going despite any mistakes I made or bad circumstances I found myself in. I just see God and His greatness, and I’m humbled by knowing that I’m here because He got me here, and that myself and my faith has grown leaps & bounds because of this experience.
I graduate tomorrow at 10am with an Associates Degree in Liberal Arts with a concentration in Communications. In the fall I’ll start a new journey, pursuing my bachelor’s & master’d degree in counseling. But before I start down that road, I’m just going to sit and soak in this moment, this victory at the top of the mountain and enjoy looking out at what’s ahead of me.
It’s a pretty awesome view.