I was 24 and a single mom, and I needed to find a way to provide for my 1-year-old daughter. My boyfriend had decided it was time for us to take a break—and it was time for me to start thinking about the kind of person I wanted to be.
So I started thinking about going back to school for a degree. I knew I wanted to do something in health care; I just didn’t know what. I had always wanted to run the front office of a pediatrician’s office, but I had no idea how I’d ever get there. I figured that college would be the way to do that.
But I was scared to death. I didn’t know what I was getting into. It was something I had to sit down and think a lot about. Where did I want to go? What did I want to study? How should I even begin the process?
I toured two different schools—the only two nearby that offered night classes, which I needed because I couldn’t afford to get childcare. I didn’t really know anyone who had finished college before, so I didn’t have anyone to guide me through the process. I ended up going to the school that seemed the most supportive and helpful. The admissions advisor helped me to see that since I hated sticking people with needles, I probably shouldn’t become a medical assistant. Instead, health care administration was the field for me.
When I first pulled into the school parking lot and saw all the students walking into the big two-story brick building, I felt like a timid little mouse. It was so intimidating to be in college. I had never been good at school. In high school I struggled and worried that I wouldn’t graduate; so I assumed that for sure I’d never make it in college. But I wanted to try. I knew if I didn’t try, there’d be no chance that I’d ever succeed.
This time, though, I had more motivation. I had my daughter’s sweet face in mind, her big brown eyes and brown curls. I wanted to create a better life for her eventually, to give her things I didn’t have. I knew that part of the path to that was to go to school and then get a better job.
There were times it was difficult, there were classes I thought I’d fail. In fact, halfway through my college degree, I was ready to be done. I didn’t have money, and I cried myself to sleep from the stress. But, I kept telling myself, “Thirteen months in, thirteen to go.” My mom told me not to give up, and my friends told me not to waste my year of work by giving up now. I also had something this time that I never had in high school: gumption and a will to succeed. “You’ll never know if you can succeed if you don’t first try,” I told myself.
I didn’t have the support of a husband or a father for my daughter, which made things difficult. But I did have the support of a loving boyfriend—because a couple months after I started school, my boyfriend realized that he missed me and my daughter. He wanted to get back together. In the meantime, I had conquered my fear of college, and I was heading in the right direction.
And now two years later, I am a proud to say that this past weekend I put on my cap and gown and red honors cord and walked across the stage to receive my diploma for my associate’s degree in applied Science in health care administration.
I’ve seen that sometimes a single mom might be tempted to stay with a guy she shouldn’t be with because she feels like it is the only way to make it. I didn’t want to be in that position of being with a guy just because I needed his help. I wanted to be married someday. I never stopped loving my boyfriend and wanting to be with him—but I knew that I couldn’t just wait around. I had to take steps to become the kind of person that would attract the right guy. I needed to do my best to make things good for my daughter and me. I was afraid, but I had to start thinking about the future. And two years later, I have a degree and a job to show for it.