Every Fall I get nostalgic and think about the air of opportunity that is right around the corner. This Fall is special because it marks 10 years from when I left home for college. Like any other incoming Freshman, I was excited and anxious to take my first journey into adulthood by living alone. For me, this was the moment that I had waited my whole school life for. As a child of a single parent, I witnessed the struggle and hardship my mother faced as she worked long hours to make a life for her children. I was told from a very young age that college could be my ticket to living a better life & avoiding the same tumultuous journey. So I worked hard and in the Fall of 2003, I began the journey to become the first college graduate in my family.
Although I was blessed by some incredible teachers who played a key role in developing me as a young adult, not all were as inspiring--at least on the outside. One of those influential "teachers" was actually an administrator at my high school. I won't ever forget the advice that I received as I considered which schools to apply for. I was told that I would probably want to stay close to home or go to a small college since I "wouldn't survive at a big college... small fish in a big pond would be a shock from what I was used to." Some other really discouraging things were said as well. I later found out from a friend that overheard the gossip, that this leader and some others shared that they doubted that I wouldn't make it through college at all. This was disappointing to me because I busted it in school. I made great grades, took on extra curricular leadership roles and held a job three of my high school years. It hurt most because I had a relationship with this leader as I served alongside during some projects that were successful. I was discouraged, but not defeated. The "advice" given became a fuel to my fire.
Little did I know that a few weeks later, I would find out I would be a mommy long before I thought about having children. College was finally here and I faced a choice of following my dreams or staying home and taking the advice of a leader I respected. I took a leap of faith and for the first time in my life, I wasn't afraid of failure. Armed with a challenge to prove the "haters" wrong and purpose of building the best life I could for my new family and myself, I entered college away from home, with no family nearby and plan except to be diligent, disciplined and dependent on my growing faith.
Ten years later, I've finished college and I'm in the middle of another leap of faith. During my time in Athens, I learned what it was like to manage the operations of a startup company as an "entrepreneur" with the support and guidance of a mentor/business-owner. Being involved with this company and later another "startup" exposed me to the rewards and flexibility of being a business owner. I also learned about the long hours, short budgets and joys/pains of building the right team. After a couple of years with a terrific company I realized that my true passion is to be an entrepreneur &/or to work with startups again in order to give me more freedom to be with my family when they need me most.
And so again, there are some wonderful supporters who have offered to make connections & have followed up with me during these last few, intentionally slow thoughtful months. And then there are the couple of people who have been negative about the whole process & even diminished some of my past efforts in the community. One of them brings back the memory of the "High school Sage" To those "haters" I say, Thank you! I thrive in a challenging work environment and regardless of your doubts, my passion is to create a way to build flexible, passion-based careers for others in the community by providing services that make our community and beyond even better. The journey is sure to look different as not a lot of women with big families take on this type of challenge, but I'm not afraid to fail & if I do, it's part of the journey.
If you're lucky enough to have the opportunity to do something you love--even if it scares you, go for it! Make the most of the resources & relationships that help you get where you want to go (and thank them often). But don't ignore the haters. Use their fuel to start your fire. They may one day come to respect you--and even if they don't, it's okay. Their "doubt" becomes your challenge & it just might be the catalyst to your success!