It was a June morning. Sunny, but not overly hot like Georgia summers can be. What we call a “mild” day in the south.
I was nervous. Afraid I’d be late. Afraid I’d get lost. Just afraid.
I climbed out of my car in the parking deck and made my way down the stairs to the street. And then I headed toward the building.
I was wearing a red shirt and a black skirt. An outfit I’d purchased on a shopping escapade with my roommate. A fitting outfit for the occasion, and planned for that day just like I’d planned my first day of school outfits since Kindergarten.
As I walked down the street my mind flashed to the moment three years prior when I’d logged onto the University’s online admissions website and saw the fireworks jumping around on the screen. I’d made it. They wanted me.
The next day the tangible proof of that acceptance came in the mail. I had held the oversized envelope marked “Official Acceptance” in my hands and didn’t want to open it for fear that the letter inside would say that this had all been a mistake. A giant misunderstanding. A cosmic screw-up at my expense.
When I thought I’d be getting married and staying there, I enrolled at the local college in my hometown. I told myself that I’d be fine. That the education I’d receive would be just as good. And it probably would’ve been.
But my experience would not have been the same.
That boy broke my heart and I left. I left because I couldn’t bear to stay and see the places in that town haunted by his memory.
When I left, I faced the realization of what I’d given up for him.
College. THE college. The only one I’d ever seen myself attending. The only one that had ever mattered to me. The only one to which I’d applied as a high school student.
And then I moved to the town where that college was located and everyone assumed I was a student there. But I wasn’t.
When people asked where I went and I told them “the local community technical college outside of town,” they looked at me like I was stupid. Unintelligent.
Not good enough.
“I’m really SMART!” I wanted to shout.
“I graduated 13th in my class!” I felt the need to cry!
“I am getting SCREWED by the system!” I shifted the blame. And I was getting screwed. Kind of.
Because I’d started THERE, I hadn’t been able to transfer HERE. At least not right away.
Requirements changed with little to no warning. Deadlines seemed arbitrary based on whomever I spoke to that moment or from whatever website I pulled my information.
I needed to take semesters off to work so that I could stay afloat on my bills.
I was discouraged.
Time and time again I saw “Admission denied” on that website. The same website I’d logged into as a hopeful high school student.
This, just like so many other experiences of my life, was one that taught me to persevere.
And then one night it happened.
I logged into that computer, knowing that I’d met all the requirements. The application had been submitted BEFORE they could change any deadlines.
And suddenly, it was that mild day in June again and there I was, walking down the street to that first class.
I belonged. I was accepted.
I was where I was supposed to be.
I was home.
I felt the sun on my face. I stood a little taller in that moment. I walked with a little more determination.
I had done it.
This week we were asked to tell a story of a time when we were proud, without any trivialization or modesty. I do not know if I have ever been more proud of myself in the moment I’ve just described here. That moment was the culmination of three long years of heartache and defeat. And I succeeded. Finally.