What feels like many years ago I sat in a classroom, pencil in hand poised to write the next algebra calculation from the board, noting the words spoken that flowed from the teacher’s mouth. Math was something I enjoyed, because you could usually only have one right answer, not usually room for ambiguity in interpreting the meanings or calculation of the answers. I liked school, the challenge of it, the stress of it, not to mention the fact that I had to be there.
It was not until my tenth grade year, my sophomore year of high school that I learned of an opportunity to further my education. This opportunity was known as Post-Secondary Enrollment Options, or going to a college the last two years of my high school to obtain the rest of my high school credits and at the same time earning college credits. I was skeptic about making it through the program, wondering if I would be “smart” enough to pass the class, earn a grade that I am proud of and most importantly would I have time to actually learn something?
Some days later I again sat in the math class, a few of my fellow classmates and I were talking about PSEO and that we were interested in the program and were giving it some serious consideration. The teacher became engaged in the conversation and was bold about his remarks. He told us that more than likely we would fail, and that we would not come back in time to get enough credits to graduate from high school. This group of students, including me were at the top of our class, we held over 4.0, enrolled in advanced Math and English classes, and we all worked really hard to get our grades. At the time I would say that the comments from this teacher made me furious, smashing our dream before we even had the chance to try it. Looking back now, I would say that this particular teacher and school is extremely disappointing, because they do not believe in the bigger picture, the happenings that take place after the life of K-12 is complete.
Needless to say I enrolled and was accepted into the program. College was hard, harder than high school. The expectations were higher and so were the standards. But there were so many opportunities to challenge my brain and it was a wonderful experience to be able to realize that there was world outside of my small town community. I was treated like an adult and expected to perform like an adult. Over the course of two years I hardly missed a single class, attending each, sitting down to take notes and most importantly trying to soak up as much information from the professor as I could.
I met many people from countries all over the world and worked with them on group projects, learning of new cultures and different ways to process and interpret information. I took the ROTC course or Reserve Officer Training Course which trains officers in the Army. We had physical training each Tuesday and Thursday mornings at 6:00AM at the college, which required waking up at 4:00AM to make a 45 minute drive north to St Cloud, which many days in the cold Minnesota winter was a pain. One of the training exercises of this course was to jump blinded folded off the high dive (25 feet in the air), with an M4 a and to come up out of the water still holding it or we were required to do it again. This was terrifying for me, as swimming is definitely not my strong suit or even a semi-strong suit. I took Philosophy, something that I just had barely dipped into in high school. There were so many options and opportunities to learn more and to meet new people.
Despite being able to earn college credits, which proved to be an extremely awesome benefit, the experience as a whole changed so many previous visions that I had. I had to cut down on my hours at work to study longer, resulting in me managing money better so that I could still pay for my car insurance and put money in my tank to make it to school each day. I attended culture nights, eating food I had never heard of and watching fashion shoes from clothes worn across the world. I had to pay for parking!! I had a teacher that wore a rubber chicken around her neck each class session we met, for two whole hours. All of these little instances made the experience, and each one of them changed me.
I graduated with my Associates of Arts degree Magna Cum Laude, at age 18, about one month later I graduated from high school. Looking back on all the hours spent and all the change, the struggles I would say that if I did it all over again I would make the same decision. It was not until two years later when I stood on the stage at St Cloud State University holding that piece of paper in my hand that those words really hit me, YOU WILL FAIL. He was right in some instances, there were assignments I turned in with poor grades, I barely passed physics with a C, some days I nearly slept through lectures and other times I did not put in the time or effort. But if I would of stayed in High school, and got better grades because it was easier and put in all the time and effort on assignments because it was a fraction of what I did in college, I WOULD OF FAILED MYSELF. And each time I roll it around in my head, throwing the pros and cons at each other, I decided it was better to try and then to fail, then to fail myself. Only then did I realize that these comments of defeat had served as a motivator to look into my heart and see truly what I wanted out of life and to go after that.
I married my husband the summer after graduation and we moved the Thief River Falls for him to attend the Aviation Maintenance Technology program. Now, at this time my husband did not share my passion or vision for attending college, in fact he down right dreaded it because he barely made it through high school. I tried to reassure him that going to school and attending classes that you are actually interested in, is different than sitting in 5th period English watching the grass blowing outside the window as the teacher talks about a classic novel that is uninteresting to a teenage boy.
And he did love it, he loved working in the shop, taking apart the engines, putting them back together, and in the end becoming nearly a walking encyclopedia on airplanes (most of the time I am lost after the second word). But it was still a challenge for him, the biggest one was actually going and wrapping his head around it. I really admired him because to me at this point the concept was easy, start the class read the syllabus and learn what is due each week, be it reading, discussion quiz and you do the amount of work in order to get the grade you want. But the idea of college can be really intimidating for many, after being comfortable with it because of being in for two years, I forgot about that feeling.
In the Fall of 2015 I went back to school, for I knew that I wanted to finish my four year degree and I missed the stress and challenge of it. We welcomed a baby into the world in November of that fall and life became even more challenging. Sometimes looking back I do not know how we did. My husband did school full time as I also did and I was also working full time, after my three month maternity leave. It made me truly grow a new respect for single parents, as well as individuals who go to school with families. It truly was a struggle, but I am so glad that my husband and I struggled through it together.
I am currently in my senior year of the Business Administration Bachelors program, with an emphasis in entrepreneurship. I am constantly asked what I am going to do with my degree once I graduate and I have to tell people that I do not know, because I honestly don’t. For those of you who know me, this often is accompanied by surprise as I like to live my life six weeks in advance and I usually always have a plan.
This was the answer up until recently. My husband and I moved to Plato Minnesota, where he got a job working for the airlines. We moved into a huge house (compared to the one bedroom apartment we used to live in) that houses a commercial space on the bottom floor and a living space above. Many ideas, prayers and hours later we decided to open a store. We are opening Gils Loft, an occasional store selling handmade home décor, art, clothing and refurbished furniture. The process has harbored many challenges, doubts and reasons to quit along the way. But all in all I truly believe that from those words of defeat many years ago sitting in that classroom and through the whirlwind of an adventure I have been lead here to this place at this time.
Listen to those words of defeat, motivate yourself and follow your dreams.