The summer after my freshman year in college was the first time I truly remember standing by my gut beliefs for a better tomorrow. It was a regular Tuesday afternoon, and I was feverishly packing up my items for my second year away at college. My neighborhood big brother, who I had known since 6th grade, had rented a van, and was hauling the two of us on the 200 mile journey back to school the next morning. As I happily prepared for my next educational chapter, while blaring my music and singing off key, my mother softly knocked on my bedroom door. She asked me to come downstairs, because she and my dad needed to talk to me. I walked into the living room where they were both seated, and serious. My self-employed father said to me in a monotone voice that after his best intentions to build the business over the summer, the money just wasn’t there to send me to school. My heart must have stopped when I heard this from him. Tuition was $18,000 a year, it was 8 months too late to apply for financial aid, and I was leaving tomorrow! He then said in a chipper voice that I should get a full time job, and save up money to go back next year. I stared at my parents while my mind went to all the things I wanted to accomplish this year – pledge a sorority, declare my major, and stay on the hunt of finishing school in 4 years. As I focused back on my parents blank gazes, the only response I could muster was “ok.” I slowly turned away from them, headed back upstairs to my room, turned my music back up, and continued to pack.
About 30 minutes later, my mother came upstairs and asked me the obvious question of “what are you doing?” “Packing!” I responded in a pragmatic tone. Confused and sad, she turned around and walked away. I almost robotically continued to pack late into the night. The first thing the next morning, my ride came. As if the conversation with my parents had never happened, I loaded up the car, hugged them goodbye, and left for school.
The next day, I went to the financial aid office and talked to the director. I explained to him what happened, hoping he would have a solution. He didn’t. His suggestion to me was that he could guarantee a space for me to come back next year without reapplying. I thanked him and walked out. At the close of business that day, I plopped down on the couch in the waiting area of the administrative office, since that area never closed. I slept there for 3 days, until the director caught wind that I was a “squatter”. He asked why I was still there. I calmly and seriously told him I wasn’t leaving until he found me some money to stay. Respectfully, I explained to him that leaving school was not an option. He took me into his office, and when I left several hours later, I had an emergency financial aid package, 2 work study jobs, and a Parents Loan for Undergraduate Students that my folks agreed to pay after graduation when I called them during this meeting and placed them on speaker phone. As if the last 3 days were a normal occurrence, I went to my dorm, took a shower, and got a real night’s sleep.
At the core of this dedication was the fact that many of my friends had to leave school for financial or academic reasons. None of them ever went back. Somewhere in my soul, I knew that couldn’t be me. If failure was not an option, what would you accomplish for you today? As youths, we have more of a tendency to focus on the riches of the goal than the pain of the roadblock. It is a courage and reckless abandon that time and negative experiences can prevent us from continuing in our adult years. We allow fear to navigate our tomorrows, instead of the strength of our goals. We are told to live like there is no tomorrow, but I would like to take that one step further – live like you want tomorrow to be better than today. If today is the last day, then planning for the future becomes unnecessary. Since the future is a blessing and a part of our existence, don’t live like it doesn’t exist. The dreams and goals you have are exclusively yours, so give yourself the permission to make choices for a better tomorrow!
Jennifer Bridgeforth is a speaker, life strategist, and author. Her newest book, “Wisdom in Pieces: Motivational Moments for Real Life” is in stores now. For booking and program inquiries, please contact us at [email protected]
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