In 1977, I was 17 years old. I began my college career at Brandies University in Waltham, Massachusetts. I had always known that I would go to college, and I knew that I would go to a school in Massachusetts, my birthplace. Even though I was only a second generation American, from where I sat, I was part of the heritage of this country all the way back to the Mayflower and Plymouth Rock.
But, I didn’t last. I dropped out of Brandeis before the first semester ended. My head wasn’t in the game, nor was it in the game when I enrolled in the University of Florida. I think that second college excursion lasted only a few weeks. I wanted to get on with living and figured I knew enough already.
Do you know how something nags at you all the time, like a scratch you cannot itch? I’ve felt that way my whole life. My mental picture of myself always included a college diploma, and that picture was always incomplete.
Fast forward 25 years. My younger daughter Melissa graduated from high school in 2002. Like her sister before her, I expected her to enroll in the University of Florida. My kids lives wouldn’t have missing pieces like mine did. Unfortunately, Melissa and UF had different plans. When she wasn’t accepted, she went to work.
Melissa began working at a local child care & activity center. It was a challenging job which required a lot of patience. Luckily, she didn’t inherit my impatience! Working long hours for low pay, she eventually got a second job at a church day care facility. Melissa’s a spit-fire, and when she’s on the job, people know and remember her. So, she often had opportunities to babysit for people as the result of her daycare work. She ended up babysitting for the regional vice president of a bank.
Not long after meeting him, the bank officer offered Melissa a job, which she readily accepted. She rose quickly at the bank. Then she did something which surprised and impressed me. While working full time in a career position, Melissa re-entered school, taking a full load of classes online. Night after night she’d study and push herself to do the best she could.
Because good things come to those who hustle, after a couple of years, Melissa had an opportunity to take a job with the US Federal Government, working for the Department of Veteran’s Affairs. Her older sister works there too.
Last year, Melissa graduated from the University of Florida, with a degree in Business Administration, having never stepped foot in a college classroom. She’s an amazing kid, and I couldn’t be any more proud of her than I am.
And me? Well, two years ago I realized that only I could finish the incomplete picture of my life. With my incredible daughter as my inspiration, I enrolled in college after 32 years. I’ll graduate in 2012.
Parents are supposed to teach their children well, and I have tried to do what I can. But I’ve learned more from my children than they’ve ever learned from me… patience, persistence, goal setting, and a made-up-mind are all one needs to accomplish great things.
When I grow up, I want to be just like my daughter.