A man must choose a path which will let his ABILITIES function at maximum efficiency toward the gratification of his DESIRES.
- Hunter S. Thompson, Writer
April 22, 1958
Aside from being a newlywed, some of my happiest times were spent on a college campus. Truth is, if I could afford to do so, I would be a professional student, collecting Masters degrees and PhDs in a bunch of different subjects of interest. Unfortunately, that is not the case. So, the next best thing is to work at a university, which I currently do. I get a lot of energy from the students, and love seeing their growth in knowledge, but also seeing them overcome personal challenges that come with pursuing higher education.
I was a first generation college student. I didn't have someone at home to help me through the application process or help finding grants. What I had were committed parents who believed I could do it, and encouraged me to find resources to help me when they could not. I was lucky to have a college counselor and knew some people who had gone through the process. Maybe I was cocky, but I never questioned my ability to get into college. My desire to pursue that path was too strong to stand in my way. Lack of experience with the process was not a barrier or deterrent. If anything, it probably made me more determined to succeed.
That's the same desire and determination I am applying to becoming published. It is a grueling process, full of rejection, doubt and hard work. I second guess decisions in my journey, and there are times that it frustrates me to no end - feelings very similar to those I felt when I was navigating the college application process. The difference is that I have trouble focusing on the light at the end of the tunnel, whereas in my younger days, I think I had tunnel vision. Perhaps it's my faulty memory, but I don't recall feeling like college acceptance was out of my reach.
Living on a college campus, attending classes in lecture halls filled with hundreds of other students, meeting people from all over the country and the world, those were the visions that kept me moving forward. This week I got to spend time on a different college campus than where I work. I talked to a a bunch of first generation Latinx students who reminded me of myself when I was first at Iowa State University. We talked about the pull of family, the guilt that comes with the privilege of higher education, the pressure to make our families proud, and the need for more of us to reach out and help others facing the same challenges we faced. They shared their goals for post-college and their excitement was infectious. It put me back on that campus where I have so many delightful memories and moments that helped form the woman I am today. College for me was life-changing in more ways than gained knowledge.
Talking to those students, I couldn't help but ponder my abilities and desires, much as I did when I was their age. My immediate goals have changed, but above all, I want to be happy and good role model for my daughter. In doing so, I want to be fearless, a risk-taker, and a woman who doesn't give up, or let obstacles stop me from reaching goals, even when they seem out of reach. That was who I became those years of living on my own in a small city that was the complete opposite of home. Over time, I think I have softened, and I don't like it.
I'm not as fearless as I once was. There are so many factors to consider when thinking about what it takes to reach and maintain happiness. Taking risks affects more lives for me today than it did back then. I don't recall college rejections, but editors passing on my book are recent, fresh and sting more than I care to admit. It doesn't make me want to give up, but it does often give me a bad case of writer's block, with a healthy does of writer's envy.
The sacrifices of risk in the pursuit of happiness are many. Happiness doesn't come without hard work, tears, frustrations and struggles along the way. There are scary moments, and times when it feels excessively out of reach. But, I'm confident that the outcome on the other side is worth it. The ultimate challenge is remembering that I have the abilities to fulfill my desires, and I have proven that to myself time and time again. Time to start reminding myself of this daily.