It's Sunday morning. My opportunity clock went off at 4:30 as usual and I actually allowed myself the luxury of hitting the snooze and sleeping until 6AM, at which point I woke up feeling guilty as if the day had already slipped by. I've always been a very early riser so it's not just because of my school work load...it's just that I like being up before the rest of the world. I get more done in the early hours.
Today is another overload, as usual. I did math for an hour then worked up a quote for replacing a deck, now I have to go finish painting another deck and hopefully I'll be done my days chores by 1 or so and I can come home and study. I have a paper due for my Bible class, an exam for that class and an exam for my Life Coaching class.
I've had to give up a lot of things to get this degree finished. I suppose the bitter irony is that I am a Religion major and I haven't been to church in weeks. Sunday is the only day I can get a lot of school work finished uninterrupted and I need the entire day to do it. Today I am working as well, but that's only because the vertigo battle cost me a few days of production and I have to get caught up. I hate missing church but It's a necessary casualty for one more month. I don't even spend as much personal time in prayer as I used to. Not that I'm a mendicant or anything, but I do try to pray daily for those I love and for direction in my life etc. That is suffering as well as this grind marches on. I feel like the guys on "Deadliest Catch" going weeks with about 3 hours sleep a night...except my life isn't in danger.
I've turned the corner on Algebra now...it's not easy for me but it's no longer costing me hours on end looking at one problem just trying to figure out where to start. I can't relax on it, but the worry about graduation is subsiding. I'm going to make it on time and everything will be great.
I was thinking yesterday about the lessons you learn in college that have nothing to do with your major.
I've learned a lot. I learned the value of my dreams. And sadly...I've learned that your dreams will never matter to anyone else as much as they matter to you. The exception to that is when someone really loves you...I mean really loves you. If you really love someone you care about what they care about and you celebrate their victories as if they were your own. That's why my list of people at graduation is going to be pretty small. This is a victory I only want to share with the people who knew and understood how much it mattered to me. People who never let me quit or take the easy way out, like settling for an associates degree or resuming the pursuit "later" because they knew it would be hollow or "later" might never come. People who called to check on me and who asked me what grades I'd gotten when the semester was over. People who asked me what classes I was taking and what did I learn from them. Those people love me.
I learned the difference between loving what you do and doing what you have to do to survive. Sometimes you have to do both. But the truth is that as admirable as "being a survivor" is, it's nothing to pursue in the long run. A homeless man living in a box under a freeway overpass is a survivor too. A heroin addict breaking into someones house to steal a few items to score more dope is a survivor too. I have been surviving for a long time now...it's time to thrive and flourish.
Even doing carpentry...that's merely survival for me. I have big dreams and plans and I long to get them going. Graduating from college was the cornerstone of those plans and dreams. This degree might be in Religion, but in reality it's a degree in overcoming. It's a Bachelors in confidence and perseverance. It's A Doctorate of Hope.
Today on my motivational speaking account on twitter (follow me @Little_Old_Ant) I wrote this: "You can look forward to a challenge and say "I CAN!" only when you can look back at your difficulties and say "I DID!" I love that. I lived it enough now to verify it's truthfulness. You can never look forward to a challenge with confidence if you have been a quitter or if you've settled for less. Pushing myself through this last 2 1/2 years as I completed my degree has shown me what I am capable of. It's shown me the value of finding your "one thing" and going after it with all your might. Even if you have to do it under the harshest of circumstances. It's not easy to study in a restaurant every day. Or FedEx, or sitting in a cold cramped Volvo 850 with a flashlight. But it's a lot easier than working a job you hate and spending every day until you die wishing you had graduated from college, or started that business, or married that girl, or lost that weight, or learned that language. Amongst the things I learned along the way to May 12, 2012, I learned how priceless it is to have goals and dreams and a vision. Proverbs tells us "Where there is no vision the people perish". People perish all the time because they live without a vision for their life. A vision of who they really are, what they are capable of under duress, how strong they can become when they have to become strong.
...and how much they'll endure because they love their child.
My daughter will be one of the few people with me at LU next month. Because this was for her. She saw her daddy build a life, then saw it all gone when his world exploded. She saw me drifting and lost as I tried to figure out what I would do next to get it back. She saw me choose homelessness, when leaving her here and going where there was work would have been easier. She saw me battle back slowly until I had a place for us to live again.
Next month she will see me graduate from college at 48. She thinks I'm a hero. She has absolutely no doubt I love her.
Someday when she is in college and she feels like quitting, I will give her the "Daddy Lecture" about not giving up and taking the easy way. And she will have to listen. She watched me live it out in front of her. That was the lesson she learned from my college experience.
College taught me a lot more than just what a Bachelors of Religion offered. Finishing this degree taught me who I am and what I'm made of. And it opened doors within my own soul that were welded shut. I am walking taller, more confident, and honestly...I know I can handle just about anything now. For me the hard way was the best way.
I hope there are a few of you out there who might stumble across this blog and decide maybe you'll try something you've only dreamed of until now. I can't tell you how hard it will be but I can tell you this. Endurance is sweeter than the bitterness of your biggest failure. Go for it! Live with High Hopes.