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Tuesday, May 8, 2012

The Homeless Graduate: My Journey to Liberty University Class of 2012...The Hope of Things unseen,5 days...

Five days...less than a week.
It took forever, and it got here so quickly. I was thinking of some of the various places I've worked on my degree. Some of the images. What it would have looked like to someone from the outside.
I worked on a lot of it at the nearby Panera restaurant. So much so, that I am known by name to the staff there. If I'm missing for a long time, (as I have been since January when I got a place to live), they'll ask me where I have been. I used to sit in the same booth if it was available. Because it had electricity and because it was fairly private. I liked Panera because they had free wifi and because if you buy a large iced tea for $2.17 (tax included, of course) you can refill it ad infinitum. They don't care. The cups are heavy plastic so they last forever. Tea makes them get pretty cloudy so I had a tiny bottle of "Dawn" in my car and I'd drop a few drops in the cup in the morning when I went in to study, then I'd hit the bathroom and wash the cup thoroughly. Then I was good as new.
Another trick of mine was to sneak a "Cup-o-noodles" in my backpack and use their hot water for tea to make my lunch. I felt terrible bringing my own food into a restaurant but hey...I was in survival mode and it had to be done. I tried to keep the cup under the table and out of sight.
I studied in the Library but honestly...the silence of a Library is distracting to me somehow. All those people in one room being quiet. It's somehow hard for me to concentrate. I've never liked studying in a library, although I love researching there. But LUO has an extensive online library and since I was a Religion major, the county library didn't have much I could use.
I studied at FedEx Office because their wifi is the best around and they have a business-like atmosphere. I felt like working when I was there. I could write or take tests. I was at Fedex when I ran my Degree Audit last August 17 and learned the value of real, genuine hope.
I've studied in my car a lot. That's where I would read the most. Especially cold, rainy, dreary days. I would sit at Pinkerton Park in Franklin and read for hours. Or under one of the picnic pavilions. I studied at Battery Park back home a lot. The river is a good background for reading or writing...especially for thinking.
None of these scenes are that odd or particularly different from most college students except that for most college students they would study in places like this as a change of pace. Most of their studying took place at home or in their dorm room. For me, these random place were all I had as I wandered the earth. My GPA isn't stellar. Let's say "The C gets the degree" applies in my case. I know I could have done far better. I graduated high school with a 3.96. My on-campus semesters years ago were in the 3's. But living as I did was not conducive to study as we know it.
Regardless of that...I made it. I have two exams and a paper to finish this week. I'll likely be done by tomorrow night so I can leave on Thursday morning and enjoy a few days in Lynchburg without thinking about school. This summer I am taking only one class. A math class I am required to take. My attitude has changed about algebra. I will likely never use it, but I have enjoyed beating this giant and I love learning ANYTHING new. It's genetic I think. I hope that in the future I can maybe volunteer to teach algebra to kids. Or adults with kids with algebra homework.
So what comes next? What does the future hold for me?
Well...all this hope has opened doors I never thought I would open. Or even knock on.
I am certified as a Life Coach through the American Association of Christian Counselors. I am going to continue my education and certification process in this field and perhaps even pursue another Bachelors in Psych with a minor in Life Coaching. I love this career choice and I know I'll be great at it. Coaching is something I do well. Helping others is a great thing.
My Christmas book "A Ragamuffin Christmas" will be released in Sept. through Liberty University Press. My first real publisher. I love how God works and that my alma mater is publishing my book. I am especially proud of that.
In June I am starting work on a book with my friend Tony Luke Jr. about his weight loss and life changes. He is an inspiring guy because he loves everyone and it shows.
I am revising my first book..."Sometimes Daddies Cry" to include the changes in my life as a divorced dad since I wrote it in 2007. I am resuming the radio show I host called "DadMatters" and next year sometime I am starting a new book project.
In January I am starting my Masters pursuit. I am undecided between Theological Studies and Executive Leadership. From a motivational speaker / personal development coach perspective I am leaning toward the Executive Leadership course. From the perspective of a faith-based writer and speaker I am leaning toward the Theological Studies degree. I will doubtless pursue both at some point but which one comes first is my present concern.
I have started a motivational speaking / personal development service called "The Little Old Ant Group" and the official launch will come later this summer. My mission is to help people find hope in their lives. With hope comes the strength to keep trying until they reach their dreams.
I'm big on dreams...
Zig Ziglar says often, "If there's hope for the future, there is power in the present" and Zig is right.
My journey back to Liberty Mountain has not been easy. It has not been as I planned when I was a high school junior in 1980, and selected LU as my future destination. It wasn't what I thought it would be in 1984 when I finally made it there as a freshman. Or again in 1994. Along the path I became a carpenter, a hockey coach who won two High School championships, I discovered an unsettling truth about my lineage and birth, I became a husband and a father and then a divorcee all in the space of 4 years. I moved to Nashville and became a mortgage banker. I had huge success at a job I had no intentions of ever doing. I was nationally recognized as a success in that industry. I was twice a homeowner. I had a garden and I bred Springer Spaniels once. I became an amazing father whose love for his daughter was and is the axis upon which his world revolves.
I lost everything I owned when the economy collapsed and in order to keep from losing the thing I held most dear, I lived as a homeless man.
I've gotten back on my feet so many times I feel like a child learning to walk for the first time. Each wobble-legged time I refused to quit. Sometimes I would lay there for a while. Sometimes in silence and sometimes in rage at being knocked down again and often times in tears from the hurt that being knocked down can cause. But each time I came to the same conclusion...laying here in defeat is NOT how they will last remember me...especially not my daughter. So each time I struggled back to my feet. I didn't know what I was going to do or how I would do it or how I would ever fix what was broken or regain what I lost. I just knew that when I breathed my last, it would find me still on my feet, still with an axe in my hand with rubber tree chips all around me.
And now here I am. Poised at the threshold of succeeding at something large and vital and measurable for the first time in 5 years and to be honest...the first success that has truly mattered to me since my daughter was born. For the first time in my whole life I can tell you EXACTLY what my life plan looks like, what my personal mission statement says, and where I see myself in five or ten years. And for the first time ever, I am so excited about the plan that I can't keep still.
I have overcome my BHAG. Dr. Falwell used to challenge us to always have a "BHAG" a Big Hairy Audacious Goal. Something that keeps us working harder, something just a little beyond our reach and a little more than we can do on our own. Something that is guaranteed to stretch us and something that will force us to believe God more and trust Him more after it's done.
This degree was my first real BHAG.  And now it's done. My next ones are already revealing themselves. The difference is that since I have one under my belt now, I don't find them as threatening. I have hope now. Hope that comes from success. Hope forged in a furnace of despair and sadness and shame and humiliation and endurance and hardship and work and faith. ...just a tiny bit of faith.
Saturday will be the closing statement of one chapter...and the opening sentence of a dozen others all at once.
Sunday afternoon I'll leave Dr. Falwell's mountain and start the journey toward a mountain of my own.
Thank you Doc.  Thank you Liberty.


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

What an inspiring person you are! Instead of complaining or asking for handouts, you were a man who went into "survival mode" and sought to make a better life for yourself. Everyone is so proud of you! I just found your story on Liberty's web site. It is a good reminder for those of us who take good studying environments for granted.

Congratulations, graduate! You did so well!

Best wishes in the future and enjoy The Mountain. :)