March 26, 2005

Even if you're on the right track...

Even if you're on the right track, you'll get run over if you just sit there.
- Will Rogers

How appropos? I often find that when I seem most frustrated, it is because I have stopped moving forward and have decided instead to sit down and drop out. It reminds me of when I was in high school and decided that I would go out for the track team. There was a friend in my Earth Science class, her name was Debbie, and she had long blonde hair and a very slim, lithe body. I, on the other hand, had short croppy hair (this was before blow dryers and gel), and was as skinny as a rail. Not to mention that I also wore thick glasses and had metal braces on my teeth. I thought Debbie was the epitome of health and fitness and was just so beautiful. She was a year ahead of me, a sophmore, and was a star runner on our school's track team. She was bright, an A student, a member of the National Honors Society, French aide, and all-around super gal. She was everything I wasn't and back in those days, that meant that I spent most days passing by unnoticed (you could call me a wall-flower). I wanted to be just like her and so with her encouragement, I went out for track.

Well, all my dreams of running track, soaring over the high hurdles, and coming in 1st place to the cheers of my school, never materialized. My short stint on the team included shin splints, tossing my cookies after a particularly long run, being humiliated by the boy's track team and coach, tripping over the hurdles, landing flat on my backside during the long jump, and just generally being miserable and cold (did I mention that we were running in the spring, in Illinois?) On one particularly bad practice, the boys team had taken to heckling the girls team, and in particular, those of us who were not very good at running or jumping. We were running 880s and as I rounded the turn, I pulled a hamstring muscle and ended up down on the track. The boys team howled (this was before PC) and I just sat there are started to cry. Crying is not the best thing to do when you are trying to be a star athlete but between the pain and the frustration, it was all I could do. So I sat there and watched as the other girls and boys just passed me by. The next day, I told my coach that I was quitting track. It would not be the first time that I decided to sit down and drop out.

Several years later, I did the same thing when I decided to forgo attending San Jose State University to study Art and chose instead to attend the local Junior College. My grades were not the best, but they were good enough to get me into the University. The very idea of attending the "U" was more than I could handle. I worried about how I would make it from one side of the campus to the other, how I would handle all the courses and assignments, how I would make friends, and how I would make grades. More importantly, I just knew that my artistic skill could in no way compete with the other artists studying in the program. It didn't matter that I was constantly being told that I was very good and had talent and that I should consider studying in Paris or Chicago or San Fransico. It was too much for me and instead of staying the course, I chose to sit down and drop out.

It wouldn't be until 10 years later that the desire to return to school would resurface and I would finally make the choice to finish my education. A lot had happened to me in the ensuing 10 years : I had gotten married, I worked at a number of high-tech jobs, I took on a lot of responsibility, and I matured and came to see that I did indeed have gifts and talents and that God had a plan and purpose for my life. No, I was not destined to be a track star, and no, I was not destined to be a fine artist.

I read once that motivation comes in all forms and that it doesn't take some lofty goal or vision to motivate us to change. In fact, any thing can be used as a motivator -- even things that we consider to be vengeful or spiteful. For me, while the desire to finish my education was important (it was more important to my parents) it was really the desire to prove to my co-workers (those with degrees) that I had what it would take to be successful. You see, back then (again before PC), it was not uncommon for certain levels of employees to make rude or snide remarks to the support staff (secretaries, receptionists, etc.) It was as if we were not as good as they were because we lacked 'education.' I had had my fill of this type of treatment and even complained to HR. While sympathetic to my plight, HR refused to do anything about it and instead suggested that I take night classes to 'further my education.'

When the opportunity presented itself to return to school, I jumped at it and make the committment to graduate with honors and receive no grade less than an A. Now, I wasn't a solid student in prior college courses. I had the wits to get As, just not the determination to do it. This time, though, I was giving it my all and my motivator was the 'payback' of those men and women who had sneered down at me and at all of those who did the same type of work.

But something wonderful happened to me during my time at the University. I realized that I did have what it takes to be successful. My desire for payback soon faded and was replaced by an internal fire , a deep desire to gain knowledge and understanding. I longed to be 'educated.' I achieved my goal in 1993 and graduated with honors. I made all As except for one B -- which of course I blame on the tiny, beautiful baby that was growing inside me at the time (yes, I was pregnant during my last semester of school).

I found my calling that year, I found my motivator. I found my reason for living, for believing, for growing and changing. Instead of finding joy in my pursuit of knowledge, I found it in the tiny hands and feet of my precious child. I have never lost the desire to learn and I still paint and draw and create (now using the computer rather than paper and pen). But my love is in the time spent with my child and my husband and in living my life in pursuit of God. It is an amazingly wonderful thing when you find your purpose in life and you embrace it.

Yes, I am on the right track and I am moving forward, daily, as I grow and mature and become the woman that God had planned and purposed me to be. Praise God for He is so good!

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