By: Claire4Clarity Gittens-Jones, Guest Blogger
Where I was born and where and how I have lived is unimportant. It is what I have done with where I have been that should be of interest.
In reality, the majority of us are not fortunate enough to succeed without some kind of education. Hence, it is especially important for girls and young women to access every educational opportunity for their advancement. An education can help with your self esteem: it can give you a tremendous sense of accomplishment that no one can wrestle from your grasp. The skills obtained from years of applying yourself to hone untapped skills are worth the investment even if the wait for a dream job is not immediately forthcoming.
When I was a preteen I dreamed of going to college for a career in journalism. Unfortunately, events took unexpected turns and I dropped out of school at age 15. Life was unfulfilling and frustrating because circumstances at home were intolerable. Naive and immature, my decision to leave school was not well thought out leading to overwhelming, tangible and intangible consequences. It was the beginning of a long and drawn out rebellious period. My idea seemed brilliant at the time, but I soon bottomed out from stress and anxiety caused by poor decision making.
Consequently, three decades later, I was cramming for a GED in evening classes after long, arduous hours at work. By then, the responsibilities of everyday living like rent, utility and grocery bills was a fact I could not ignore. I was on my own in a harsh world my dreams and priorities drastically altered. Renewed determination to change the course of my life strengthened further after a male relative told me I was wasting my time running after a GED to enter college. He said a degree did not guarantee a job and I should continue cleaning houses for a living because it was money I could depend on. Indignation and righteous anger drove my desire to prove my worthiness and his wrongheadedness.
Years before I was born, the women from my mother's side of the family cleaned houses for a living to feed their families. I am proud of what they did to make ends meet during those repressive days. However, I chose to break the cycle after I found myself mindlessly accepting the same path in the 1980s. The male relative who unknowingly challenged my aimless trajectory was a catalyst for major change in my life.
By age 33, I finally achieved my goal entering college after assiduous preparation and tremendous setbacks. I threw everything I had into studying and quickly ascended to the Dean's List in the first year. Once the gears were set in motion I had no choice but to tirelessly propel myself upward. I decided to immerse my entire being and commit to the difficult task of receiving the first college degree in my immediate family.
Fortunately, the world has changed dramatically and numerous opportunities are afforded to women. Nevertheless, we are still paid less than our male counterparts even as the fight continues to bring about deep-rooted change. It is essential for girls and young women to use every opportunity available to them. Go after your dreams, create your definition of success, and give your utmost to develop and polish your life. Do not listen to the naysayers. Plunge ahead unimpeded to achieve your goals. There is nothing to lose by trying to harness the stars. Embracing the courage to challenge and improve your life, by following your dreams, makes anything possible.
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Claire4Clarity is a Mount Holyoke College, Frances Perkins Scholar
class of 1999 who loves to motivate and inspire through writing. Currently, she is a homemaker who manages her daughter’s online home school program. Claire4Clarity hopes to one day achieve her goal of becoming a motivational author and speaker. Twitter: @claire4clarity