Hubby and I enrolled in the University of Wisconsin-Madison as freshmen in the Fall Semester of 1969.
I was 27-years-old, Hubby was 28, and we had three children 9, 8 and 2.
I was a high school graduate. He earned a GED, while serving in the military, after dropping out of high school in the 10th grade.
Both of us were on a mission to improve the quality of our family’s life; and, we believed earning a college degree would lead us toward fulfilling this mission.
While I have many positive memories of my student days at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, for some reason, I chose to disclose memories that have remained hidden for many years.
They were hidden in my mind because I lacked the confidence to even self-acknowledge, much less open up to others, about how the things I am sharing today made me feel.
In the late 1960s, we stood out in our new roles as freshman college students. And, sadly, I felt uncomfortable. My classes were filled with students in their late teens and early twenties.
I felt “less than” and “different than” these college students. They were young and single with recent educational experiences. While I was older, married, with three kids; and, I hadn’t been in a classroom for more than nine years.
Another “less than” and “different than” experience, which was personally embarrassing, happened when Hubby and I attended a freshman event on campus; and, the reporter covering the event walked over to Hubby and sarcastically asked, “Aren’t you a little old for this.”
Hubby, responded, sarcastically saying, “You’re never to old to follow your dream.”
Today, if asked the same question, rather than being embarrassed, I would say, “We are here to provide our three children with a better life. “
Another “less than” college memory was when, during my first semester, I had to drop out of both Spanish 101 and French 101 within the first several weeks. Even though I tried, it was impossible, to keep up with students who had just finished taking high school classes in these languages.
But, I needed the required foreign language credits to graduate. Thinking I could manage a class where my foreign language skills (none) were comparable to the other students, I decided to try an African language. Classes were offered in the University’s African Studies Department; and, I was able to satisfy my foreign language requirements by taking classes in Swahili, Xhosa and Hausa.
Several of the faculty members, in the department, impressed with my academic performance encouraged me to apply to the school’s PH.D program.
I thought my life had opened up to a wide-range of career possibilities. But, the optimism didn’t last long when friends and family members cited a number of reasons why this wasn’t a realistic choice. So, I walked away feeling “less than.”
Thankfully, I have reached a point in life where I am no longer controlled, embarrassed or intimidated when confronted with “less than” or “different than” comments made by others.
After two life-threatening illnesses, breast cancer and epiglottitis which occurred in 2008 and 2010 respectively, I went on a self-awareness, self-empowerment and self-love journey.
The longer I stay on this path , the easier it is to “let go” and discard the unnecessary baggage of “not good enough,” “unworthy,” and “unlovable” which controlled my life from early childhood.
Despite my struggles, we fulfilled our educational dreams:
- Hubby earned his Bachelors and Masters of Science Degrees;
- I earned a Bachelors of Science Degree
- Our eldest daughter, who was 9-years-old when Hubby and I enrolled as freshmen, earned her Medical Degree;
- Our youngster daughter earned her Bachelor’s in Business Administration and Law Degree; and
- Our youngest grandson enrolled as a freshman, Fall of 2014.
In this season of life, I live with the awareness that my “today is better than yesterday.