When I Grow Up…

I made four years of my life count at Stony Brook University, only to find out in the end, that it didn’t.

I studied, pushing myself to the limits with heavy course loads, all in hopes that I could graduate while my ailing father was still alive to see it. I worked full-time to pay for it at a home for medically fragile and Intellectually Disabled children, who will forever be a part of my heart. President of my sorority, Inter-Fraternity and Sorority Council Sergeant at Arms, Dean of Students Leadership Intern, Developmental Psychology TA, Intro to Sociology TA, co-founder of the USB Journal of the Arts… The list goes on.

I utilized every single moment. It was the quintessential college experience; everything my dad always wished I would have.

In the Fall of 2004, my father’s cancer took a turn for the worse. As luck would have it, I became pregnant with my first child with my now-husband, and I was able to tell my dad that he’d have a grandchild just four short days before he passed away.

“As one life ends, another begins,” he said with pride during one of his last few lucid moments. He shook my boyfriend’s hand and told him “You’ve been like a son to me since you were sixteen years old. Take care of my girl.”

That he did.

I know my father was with me in spirit, beaming with pride from the heavens when I donned my cap and gown, marched out to “Pomp and Circumstance,” receiving a blank sheet of paper tied in a bow symbolizing the first college diploma anyone in my family had ever earned.

It was a bittersweet day.

Six weeks later, instead of a certificate to frame, I received a letter in the mail from Stony Brook. They’d made a mistake by approving my graduation, and I would need to register for another course in math in to complete my undergraduate studies. It was already too late to enroll for the spring semester, and I had a baby on the way.

My new life as a mother began; complicated deliveries, bedrest, and babies with medical issues that required my undivided attention. Graduating from college became a story I told that eventually began to feel like a lie.

Fourteen years, three children, and a lifetime later, it’s clear that everything happens for a reason. I needed to struggle to find my strength.

I began my undergraduate journey seeking a future in psychology, and I’ve since realized that my heart is too big to bear the burden of tormented souls seeking solace on a daily basis. I never would have left my office. Had I pursued that career path, I would have missed out on far too many of the important parts of raising my incredible children. Every sacrifice has been worth it to see them succeeding the way that they are, and I wouldn’t trade one minute of it all for a piece of paper from USB, or the bigger paycheck that it would have gotten me.

Through all the trials and tribulations of parenthood, my passion for literature and creative writing have been a consistent and integral part of who I am. Through every new phase of life, I’ve been able to depend on my pen, and the solace of my next great read. I want to share that gift with others, and the English classroom with “Mrs. Nickels” on the door is where I want to do it.

I finally know what I want to be when I grow up.

Beginning now, I put a period at the end of a run-on sentence I should have edited long ago.

This entry was originally a college application essay that took on a life of its own. Now it’s my entry for Week #360 YeahWrite non-fiction.

5 thoughts on “When I Grow Up…

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  1. This was such a beautiful piece that I imagine you knocked the socks off the folks in the admissions office. I also love the title of this because no matter how old we are, we’re always yearning for that new place within ourselves. I imagine your dad is very proud of everything you’ve accomplished regardless of any degree. Thank you for sharing!

    Liked by 1 person

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