Recently I asked my husband and my sister Deb to tell me what they saw as my characteristics. I found it very interesting that they both included “stubbornness” in the lists they gave me. Thinking about it, I not only agreed with them, but it reminded me how that trait was the driving force behind getting my college degrees.
I always knew I wanted to go to college, but instead of starting right out of high school, my parents and I agreed it would be good to first spend a year working for my Dad as cashier in VW dealership, so I could buy a car and get some “real world experience”. So that’s what I did.
In return, Dad paid for my first year of college, even covering my living expenses.
He always included one condition: He wouldn’t pay anymore if I got married.
During my second year I had come home for the weekend. Just as I was heading out to go back to college, He asked me if I was having sex with my boyfriend. Even though I considered that it was none of his business, I decided that now that I was an adult, I’d do the adult thing and tell him the truth — the answer was “yes”. He then told me I was on my own; he wasn’t paying for me anymore, college or anything else. I was also to immediately return his credit card I was using for fuel. It was in my car. I always remember that walk out to get that card. I felt like I was in shock and I could feel my blood run ice cold.
After returning his card, I remember driving away, still feeling that cold shock and thinking “what am I going to do now?”.
This is where my stubbornness kicked in. As I drove the 2 hours returning to college, I decided it didn’t matter if he cut me off — I was not going to quit. I would just put myself through college!
Upon getting back to Gainesville (I went to the University of Florida my first two years, then finished my degrees at Florida State), I immediately started looking for a job, and found one pretty quickly. I soon came to realize I’d need to work full-time or have 2 half-time jobs, and only take 1 or 2 classes at a time if I was to have enough to pay both tuition and living expenses. So I did. It seemed I had NO spare time — I was always working, studying, or going to classes.
Little did I know it would take me 13 more years to get my Bachelor’s degree in Biology and my Masters degree in Management Information Systems. Or that those same years would see the beginning and, 11 years later, the end of my first marriage.
Every time I felt like quitting school, I just stubbornly pushed on.
That last couple of semesters were the roughest. I was going through my divorce, and I didn’t have the energy to do anything. It was during that time I found out I could keep getting stuff done while crying. I cried at the store, but kept shopping while the tears came. I cried at work, but kept working while the tears came. But the hardest was definitely pushing myself to keep going to classes, plus doing my student research and studying.
At this crucial moment, my boss came to my rescue! He told me if I finished my Masters degree by the end of that year’s second semester, I would get a raise. That gave me the burst of energy I needed to finish, and I did.
After it was over, it felt good when my Dad said, “You showed me!” He told me he was proud of me and gave me a nice graduation present – $1000. He also said he was impressed that I was as bull-headed as he was. I treasure what he said, especially because compliments from my Dad were few and far between.
LESSON LEARNED: Stubbornness sounds bad, but sometimes it’s the only way to get where I want to go.
LESSON LEARNED: Getting a college degree takes a LOT of work!
LESSON LEARNED: Crying doesn’t mean you can’t still accomplish things.
LESSON LEARNED: While I’m proud of my college degrees, I’m prouder of what I overcame to get them.
LESSON LEARNED: A parents gift for you may be valuable; a parent’s pride in you is priceless.
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