Mental Health, Reflections

June 4, 2021

Never too late

I'm WillowjakMama!

My blog started as a way to document my journey to wellness, but turned into a place to be inspired by others through our collective messy & authentic stories. Now it's my favourite place to be.

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Growing up, we all have dreams.  Some of us have a single dream of what we want to become in our adulthood.  My sister-in-law, for example, decided in her early teens, that she wanted to be a nurse.  Before she even graduated high school she was working as a nurse’s assistant.  She worked hard and steady and is now a registered nurse with a bachelor’s in nursing science.  I am immensely proud of her hard work and dedication to her dreams.  She even landed her dream job working in labor and delivery, helping women deliver their precious little bundles of joy.

Some of us have multiple dreams and aspirations growing up.  Maybe it is because we have not found what inspires us, or there are too many options to choose from.  We are also influenced by our environment and family life. It is difficult to separate what we really want for ourselves and what is expected of us.

I fall/fell in the latter category.  I’ve always had multiple interests.  And I’ve found that I can be really good at many things once I dedicate my time and interest to those things.  Throughout middle school and most of high school I wanted to be a fashion designer.  I had been sewing since I was a little girl, and I was obsessed with all the fashion magazines I could get my hands on.  I realized years later where the idea that I wanted to be a fashion designer came from- my mother or my aunt saw me making Barbie clothes from tissues.  They commented that I was going to be a fashion designer one day.  That idea stuck in my head.

And I continued with that idea all to my senior year.  It was then that I took Psychology, and I was hooked.  I knew I wanted to be a psychologist.  My first year of college I took as many psych classes as I could.  In the meantime, I was working as a bilingual teacher’s aid at my old elementary school and as a salesperson at The Gap.  One of my coworkers at The Gap had a degree in Psychology. I found out from her that there was not any work for someone with only a bachelor’s.  We didn’t have the internet quite yet then and I had failed to fully research what path I needed to take to become a psychologist.  I was crushed when I found out I would need even more schooling after my undergrad years.  I was living on my own with no support from my parents, in fact I couldn’t even get them to help me with my applications for financial aid for my second year of college. They refused to give me the required tax return information I needed.  I had no idea how I was going to survive financially.  I eventually dropped my classes in hopes to work full time.

I did find a half decent job but was still struggling to make ends meet.  I made new plans to go back to school, I knew I needed to go back.  Even though my parents couldn’t or wouldn’t support me financially, my mother continued to encourage me to go back to school.  My aunt and uncle offered to help, and I made plans to move in with them in Texas.  Then I met the young man who would become my husband.  Next thing I knew, we were married.  As he was in the Navy, so began our lives together moving all around the country and even overseas.  We had children. I worked various jobs- some good, some awful.  And whenever I could, I took college courses.  But I never could pin down exactly what I would do with a degree.  I was always looking for something I could take wherever I went.  5 years ago, I finally earned an Associates degree in Nutrition and Kinesiology, in addition to my 1000-hour massage therapy certificate.  I was still dreaming of finishing my bachelor’s and then moving on from there.  But I still couldn’t pinpoint exactly what I really wanted.  Just like when we were kids, I was looking for validation outside of myself.  I wanted to be seen as a professional, someone with a career.  I was only thinking of what other people would think of what I ended up doing.  And in the interim, time was marching on.  As Dolly Parton said so well in the movie Steel Magnolias: “Time marches on and sooner or later you realize it is marching across your face.”  In other words, I was getting older, older than I thought I would be when I finally had that education I so desired.

Then last year happened.  You know, 2020 and Covid-19 happened.  I had to shutter my booming massage business in March of 2020.  I was so very crushed.  I knew it was time to move on, to finish my degree, but doing what? To say I was feeling low is an understatement. 5 months later my husband packs up to move to Japan for his last tour in the Navy. With the pandemic keeping us isolated and my husband existing in another country, I had a lot of time to think about what I really wanted. And because hubby will be retiring in the next couple of years, it is time for me to call the shots, and for my career (whatever it may be), be in the forefront.

January of this year, an idea finally popped into my head.  It was an idea I’ve had all along I just needed to shape and polish it.  Can you guess?  When I finally figured it out, it just felt RIGHT.  I contacted a friend who works in the field I am interested in, and she gladly let me pick her brain.  After talking with her I researched school options.  And as scary as it was, I went for it.  I am 47 years old, with a 22-year-old son and 19-year-old daughter.  I applied to the University of Memphis as a transfer student. 

Because of Covid and the delays in mail, it took a few months to track down all my transcripts (I have 84 plus credit hours- so many electives).  Two weeks ago, I received an acceptance letter, via email.  This 47-year-old finally started her junior year just yesterday with the summer session. The previous day, when I had officially signed up for classes, the reality of it hit me hard.  My mother always wanted this for me, and she wanted this for herself as well but was never able to get her degree.  She passed almost 4 years ago, but I felt her with me just then.  I knew she was proud. 

I’m sorry, I didn’t say what I’ll be studying.  Go back to the beginning, what I originally studied my first year of college- psychology.  I’m going to be a Licensed Mental Health Counselor.  I am so very excited and terrified all at the same time.  One thing I have learned in my 47 years is that we should do the hard things, the things that scare us, when we have the opportunity.  The reward is so great.

The reason I shared this experience is because it is not easy to go back to school at 47, and I felt doubt.  I felt like I had no business doing this.  I felt embarrassed to be truly honest.  But then I thought of what I would say to a friend in my position.  I would tell them to go for it, that it is never too late to chase after your dreams.  And that is what I would tell you as well.

Fancy Y.

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  1. Deb Patrick says:

    Love this! Go get em, you’re gonna slay this like a boss!

Hi, I'm Stacey.
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Willowjak Blog 

My blog started as a way to document my journey to wellness, but turned into a place to be inspired by others through our collective messy & authentic stories. We chat about themes that are often ignored and voices that aren't often given a chance at the mic. Now it's my favourite place to be. 

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