Saturday, September 28, 2013

The Long Road to A Dream


A day filled with emotion.
When I walked into the ceremony I was all smiles. 

Until I looked up into the stands and saw my family.  And then I cried.  I cried because of all the sacrifices we had ALL made to make this day happen. 

I remembered the movie that set it all in motion—The Pursuit of Happyness—circa January 2007.  I was inspired to reach for my dream of finishing my bachelor’s, getting my MSW, and working in the field of child welfare and adoption. 

I signed up for classes at a local community college the very next week.  Public Speaking 220.  I still remember the main idea: tell them what you’re going to tell them, then tell them, then tell them what you just told them.  Never admit to being nervous and remember, people want to hear what you have to say!
It was an exciting time.  Just a few months before, our son Joe had been given a clean bill of health following his cancer treatment.  And after a long period of waiting, we were very close to being matched in our adoption process with Vu.

Then boom!  Joe had a recurrence of cancer.  Lots of questions about how, and whether, to proceed with both college and our adoption, but Joe encouraged us, and after a twisty road with God driving the boat, we excitedly added a new photo to the fridge: our new son Vu, waiting in Vietnam.
I finished Public Speaking with a final, emotional speech about international adoption, then signed up for biology, sure that Joe would beat cancer this time, just as easily as the last.  

I dropped out near the end of the term, wanting to spend precious time with Joe. 
And that summer, Joe died. 

The whole world stopped.  I knew I would never go back to college, never get my degree, never work in adoption.  None of that mattered.  My life would never go on.  I could never recover.  I only wanted to be with my family.  I only wanted to get our sweet Vu home and never do anything ever again!
And then Vu came home and retaught me about joy, hope, and resilience!  LIFE!  Even amidst the grief and loss.  LIFE!  My sweet boy, who had lost everything and everyone, yet woke up everyday with a smile on his face and JOY pulsing through his body! 

With the encouragement of family, friends, and fellow social workers, I applied to the University, transferred college credits from four previous colleges (some 25 years old!), and signed up for Sociology 337.  That was January, 2008, and the rest, as they say, is history.
I completed my Bachelor of Science, in Child & Family Studies, in 2010.

And now, my Master of Social Work, in 2013.  It's been a long seven years.

So many papers.  So many books.  So many group projects, and community service projects, and practicums, and internships, and speeches, and tests, and ever more papers and papers and papers. 
And when I walked into the graduation ceremony, I looked up and saw my kids and I remembered all their encouragement, and everything they had given to make this day happen—the times I couldn't be there to tuck them in, and the times I missed their games, and the times the older kids got the younger ones off to school in the morning.

And I looked at my husband and remembered all his encouragement, and the times he ran himself into the night, getting all the kids everywhere they needed to go, helping them with homework, making dinner.  And never complaining (and did I mention writing big checks to a certain university?).

And I looked at my mom and remembered all the years she encouraged me to complete my education, from the time I was just a little girl, when I watched her do the same.  How she drove 1 1/2 hours quite often to help me with childcare, especially when we had a newly adopted child.

And I was so, so sad my dad wasn't there, even tho he was with me in spirit. Just memories of his wisdom about how an education and hard work are keys to opportunity.  

It's never too late to reach for your dreams.

The hooding ceremony with my favorite professor

It's been a long road.  One full of sacrifice, grief, loss, joy and surprises. One that could only occur because of our awesome God, my family and friends--sisters, relatives, and BFFs who sometimes thought I had fallen off the face of the earth--yet continued to cheer me on.  


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