Saturday, January 12, 2013

The End is Near

Recognizing How Far You've Come

Dreams are Attainable

The End is Near
I have been struggling a lot recently with the fact that I am still an undergraduate and am uncertain as to exactly when I will finally be graduating. I worked on transferring credits over break and the process is slow and frustrating; only 3 courses have been accepted by Penn so far. However, the fact that I have submitted the majority of my credits is a relief. My part is done; now it is just up to Penn to evaluate my previous courses and give credit where credit is due. Although only 3 credits have been accepted and processed so far I am hopeful. I believe that the majority of my course from George Washington University will be approved. I met with my advisor and realized that I am much farther along than I initially thought. I probably only have about 6 more courses to take after this semester in order to complete my degree. I mapped everything out and I have finding that the end is near and I am starting to believe that dreams are attainable. 
"...long and atypical path."
It has been a long and atypical path but I will be able to finish my degree. I could potentially graduate next Fall if I take heavy course loads over the summer and in the next Fall semester. However, I could take it easy and relax a bit by taking lighter loads and in that case I would graduate in the Spring. Either way I am confident that I will be graduating sometime next school year and I am relieved. This process has felt endless and I feared that I would never actually graduate. I was failing to see how much I have actually accomplished; I neglected to recognize how far I have come. I will not graduate college until I am 24 but I am starting to come to terms with that; it's ok. I have struggled and fought. I have taken an abnormal route. I have lost time to illness, treatment, and medical leaves. 
Dreams are Attainable
But, my dream is still attainable. It may not have come about in the fashion or timing that I anticipated but it does not mean that it is lost. Life throws us curve balls. We stray from the course. We find ourselves in situations that we never could have imagined. These irregularities distract us from recognizing how far we've come. They can make us feel as if are goals are impossible to achieve. Meeting with my advisor proved to me that despite my issues and digressions my dream is attainable and although the end is not here, it is near. I can see the light at the end of this dark and twisting tunnel. I am almost there and I could not be happier or more relieved. I finally feel like I am being rewarded for all of my hard work. My experiences and dedication has not been for naught. I will graduate and be able to move forward with my life.

"If you don't know where you are going you will probably end up somewhere else."

- Lawrence J. Peter

"I was wandering aimlessly..."
Until yesterday I was doing just as Peter warns us against. I was wandering aimlessly without knowing exactly what I needed to do in order to achieve my goal. I hadn't taken a good look at my previous course work. I hadn't met with my advisor in order to determine where those courses would fit in or apply to my major requirements. I knew I wanted to graduate but I was not being proactive in achieving this goal. I was signing up for courses that I thought might apply to my degree but I wasn't considering them in conjunction with my previous credits that needed to be transferred. I had no idea what I was doing comparable to not "know[ing] where [I] [was] going." By blindly pursuing my goal I was bound to end up wasting time, taking unnecessary courses, and consequently "end[ing] up somewhere else." I was taking the longer, scenic route unintentionally and without want to do so.
"...taking the longer, scenic route..."
I am not sure why I kept putting off transferring my credits or taking a hard look at what I had left in order to complete my degree. Perhaps I was afraid of what I may find out- discovering that I had years of work ahead of me before I was able to graduate. Maybe I was just being lazy but I kind of doubt that; I am not a lazy person. I think that the most likely explanation was fear. I was afraid that all my previous courses would not apply to anything here at Penn. I was concerned that I would the end was far off. I feared that it would take years and a large numbers of additional credits in order to graduate. I felt that if this were the case it would be impossible for me to stay healthy long enough for me to finish me degree. I am so happy that I finally sucked it up- really looking at my previous course work and meeting with my advisor. I found out that I had no reason to be afraid. I can graduate within a year. I can manage to stay healthy for a year. I can remain dedicated to my school work for one year more. I can do this. The end is near and my ultimate goal is in sight; my dream is attainable.

"The important thing is to strive towards a goal, which is not immediately visible. That goal is not the concern of the mind, but of the spirit."

- Antoine de Saint-Exupery, translated from French by Lewis Galantiere

When I first began my journey at Penn my goal was very far off. I knew I had at least two years of work ahead of me and it seemed as if all the time I had put in at GW was a waste. How would my business courses apply to a Communications major? It just didn't seem possible. I felt as if I would be spending the majority of my twenties in college. I was concerned that I would never be able to enter the "real world" and have a "real," adult life. My goal was "not immediately visible"; it was far off in the distance. But, despite feeling as if it were nearly unattainable, it remained in the forefront of my mind. I continued to pursue it and fight any obstacles that hindered me from achieving it. 
This goal, as Saint-Exupery, says was not one of the mind, "but of the spirit." My soul knew that I owed it to myself to earn my college degree. My spirit kept pushing me forward because my intellect and mind deserved a college experience. I deserved to have my intelligence validated by receiving a college diploma. Not only did I feel as if I deserved to graduate, I wanted to graduate. I wanted to be fed knowledge. I wanted to be surrounded my smart individuals who had similar aspirations as me. I wanted to take full advantage of being a college student- absorbing new information, discovering different interests, engaging in intellectual conversations with teachers and peers, using my brain, proving my abilities by achieving high marks in my classes. My spirit spoke out via my goal; it said that I deserved and wanted to graduate from the University of Pennsylvania. A lot has changed since I first embarked upon this academic journey at Penn. My goal is finally immediately visible. I can see that the end is near and my dream is attainable. But, I never would have gotten here if I had given up when things got difficult. I wouldn't be able to sit here telling you that I will be graduating soon if I allowed my fears to control my actions. If I let the distance of dream dissuade me earlier on than it wouldn't be attainable now. There were so many moments- when I left GW mid-semester, when I transferred schools and had to start from scratch, when I took medical leave last Fall, the times my doctors told me I was going to die, when I experienced lapses, the numerous occasions when I learned of a friend's death- when it would have felt easier to just give up and settle. But almost in spite of these challenges and upheavals, I persevered. Just because your dream is far off does not mean that is not attainable. In time you will come ever closer to reaching it and before you know you will find that the end is near. While my dream of completing college is in sight, I still have a number of aspirations that are far in the distance.
There's no such thing as "too many dreams-"
I want to move to New York City. I want to get married and have a family. I want to be an advocate for eating disorder awareness; I want to be able to help girls and women who struggle like I do. All of these dreams are "not immediately visible." There is still a great deal I need to do before any of them can become a reality. But I am able to believe that I will get there some day because of where I am today. I have recognized how far I have come and realize that this dream, graduating college, is attainable. If I can accomplish one of my dreams than I am capable of fulfilling an infinite number of dreams and goals in the future. When you find yourself doubting yourself think of dreams that you have already achieved. Look at what you have already been able to do and recognize how far you have come. Your dream may seem distant but so were many others once upon a time. If you are capable of working and fulfilling one goal then nothing is stopping you from achieving more in the years to come. Don't allow yourself to get dissuaded by anything- hardships, obstacles, letdowns, tragedy, illness, doubt, fear. 
Use the phrase, "dreams are attainable," like a mantra. Repeat it to yourself when you find yourself struggle. Repeat it when you start to doubt yourself. Say it over and over again when you start to think negatively, when you start to feel that your dream is impossible. I am hear to tell you that it is not impossible; I am living proof that dreams are attainable.
I think if you take a look back on your life you will find that you too are proof that goals can be achieved and dreams can be attained. When we finally accomplish something, or come close to reaching it, we tend to forget that at one point in time it was merely a distant dream. Most dreams start off far in the distance. It takes time, work, and dedication to get close to achieving them; you have to fight for the right to scream from the rooftops that "the end is near!" Maybe, like me, your dream is right around the corner. Or, perhaps, like my dream to be a mother, your dream is far off in the distance. Either way don't every forget that dreams are attainable as long as you continue to work toward them. Some day you will be able to look back and recognize how far you've come; you too will be able to announce that the end is near.

Never give up when pursuing your dreams,

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