It has been 3 years since I graduated high school with distinction and on a scholarship. Upon graduating I was blessed to attend Wheaton College on a full-scholarship. I am currently pursuing a degree in Business Economics and will be graduating in a year. In graduating University, I will have served as president of two different organizations, a mentor to first-year students, an ambassador for an impressive organization, and an intern at Shule Direct in Tanzania. All these are accomplishments that I’ve been blessed to be a part of and each one of them came with a lesson that I won’t ever forget.
I’ve quickly come to realize that the best way that I experience life is to see each moment, memory, or experience as a lesson. These little pockets of lessons become for me an honest and empowering way to truly breathe in the beauty and complexity of life. So, I’ll share with you a little bit about me through the lessons I’m so glad I learned.
Lesson 1: Attitude Matters
My 9th and 10th grade years of high-school could not have looked more different. In 9th grade, I had both parents, and in my 10th, I only had one. My 9th grade life was comfortable and safe, it felt constant. 10th grade, however, was scary and uncertain, it brought about a newness that neither my mother nor my two siblings could understand. So, if there was ever an excuse for me not to push my way through school, I had plenty. If there ever was a reason to fail, it was only fair and understandable that I would use it. I’m glad I didn’t. To be quite honest with you, I’m so grateful that those that loved me most didn’t let me quit. With every complain I put out there, every time I cried, every time I reasoned that this was unfair, my mother and siblings huddled around me and said, “Joanna, we get it, we’re there too, but you can’t see life this way. To get to where you need to be, fix your attitude.” No truer words could be said. Yes, I was justified in what I felt, yes, our new situation was very real. But no one had the ability to define the way I saw life but myself. I could have let my situation define me, I would have allowed myself to be overwhelmed, but I chose not to let life happen to me. I was not going to let it consume me.
Lesson 2: Opportunities are always available; what’s YOUR move?
With an attitude in check and a new desire for great things to happen, I applied myself to being the best I could be. From 9th through 12th grade, I maintained my scholarship with good grades, I graduated with distinction, and I was blessed with a full scholarship to Wheaton College. I didn’t want to stop there and so during high school I also sang in the school band, I played sports, and I served as vice president of the student body. Yes, I was that person. However, it wasn’t because I had to, or because someone had forced me to, but it was because I had made the decision to want to. I realized very early on that sometimes we feel as though others are better or that we have slightly less opportunities rather others. But we forget that in the places that we’re in, with either much or little, we have so much available to us that we can use to grow and push us to the next step. I was used to waiting and was extremely comfortable with letting things come to me or having others bring them my way. However, I decided to make a move on the opportunities around me. To keep the scholarship in high school, I needed to produce good grades, to get into University I had to maintain good grades, stay up late writing essays, cut out going out to study; and to stay in University, I had to do the same. Opportunities around me were always happening, I decided to make some of them my own.
Lesson 3: Define your own successes
“Are you sure you want to go to that University?” “Is this really the degree you want to take?” “Don’t think about doing Psychology, you won’t make much money.”
I know we’ve all heard variations of these phrases. Some are with good intention, and others not. Some are to motivate us and others are to hurt us. But in the end, these phrases are always someone else’s definition of what it means to be successful or happy.
Well, I’m about to finish my last year of University, at a college that most said and which I let myself believe was ‘okay’. I will be graduating with a Business and Economics degree and a French diploma, 5 leadership positions with two of them making me a president of student organizations, and an amazing internship at Shule Direct. At this “okay” university, I will have made the most wonderful friends and in the future, I’ll be taking a Master’s in Psychology, a field that ‘doesn’t pay anyone very well.’
Don’t get me wrong, it’s good to listen to advice and be open to counsel. But never stop speaking truths into your life that you know will take you where you need to be. Don’t be swayed by what makes someone else happy. Simply be obedient to that which is God’s plan for you. If your unique plan were not that easy to remember, know this, your name, your age, the dimples on your cheeks, your laugh and even your fingerprints speak to the uniqueness of you. Find your space in this world, be good at it, and someday, they’ll understand you.
So yes, I’m 21 with 3 lessons that I’ve found to be so fundamental for my growth. And yes, I have ways to go and learning keeps happening and so I’m open to it. Lastly, through it all I have come to terms with change. I won’t lie, change will always happen, but it’s worth it. Find your little pockets of lessons, in the midst of the rain and the shine and make them your own.