When Megan Price asked me to speak to the 5th grade children at Galloway Elementary during their promotion ceremony, I immediately agreed (only because Mrs. Price was my 5th grade teacher and she just happens to be one of best teachers I’ve ever had). I had no clue of what I would say and the more I thought about it, the more I felt unworthy.
Who was I to tell them about the places they can go in life as and when I haven’t done anything spectacular? What makes me the expert when I’m still trying to figure out if I’m making the right decisions in my own life?
After trying to come up with a list of things I’d instruct them to do, I scrapped it the night before the ceremony after thinking, these are 5th graders…they aren’t going to identify with setting goals and making strategies to complete them. I knew there was no way I’d be able to speak that information in 5th grade language. So, I stopped trying to prepare.
Wednesday morning I drove to the school and after parking my car, I looked around the lot at the parents shuffling in the doors. I met Mrs. Price at the front and she directed me to my reserved seat on the front row next to the principal. After seeing my name on the program I said a prayer asking God for the right words to share with them in a way that they’d understand and be inspired. I also felt like maybe the parents could use some inspiration too.
I remembered that Mrs. Price told me the kids didn’t have many people to look up to, that they lived in bad neighborhoods and needed to see someone who was from Jackson Public Schools tell them that they too could be successful.
Then it hit me.
I didn’t need to prepare a speech because I’ve been preparing for this all of my life.
I come from nothing (I still don’t have anything if you ask me) but it’s not really about where you come from – it’s about where you can go. Don’t be ashamed of your humble beginnings and never be afraid of the struggle. God allows you to go through things so that when you come out of them (because you will if you believe and follow His guidance) you’ll have firsthand knowledge and experience to help the next person along the way. You won’t tell people what you’ve heard or read, you’ll be able to tell them what you know.
I’ll be honest with you. I was embarrassed about how I grew up…living in the hood, parents divorcing causing our home to become broken, my Dad not being around for me emotionally, not having enough money for a lot of things, having to live with my grandmother, hating the way I looked and how I sounded, not believing that I was smart, being criticized and not ever feeling good enough.
Through it all I had hope and that’s what I wanted to give those children.
My hope became determination and then ambition and now I have this intense drive to be the best I can be, do what I love for a living and change lives as I try to change mine. I’m able to stand as a woman who didn’t allow her circumstances to dictate the course of her life.
Has it been easy? No.
Did I always believe I could do it? No.
Did I always have the support I needed? No.
Did I always have the resources I needed to make things happen? No and I still don’t.
Has it all been worth it? Absolutely.
Even if I never make a million dollars or move into my ideal home and drive my dream cars, I’m still happy and thankful for how far I’ve come because I could’ve easily gone the other way. I’m thankful for how tough my mom was and even though she has flaws, she is largely responsible (one way or the other) for me wanting something different for my life.
You can have something different too, it’s never too late. In the words of one of my good friends, stay the course in life and all the places you’ll go will amaze you one day.