Yesterday afternoon, I sat with my parents on their porch overlooking their spotless, inviting pool and their gardens that are in full bloom. It was just the three of us, and we got on the topic of graduation and what kids are studying in college, especially as my own son is off to college as a freshman in the fall.
I admitted that I had no idea what I wanted to study when I went to college. I just knew that I was supposed to go to the university and make something of myself. What that exactly was, I had no idea.
“Did you have any idea at all what you wanted to study in college?” my mom asked me.
I did, sort of, but I didn’t take that path. At least not right away. I had a dream, but I didn’t believe it was worth pursuing.
Thirty-five years later, I admitted the truth to them as we sat there having lunch.
“I remember sitting in Ms. Sheppard’s History of Maryland class, listening to her talk, but toying with a short story I was writing in my notebook. I remember thinking, ‘Someday I’m going to write something worth publishing.’ That was the only thought I had. I didn’t really know how I was going to get there, I just knew that writing was a goal of mine and it’s what I wanted to do at some point in my life.”
So, I went to college. I went to Towson University and lived on campus.
I did not become an English major. Instead, I was a Business Administration major who earned a “D” in her accounting class. I knew that major wasn’t for me right away.
Taking matters into my own hands, I marched to the Registrar’s office and changed my major to Mass Communication. I learned about radio, television, and journalism; I took courses in public relations and communication, and I felt more at home. I also secured a job at The Baltimore Orioles in the Public Relations department, and that job propelled me a 13-year career with the ballclub.
I still wanted to write.
I got my first master’s degree back at Towson University in Professional Writing and was promoted to the Director of Publishing at the Orioles.
I was writing. I was editing. I was doing exactly what I thought I might do when I was dreaming back in Mrs. Sheppard’s class. But deep inside, I longed to write fiction.
Simultaneously, I began to teach at a local community college. I left the Orioles and had children and continued to teach. Teaching became a passion of mine, and after my children were in school all day, I was able to move from an adjunct position at Stevenson University to a full-time faculty position in Business Communication. I was primarily teaching writing courses.
However, securing that full-time position warranted that I go back to school.
I earned an MFA in Creative Writing with the support of my husband, a subject I had loved since high school when I took it with Mrs. Susek. I loved every minute of that program at National University.
I had to write a book as my thesis.
I wrote my first piece of publishable fiction, a novel called Beneath the Mimosa Tree, and it will always be special to me.
It took me a while to follow my dreams, but thanks to Mrs. Sheppard, for all her encouragement as a student in that history class, and Mrs. Susek, for all of her inspiration in Creative Writing, I finally chased that dream as a middle-aged adult. Now, I write on the side and I teach full-time, inspired by people I had along the way. I honestly have the best of both worlds. With three fiction books to my name and one textbook on Event Planning, I’m busy putting together a collection of short stories that started my passion for writing in the first place.
My point of telling you this story is this: no matter your age, don’t be afraid to follow your dreams. You can go for it at any time. Graduating seniors in high school can start chasing that dream in college, in a trade, or through a work path. Graduating college students can get right on it by choosing a job that suits them, returning for a master’s degree, or going down an entrepreneurial track if that suits them. Middle-aged people like me can do it, too, if you have the support of those who love you around you to help make it happen. Do not be afraid.
Follow your dreams, people. Work hard to make it a reality. Invest in yourself and what you want to do in the future. I took a circuitous route, but you can go more directly. It’s entirely up to you.