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Breaking Out

I am at the barrier of my comfort zone and I want to push it. HARD. Not just push it – I want to blow it out of the water. I spent the majority of my life prior to college in a near constant state of fear. I was 36 when I started college. That adds up to a lot of fear.

The trajectory of my life shifted when my husband said to me, “You’ve taken care of us for the last twelve years. What do you want to do?” No one had ever asked me that. Not on that level. I had always been someone’s daughter, sister, wife or mom. I had no clue who I was and his question scared the hell out of me. It nagged at me for days. Eventually I found some courage and began looking at schools.

Up until this point, I thought that a college education was one thing I would never get in this lifetime. It was too big for me to achieve. I had a husband, three kids and a dog that counted on me to be Mom. As I searched, fear moved from anxiety to outright panic. I looked at State, but the thought of sharing a campus with over 44,000 other students overwhelmed me. Then I found Meredith. They boasted and all-women student body and small classes, both of which greatly appealed to me. After seeing the price tag I pushed it aside, rejecting the possibility. State was the only other viable option for a graphic design degree that was also within close proximity to home. Over several days, I would go to the site and research. And each time, I would wind up on the Meredith site. As crazy as it sounds, I was drawn to it. And it still scared the hell out of me.

But I continued on. At my husband’s urging, I called and scheduled a visit to the admissions office. As I drove onto campus, I felt that I was going to have a full-on panic attack. My pulse raced and with the rise in body heat, I was grateful I had worn a suit jacket. My own personal camouflage. I looked the part, but did not feel it. My thoughts became a whirlwind. “What are you doing?! Who do you think you are? Why are you even here? This is SO beyond you!” But I continued on and found a place to park. As I walked in, I struggled to find air but my lungs were failing me. The rep greeted me and I slowly relaxed. As we talked, hope began to grow within me. I began to wonder, “Could I really do this?” The more I considered it, the more I wanted it. And so began my journey.

During my 6+ years there, I fought the negative voice. But with every class, every project, every success, and even every failure, I grew stronger and more confident. I was no longer simply someone’s daughter, sister, wife or mom. I was me. Underneath the masks and scars, I found myself. And it was good. The journey was not easy, more like the feeling of gratefulness that comes from finally winning the war after a series of bloody battles. The irony of my hip surgery right after graduation does not elude me. I was in all senses limping across the finish line.

Going to school has been by far the hardest thing I have ever faced in my life. Here I am over two years later, finding my comfort zone smaller than I would like, not having to face the day to day challenges of school. And I can’t have that. I worked too long and too hard for this and I refuse to lose ground. Writing is my attempt to break down the barrier, to blow it out of the water. Do I have something to say that others want to hear? That remains to be seen. There is much left for me to learn. I’ve often read that in teaching others, we teach ourselves.

As I take these next steps, I have no doubt that I will learn and grow. Maybe by sharing my experiences, I will help someone else. But first, it’s time to do the work.

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