Pursuit of Happyness Essay
Katherine N. Griffin
What it Took for Me to Get to Pensacola State College
In high school, I thought that I had life by the tail. There was absolutely no doubt in my mind that I could overcome any obstacle thrown my way. I married my high school sweetheart with big dreams of a house on a hill and a college degree. What I did not realize was that, more often than not, life does not always go the way it is planned. Over the course of the next six years I had a baby, lost my husband, and was diagnosed with an incurable disease. As times grew harder, the open doors before me began to close and my dreams faded away.
The first challenge I faced was what my doctors had told me was impossible. One case of morning sickness and suddenly I was faced with the fact that I was going to be a mother. As amazing as this new chapter in my life was, it changed everything. The college degree I had dreamed of since childhood was placed on the back burner as my bills grew higher and my income steadily decreased. My pregnancy was difficult and caused me to be on bed rest most of the time. To add to the hardship, I was betrayed by the man that I loved, and my marriage fell apart. Before I knew what hit me, I was a young, single mother trying to make it on my own. All of the possibilities that lined the path to my future were slipping out of reach. Between working two jobs and taking care of my little girl, there was only one option left, survival. Going to school was no longer possible.
Raising a child and losing my helpmate was not the only, or most difficult, obstacle I would face. I worked hard to get my life back on track. I moved away, then back again, trying to find peace of mind. Just as things were starting to look up, my health began to deteriorate rapidly. I spent many days in and out of hospitals and doctor’s offices, just trying to figure out what was wrong with me. All the while, my hopes of a college degree grew dimmer. After years of fatigue and sickness, I was diagnosed with an autoimmune disorder that causes my antibodies to attack my glands, lymph nodes, and organs. I was hospitalized and lost my job—once again back at square one. It took time to find a good specialist who knew about my disease. He was able to treat all my symptoms to make my life easier; however there was no cure.
In my darkest hour, I never imagined I would ever be anything more than what my current situation allowed. I gave up on my dream and focused solely on my daughter. I spent my time volunteering at her preschool and doing what I could to make her happy. Then, out of nowhere, a ray of hope appeared. My daughter’s teacher informed me of a job opening at a local school. I applied for the job and was hired to work with children who have disabilities by United Cerebral Palsy of Northwest Florida. Things began to change as the smiling faces of the children whose lives I had improved gave me that feeling of invincibility I had lost long ago. As I watched my students with autism struggle and overcome each obstacle they faced, I knew that anything was possible.
Over the next few months, Pensacola State College helped me overcome my own obstacles which stood between me and my teaching degree. It took time and a tremendous number of phone calls, meetings, and lots of paperwork. The staff sat down with me and worked out a plan for my future as well as how to pay for it. They determined that I was eligible for financial aid, and within weeks I received the money that I needed to better myself. I started my first class and was able to hear the ring of pride in my little girl’s voice when she told her teacher, “My mommy is going to college.” That moment was worth every hardship, every tear, every long day, and every sleepless night. Now, six years after my daughter’s birth, I have a fulfilling job, I am an amazing mother, and I am a Pensacola State College student.