Whenever life hands us opportunities to do something big or exciting or scary, it’s always great to have a cheerleader nearby. Someone with pom-poms (real or proverbial), a big smile, and lots of encouraging words…er, cheers. And I’ve had a few of those in my lifetime. But, it’s also good to have a supporter.
Anyone can give you a high five and tell you to “do a great job” or “keep your chin up” or something equally encouraging. But not everyone can help you put your nose to the grindstone to get that goal accomplished. And a supporter is a different kind of person. Let me tell you a little story about my biggest supporter.
I was twenty-three years old, newly divorced, and had three little bitty kids to take care of. I had no marketable job skills, had never gone to college, and wasn’t really sure how I was going to make a go at life and come out on top. My mission was to raise my kids and give them the kind of life I’d always dreamed of having and I knew it would require me to get an education so that I could have a career.
With that mission in mind and a long unfulfilled desire to go to college, I applied to St. Mary-of-the-Woods College’s Women’s External Degree ‘WED’ program. Even though I’d applied to and been accepted to Indiana State University around the time I had graduated from high school, I’d never gone and truth be told, SMWC was my dream school. Thankfully, their distance program would allow me to be home with my kids and work without overextending myself by going to classes. And honestly, I wasn’t ready to move away from the town I’d grown up with. My family lived there and it was somewhat comforting to be around people that I’d grown distant from during the length of my unhappy marriage.
The first order of business upon being accepted to SMWC was to go to the campus to meet my professors, purchase textbooks, and get oriented to what life as an adult college student was going to be like. This was really scary business. I was scared to death of going to school already and now I had to drive a couple of hours to a town I’d never been to? Yeah, that’s where my biggest supporter came in.
He was a dream. Good looking, friendly, strong moral values, and totally up for a road trip. We’d only known each other a few months, but I could already tell he was someone special and when I asked him if he would go with me, he didn’t hesitate to say yes. But I was still nervous.
As we pulled out of my little driveway that day and got on the road, I was certain I would throw up. My palms were sweaty, my heart rate sped up the closer we got to the campus, and I must have checked my paperwork a hundred times as we drove along.
My biggest supporter? He kept his cool. He kept the music on, drove at a steady pace, and didn’t let me wiggle out of this life changing event. Not even when we pulled up to the beautiful campus and I was mere minutes from being an official college student.
“Maybe there’s something else we can do instead. We can drive to Vegas. Or maybe just find a nice place to eat somewhere…far away from here. Maybe we could even go get married? Do you want to get married? I’ll say yes, right now. Let’s go. Anywhere but here.” I told him, almost on the verge of tears.
Nothing swayed him. In fact, he turned down my proposal without missing a beat. “You said you wanted to go to college, so I drove you here. Now get out [of the truck].” He told me as he stood beside the open driver’s side door and pointed in the direction of the campus library.
I thought about my kids then and the fact that they were depending on me. I thought about the time and gas money this person had given up to drive me to orientation. I thought about my dream of getting a college education. And I thought about all the people in my life who had told me that getting to this point in life wasn’t going to happen for me.
And I did what he said. I got out of the truck. I made my way through orientation that day. I bought my textbooks. I ate lunch with fellow students and marveled at the beauty of the buildings.
When my biggest supporter showed up at the end of the day, just like he’d promised he would, I was all smiles. I had taken the first step in a series of many more steps to give my kids a future. I was on my way to a college education and a career.
It’s been fourteen years since that day. The memories that day holds bring tears to my eyes when I think of them. Because that was the first of many semesters when I went back there to meet professors, purchase textbooks, and marvel at the beauty of the campus. I also went there to celebrate Ring Day and graduation.
My biggest supporter? He went with me every time. And just before I graduated, he supported me in applying to graduate school. Even though he turned down my harried marriage proposal that day in 1999, it all worked out. He proposed to me that summer and together we have given our kids the kind of life I’ve always wanted for them.
What about you? Who’s your biggest supporter? What dreams and goals have you accomplished with that person’s support?