By Ashlee Cox
Let’s be honest because that’s what I’m good at. I am a product of a single parent home. We’re all familiar with what that looks like– A parent stretching themselves in both roles as mother and father financially, mentally, and emotionally—trying the best they can to provide everything with limited resources and time to usually more than one child.
It is a situation that takes an already hard role of parent to an impossible level, and I’m thankful for a mother who never gave up and did her absolute best to raise me and my siblings right.
As a child, I did not understand the hardships of this reality. I only knew what I experienced, and that experience was not picture perfect. The constant stretching of money, the struggle to pay rent, and never-ending cycle of stress became etched in my mind as the life I would never live.
At a young age, I decided that I would do whatever it took to be successful. As a result, I excelled in school. I was polite to my teachers, studied hard, got good grades because that was my way out.
I wasn’t athletic or super pretty, but my mind–oh I could rely on my mind to take me to greater heights.
I often relied on stories to escape my reality; it didn’t matter which kind either–biographies, nonfiction, self-help–anything was better than the reality in which I belonged.
Soon though, just reading stories wasn’t enough. I got an itch, like that persistent itch in the back of your throat, to write my own. So I did, and I found that I was surprisingly good at it.
Before long writing became my favorite weapon to decipher the world according to my perspective. I had a voice that was finally valuable, and it felt powerful. My dream was to become a novelist one day–a best-selling novelist. I imagined my thoughts as a hot commodity—the literary equivalent of a Patti LaBelle sweet potato pie.
Soon though, reality seeped in. As children, it’s okay to dream but as young adults dreams become dangerous. Realistic, attainable, able to make a living were words that I began to hear more and more in real life and, eventually, in my dreams at night.
Writing as a profession rarely makes you rich. The struggling creative fighting to keep the lights on is the image that flashed across my mind whenever I was asked about my future as a writer. It scared me to death to return back to the struggle. So, I made a decision.
I made a decision to soul out.
I made a decision to compromise my passion for stability. It is a fork in the road that everyone comes to and unfortunately, I took the easy path.
Of course it wasn’t done consciously. Decisions like that often aren’t. Soon, though, one compromise led to another until I found myself a student of the Terry College of Business majoring in stability.
I needed a job, a career, something that I could use to buy my grandma that trip to Alaska she always wanted–to make my life and the life of my children better than mine had been.
Words wouldn’t get that, but numbers could.
So, I focused on the numbers even though at the end of the day they were never enough. It spiraled out of my control so much that I turned away from one of the only things in life that fulfilled me, that made me happy beyond belief.
If I continued to write seriously, I wouldn’t be able to turn a blind eye to the hard truth. Because when that iron struck hot and inspiration hit, I was unstoppable. I was Steph Curry with the shot, Oprah on her couch, and Cam in the end zone dabbing after a phenomenal play.
Recently though, I started soul searching. Between mediation, yoga, and a commitment to being truthful with myself the tint on life that had become my reality began to melt away.
As graduation loomed closer and decisions needed to be made, I started to panic. Although from the outside my life seemed together, on the inside, I felt like a captain-less ship lost at sea. It’s only so long that your subconscious will allow you to go through the motions before you jolt back to life.
Maya Angelou once said “My mission in life is to not only to survive, but to thrive and to do so with some passion, some compassion, some humor, and some style.”
That quote resonates with me because it is so easy to caught up with just getting by that we leave excelling at things we love for our dreams at night. Although I am pursuing a business degree, I decided to do it my way—with creativity, passion, and style.
Fellow University of Georgia students, I challenge you to ask yourself, are you just surviving? Are you caught up in the system that forces us to squash our dreams and commit to something-anything-that has a dollar sign attached to it?
If so, I’ll be the first to tell you that it’s not worth it. The hole in your heart will never get smaller.
Invest boldly in yourself, in your dreams, and your passion, or spend your life doing it for someone else.