“Don’t ever let somebody tell you “you can’t do something” not even me. You got a dream, you gotta protect it. People can’t do something themselves, they wanna tell you “you can’t do it”. If you want something, go get it. Period.”
~The Pursuit of Happiness
I want to talk to you about something that is very close to my heart. Something that I know all too well because of the good and bad things that have happened in my life. It took me many years to say this to myself and to others, but I am so glad I have grown up enough to admit it. I think it shows real maturity when you can look at your past, and see all the destruction you caused, and still stay positive and move forward. And so, every time someone asks me “Do you regret anything you did in your life?” I always answer them by saying “No. Of course not. Because everything that I went through made me who I am today.” This is true, and I say this with the utmost confidence. Yes I still feel terrible about the things I did that were bad choices, and some things still make me so sad I start crying immediately after thinking about it. Somethings even make me so angry that my heart will start beating fast and my fist will start to clinch at the thought of it. You see, I can’t change the past, and all of the stupid things I did. How stubborn I was. How emotionally damaged and depressed I was. And how I could never quite understand what people meant when they told me “You need to stop crossing oceans for people who wouldn’t even jump puddles for you.” Now this...this took me a long time to figure out. I just couldn’t “see the forest through the trees.” until I grew up a little more. Now I know better. I have a good heart, and I often care for others more than I care for myself. But I made the mistake by thinking everyone else has a good heart too.
Even though I struggled and struggled for years and years, trying to find myself, and correct my faults, I never gave up. I don’t want to ever give up. Deep down inside, I know that I really can’t give up trying to live my life the best way that I can. There is no way I was born into this world to just be a screw up. No way! I always knew, in the depths of my mind, that I was meant for something greater. I just had to find out what that was. To this day, I am still looking for that special “something”.
I remember years ago when I was a Senior in college, at age 22, on the verge of finishing my Fashion & Retail Management Major with my Bachelor of Science Degree. I was so proud of myself, I almost cried when I signed my papers to go to the graduation ceremony. It may not mean much to you, but It meant so much to me. I had been through so much from the day I left for college, till the day I graduated. But I got through it. I got through it all. When I thought about giving up, and taking others' advice on just going back home and leaving school for later, I told myself “Don’t give up. You can do this. You’re almost done.” I repeated this to myself day, after day, after day. I made sure that I would never give up, and that I was going to finish what I started and keep going. I was determined to finish something on my own, and not be a failure. Ha. So many people thought I was crazy, both family and friends. Having three jobs, and going to school full-time. (sigh) That was insane. And to this day, I still have no idea how I did that for so long. I was crazy. I had very little sleep, and very little time to have fun or relax. But I did it. And because I felt so proud that I achieved something most people told me to stop working at, I decided to write this inspirational speech for my Graduation Portfolio….
“Every day we see the patterns in our economy; where the people who were born privileged get the most out of life and receive best in education, job placement, and material things. It may seem like being privileged is the ONLY way to get ahead and to be “somebody”. But that is just the EASY way. The EASY way is an illusion that is constantly shown to the masses that you can only succeed if you already have a golden ticket. But this is just not so. You do not have to have a golden ticket to succeed in life. You just need AMBITION, COURAGE, AND CONFIDENCE. But most of all, you just need to try. If you shoot for the moon, and you fall short, at least you landed among the stars. Not trying at all would be worse than trying and failing. All you really need to do is follow your dreams, and God will take care of the rest. If you don’t try, how will you ever know if you can do it not? If you don’t start somewhere, sometime, how can your journey to success begin? No one was made to be a failure. There are no losers; only winners. You don’t have to cross the finish line before everyone else does to win the race. You just have to be IN the race. No one ever said life was easy, and no one ever said it would work out for your benefit. That part was not included in the plan. You have to make that yourself. If you think about it, we are very lucky to be able to choose whether we will sink, or swim. How else will we know how strong we are and how badly we want something?
As children we think we can be anything we want when we grow up. Our parents let us dream big with no boundaries for our imagination. They didn’t do this just for fun, and just to keep us busy. They believed in us from day one, so they let us know that we could be whatever we wanted if we set our mind to it. Take me, for example...When I was young, I wanted to be a famous singer. I had big dreams of being one of the best in the industry, like Mariah Carey, Whitney Houston, or Beyonce’. I sang every day and every night. I did this because I loved to do it. I woke up wanting to sing, and I sang myself to sleep at night. It just came natural to me. I had a great voice and ambition to follow. Little did I know at that age, how hard it was to be that famous and how those women got their place in fame. But as a child, I thought anything was possible. That I could become whoever I wanted. I thought I had all the talent and then some. I was ready. (Sigh) I should have kept that dream alive because who knows where I would have been today instead. I let that dream die once I started thinking about how hard it was to be famous. I started to think that I wasn’t smart enough, or pretty enough, or tall enough, and that no one would ever notice me. I was always a shy little girl anyway. After years of negative and doubtful thoughts, I let my dream fade away. It’s not like I was discouraged by others, or had little purpose, I just started growing up. And as I got older, I started to lose the belief that I would ever be famous. I let the world get to me and push me off my swing of confidence. Now, why is it that we believe in ourselves more when we are young, than when we get older? What happens to our hopes and dreams once we get older? It’s very sad that we deprive ourselves of what we really want to do because of fear of failure and the unknown. Even though I never became famous, obviously, I still never gave up on the goal to be successful. I just let go of the dream of being famous.
Once I grew up, into my teenage years in high school, I realized that you don’t have to be famous to be “somebody”, and you don’t have to have a lot of money to be happy either. As a senior in high school, I thought to myself “Now what? I am about to graduate High School with no clue on where to go for college to better my education. If I don’t go to college after high school, what will I end up doing?” Those thoughts scared me to death. The “not knowing what my future holds” killed me inside. I had to do something; fast. I decided to take a detour, and try something different. I took a leap of faith, and I hoped for the best. I knew that I was no fool, and I had more than just one talent. So I chose to keep my dream alive of being successful by enrolling in The Art Institute of Houston. At that time, coming from Austin, TX, there was no Art Institute closer but in Houston, TX. This was fine with me, I needed to leave Austin. I needed a fresh start, on my own. I had no idea what I was getting into, I just knew that I had to go to college. I wanted to better myself because I knew I needed to. And thank God I did. My dad always told me that his children would all be creative like him. That we would all be artists, like him. That we were all talented in our own way. He was right, I was talented. But not just in singing, like I first thought. But in fashion too. I had a knack for putting things together in such a way that it was like art. I had a creative spirit that I needed to dig out of the shadows. This talent was a hidden gem I needed to tap into. So I applied for The Art Institute of Houston, and after interviewing and taking some tests, I made it in. I was so happy, because I now had a future to look forward to. Just to be accepted into a college, like many of my classmates did, was the best thing I could ever imagine. Soon after starting my college program. I saw a whole new world of artistry and creativity. I was surrounded by so many types of artists. Chefs, photographers, fashion designers, interior designers, and more. It was intimidating. But I was not about to back out of the opportunity of a lifetime. I was going to try my best to learn how to draw, paint, sew, put patterns together, do graphic design, and much more. I wanted to be well rounded. After going into my 2nd year of college, my education started to be very important to me and I knew I had to get my college degree no matter what. I had a drive in me that was itching to flourish and prosper, no matter what I was going through. And I was going through a lot.
The economy affected me and my family, and things started to change for me. All of the sudden, I had no money, and I had to get a part-time job along with school full-time. My mother and father could not help me like they wanted to, and this was not their fault. Times were hard, and everyone was hurting. I had to start making some hard choices and work harder than I ever had. I was determined to make A’s and B’s at school. Stay up late studying. And take extra online classes to graduate sooner. I took on a part-time retail job (20-38 hrs a week) and a babysitting job, to pay for school and bills, and a 24 7 unpaid internship to better myself in my field of Fashion. I even had to take a quarter off (3 months) to somehow save up $4,000 to pay to get back into school. I rarely slept enough, and I was always tired and miserable. But I was not going to quit. Even though I had many many struggles, God did not give up on me. He gave me the strength to push through. And now, I can proudly say that I am graduating college in March 2011 with a 3.5 GPA.
I DID IT! I finished something, and I finished it strong. It’s like Julius Caesar said “I came. I saw. I conquered.” I can’t believe I did it. And I have God and my family to thank for getting me through it. This is an inspirational lesson to everyone...You can do anything and be anything you want. Just keep those childhood dreams alive, and dedicate yourself to them. You will surely find your way and prosper. Don’t ever settle for less; you deserve better. Don’t be afraid; fear will hold you back. And never let anyone tell you that your best wasn’t good enough because they are the ones that are too blind to see the accomplishments and long strides you made to get where you are today.
So here is the question, are you going to sit around and let other people tell you what you can and can’t do, or will you pick your head up, wipe the tears from your eyes and say “I can do this! I will make it happen! I am a fighter!”? You chose. Because by building a future for yourself, that is in your best interest, you are able to see what lies ahead and make it your own. It’s not about the color of your skin, the neighborhood you come from, or the weight of your wallet. It’s about how strong your drive and determination is. If you want it more than others, then you have no competition. You are already victorious.
Rise above the statistics and normalities and think about your future in advance. For no one will do it for you. Sure it is easy to sink to the bottom of the pool, but if you try to swim, even if you don’t know how, you will see how far you can go if you just TRY. Believe in yourself and never give up. Live your life like it’s your last. We are not promised a tomorrow you know. Make everyday count. Take the challenge of LIFE itself, and reach for the stars.”
That was over 5 years ago, but I still have the same mentality. Once again, I say that my past made me who I am today, and I am forever grateful for it. Every harsh blow made me stronger. Everyone's small step got me closer. And every late night prayer gave me faith. I am not going backward, only forward. I CAN do this. I will NOT give up. I believe I am on the right path to MY greatness. I will never stop trying, and you shouldn’t either.