Persistence and Diversion: My Wayward Path Through College

I had joined the Army right out of high school for two reasons: To get away from home and to earn money for college. I succeeded in both goals.

After two years and 10 months active duty service, I mustered out, drove home to Texas, and enrolled in junior college. It was going to save me money on the front end so I could have more for the back end. Good plan, but it didn’t work that way.

I might have finished college if I hadn’t got antsy in my junior year. I allowed myself to get sidetracked by ventures of promise that never panned out. What I learned was to not follow someone else’s dream or to allow myself to be talked into doing something without the details of remuneration being agreed upon in writing and in advance. It was a lesson learned the hardest way possible.

Due to some financial missteps and my veterans education benefits running out, I found myself without a place to live and with no income stream going into my last year of school. I had to drop out to go to work so I could build a future. Having grown up in a blue collar family, I knew my parents couldn’t help pay for college, and I was too proud to ask. I lived in my car for a week as I charted my path to my feet again.

Work has a way of taking over a life if you let it. In my case, I learned new skills, met with new challenges that needed to be overcome, and struggled as I dreamt of reclaiming my dream again. Before I knew it, eight years had passed and I was still trying to get back into college. Finally, I took the leap and enrolled in a private business university, funding my last year of college with student loan debt. It wasn’t the preferred route, but it got me to where I was going.

The benefit to doing it that way was so that I could have my degree in one year by attending classes at night. And that’s precisely what I did.

I had worked in telesales for years. When I got tired of that, I did some cold calling and landed myself an editorial position on a local community newspaper. At least I was back to writing again. And I had my college degree, proving that my disdain for leaving things unfinished was not misplaced. To top off the victory, I graduated magna cum laude, a distinction I am still proud of today.

John Lennon famously said, “Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.”

That’s certainly how it happened for me. I entered college at 21 years old and emerged with a bachelor’s degree (and a certificate from the University of Hard Knocks) at 34. Time is a journey of consciousness. If you pay attention during the journey, you’ll learn more from moments of action than you’ll ever learn in a classroom. Diversion is not your enemy, but persistence is the way to defeat it.

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