tired high school student using book cover his face

This morning, I read a tweet on Twitter (X). It said “You’re afraid to start a 4 year course because you’re 25 and by the time you finish you’ll be 29. Whether you take the course or not, in 4 years you’ll still be 29. So why not be 29 doing something you love? Life has no timeline or formula. Stop comparing yourself to others..” I read that and retweeted it because I completely resonated with it. I am 32 years old, I graduated from high school in 2010 and I am finally able to say that I am graduating with a bachelors degree on May 18, 2024. 

When I took the placement tests to enter community college my senior year of high school, I was solely moving through my life on autopilot. In August 2010 when I began my first four classes of community college, I didn’t have any idea what my major would be, how I would navigate through my academic career or how long it would take me to transfer anywhere, at any school. I am a first generation college student, any advice from my parents regarding school would be minimal. Transcript wise, I wasted that entire first year at community college, only really passing one prerequisite English class needed to finally enroll into the transferable course. I began my second semester and I failed math. I took math again and failed, I took math in community college three different times and failed. For some reason, I just kept pushing through the semesters, eventually scheduling appointments with a guidance counselor to get me on the right track to transfer. Every semester I spent focusing on trying to pass the basic math classes to transfer, I spent time enrolling and dabbling in different classes that interested me, to really find out what I really wanted to. I was terrified of transferring into a CSU with a major that I would never be able to utilize once I graduated. I was terrified of working through this entire process to feel like I wasted my time.

I had failed math so many times that I was forced to transfer to another community college to begin taking classes there. I had burnt through all my opportunities at my first school and the feeling of pure frustration began to settle in. By the time I had transferred into another community college, it was 2015. It felt like I had wasted 5 years of my life trying to succeed in something that felt unattainable. I took math twice at this specific community college and failed twice. I was fed-up, disheartened, and angry at myself for not understanding why my brain couldn’t just understand or do me this one solid thing that I really wanted. By the start of the 2016 school year, I finally decided to quit. 

2016 was the year that I was hired at my first “big girl job”. By this point, I knew I wasn’t going to finish school any time soon. I had come to the realization that I needed to find a decent job that paid well, that gave me insurance and a 401k because I knew that I would be kicked off my parents insurance soon. For 5 years I worked at this job that started to broaden my idea of what I actually wanted to do before I turned 30. I was hired here at 24 years old. One random day in 2020, as I was killing time with my coworkers, one of my friends asked me if I ever went to college. I gave her a brief history of what happened and why I decided to stop going, she nodded her head in understanding and then blurted out, “GIRL?! You put so much energy into that to just quit? How much do you even have left? Call the school on your lunch and find out!!” So I did, I listened to her and called my old community college and to my total and complete shock, they told me I had ONE math class left to be able to transfer to a Cal State. 

Every time I think about this moment in my life I smile, because all those years of feeling like I was running in place was all in my head. I was always running toward something, I was always working toward something. I took statistics to transfer, I was doing decent, I was struggling hard but felt confident that this one last push from the innermost part of myself was all I needed to finally be able to transfer. Because it was my last class in the Spring of 2020, I had to go through the entire orientation process at CSUSB to transfer in for Fall 2021. I even registered for four classes at CSUSB that semester. Finally after all the anxiety, waiting for my stats final to be graded, it was a no go. I did not pass my final, therefore I did not pass my class. I missed the mark by two points. I cried, I told my boyfriend there was no way I’m repeating history again. How could I have failed this way at the very last moment? I had already registered for four courses for the Fall! I paid for the orientation already! How could I let this happen to me? I told him that I am not doing this again, putting myself through this heartache was enough. I went to work the next day feeling so defeated, my coworkers immediately noticed and they gave me another pep talk. “YOU HAVE TO GO BACK” they all told me. “It’s one class, Paola! It wouldn’t be wise of you to quit now!” So again, persuaded by my peers, I listened and did it one more time.

Finally, the time came and I was able to pass my last math final. In Fall 2022 I was able to begin my upper level classes and transfer in as a Junior. I was 30 years old. This story is really embarrassing for me to tell, to be very honest. But I chose to share this in our school newspaper because I want whoever reading this to know, you absolutely got it. You absolutely can do whatever you want. There is no time constraint on success, truly. I know that is such a corny thing to say, but the reality is that the only time constraints in this life are the ones you impose on yourself. I cannot believe that I have a graduation date, and more importantly, I proved my own resilience to myself. There is nothing more satisfying than setting goals for yourself and achieving them. I know now that nothing is a waste of time. Running in place feels like an eternity but I promise you, you are going somewhere.

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