When I was little, I can remember playing school with my brothers and cousins with me being the teacher of course. In high school, I enjoyed grading papers and creating bulletin boards for my English teacher all the while dreaming that one day I would have a classroom of my own. However, if you knew me back then, you probably doubted the extremely shy, poor girl would ever accomplish that dream. How could someone who shook from head-to-toe whenever she had to speak in front of a class ever be able to command the attention of a classroom full of kids?
Fortunately, I received scholarships and financial aid to help cover the first year of college. After I married, I worked different jobs and took out student loans to cover my tuition. Being poor was an obstacle I overcame. However, my shyness continued to be a problem. The thought of speaking up in class terrified me. I would not go out to eat or call businesses when we needed something at home. Trips to the grocery store or Walmart were unbearable. I would rather hide in my shell than interact with others. Something had to change if I wanted to teach.
Fortunately, my husband pushed me to do more, be more. Sitting at home was not an option, and we had a few arguments over me doing my share of the daily household errands. He helped me get over some of my shyness which at the time, I resented, but now, I appreciate him for this. Then, I was offered a job working as a construction helper in plants which I accepted even though the thought petrified me because we needed the money. For a year, I worked on those construction sites as the only female among tough men while I took college classes at night. Often, I showed up to my night classes wearing my work Nomex coveralls with a sunburned face and the smell of a hot day clinging to me. During that time, I learned how to give as good as I got and to stand up for myself when needed. That year taught me I was capable of anything, but I also realized working outside for a living was not a life I wanted. So, I found a part-time job as a secretary and went back to school full-time. I had lost a lot of my shyness, but public speaking still caused my heart to race and my body to shake. And, the dreaded public speaking class I had been putting off as long as I could was about to start. Failure was not an option for me, so I relied on my writing to pull me through. Before each speech, I would spend hours perfecting my writing and practicing my speech in front of the mirror, before my husband, and in my car. I earned an A in the class, but more importantly, I earned confidence.
After graduating from college, I worked as a teacher for six years before I became an assistant principal. Four years later I became one of the youngest principals in my district at the age of 35. For five years, I ran a school with almost 800 students and 100 staff members. Over those years, I spoke to crowds over 1,000 as well as trained hundreds at a time, organized community events, and travelled across our nation. My insecurities and shyness would rise up quite often, but I refused to let it control me.
When I turned 40, my husband and I decided to make our dream of coming home to Burkeville come true. We wanted our boys to experience the country life we enjoyed so much growing up. I also wanted to use my experience to help the struggling school district. So, I quit my job where I earned over $90,000 a year. My husband found a job working for the local phone company, and we moved home with faith that everything would work out eventually. I applied for the superintendent position at the school, but they turned me down. I applied for the principal job, but they again turned me down. I applied for a teaching job at the school, but two weeks before the school year was to start, I still had not heard anything, so I decided I would at least try to be a substitute for the district. Applying in other districts never crossed my mind. Burkeville is where I wanted to be.
Finally, a few days before school started, Burkeville hired me as a teacher, and I poured my heart into helping the students and school become successful. During the next five years, I worked as a teacher, assistant principal, principal, and district administrator towards that goal. Often times, I privately disagreed and battled the decisions the superintendent made, but publicly I celebrated our success and pushed for what was right for the district. I refused to let an inadequate leader ruin the district’s future.
Now that I am retired because of ALS, my dreams have changed. I have written that book I always talked about. I write a blog about life and try to give hope to others in my ALS Facebook group. My online writing services business keeps me entertained while providing help to others at a low cost. The Burkeville school and community’s success continues to be important to me, so I am working on ways to be a positive influence from home either through the community newspaper my niece and I started or by organizing community activities. ALS prevents me from physically being able to do things, but the voice I found so many years ago can make a difference.
My dreams have changed over the years, and I have had to overcome many obstacles to reach them. Thankfully, my husband and family have supported me along the way. I could not fight for my dreams without them, and I will continue to fight.
How about you? What obstacles will you face as you fight for your dreams?