I stare blankly at my remaining undergraduate college credits, studying the seemingly tiny numbers in front of me. The numerical figure, although small, seems insurmountable. Yet, I have to remember where I started…
32 with no degree, in 2016 I am an anomaly. I sometimes feel I should be put in a cage, studied for science. How did this human survive this long in the working world without education? Anthropology be damned, my evolution to marketing maven was via my own volition and hard work. Just remove the Working Girl plot line right from your memory recall, that was not my story.
I did not have the normal storybook moments most have in regards to college. The sprint senior year to apply. Listing first, second and third choices. The framed acceptance letter and cheers from elated family members. A big move into the freshman dorms. I was so far removed, I may as well been in another galaxy. I entered the working world at a young age and that is what I knew. In my mind, I would work hard enough so a degree wouldn’t even matter, but my work ethic would.
As a young woman on my own, I had no money for college and was terrified of being buried so far under a pile of student loans, I would never be able to crawl out. I made the conscious decision to work full-time and become a student part-time and pay as I went. I filled out the FAFSA and remember ripping it up numerous times (yes, it was paper back then). The form had required my parent’s income, yet they weren’t paying my way. Therefore the sweet, helpful form was rendered completely useless. Only at age 27 would I be able to use my own feeble income to gain tuition assistance. That’s about a decade too late, government. Thanks for nothing!
With little trepidation, I did what I knew. I worked hard and became so good, I couldn’t be ignored (shameless Steve Martin quote, yup – I did). Perhaps I was over-compensating, but that hunger, that fire is what set me apart. I was offered a management position at 17 and took every opportunity I knew I wasn’t qualified for. I never said “I can’t” or let fear get in my way. My college friends were partying it up – gaining the usual 15, while I was learning how the world really worked. That American dream manifested within me and never let up.
Some people come out of the womb and know their path – doctor, teacher, mechanic… I had not the faintest idea. I was like a newborn fawn fumbling to walk, eyes barely open. At 17, I didn’t even know what the world offered and what I could potentially be. I started with a business major and decided to slowly start chipping away at the prerequisites.
Working full-time and attending classes at night is hard. Really hard. Still to this day, I am juggling both (cue the clowns). Marketing was a career path I discovered fairly early on. I worked at Coach and envied the women who worked at “corporate” in New York City. I knew I couldn’t continue to sell handbags, I craved more. I knew I was capable of more. I wanted to be the brains behind the photo-shoots and select the color palettes for the logo. How wildly glamorous! I bumped up against a few glass ceilings – but dodged quickly around any barriers, not afraid to take chances.
I have had the good fortune of not being limited or chained to a piece of paper which states I am worthy. The majority of managers throughout my career have hired the attitude and if needed, trained the skill. I have never once felt inadequate.With seven more classes to go, I have almost reached Everest. I will forever be the woman who never gave up.