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Write about a challenge you faced and overcame.

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I’m my own worst enemy. I always think back to times in my life when questions like this come up and it’s always me who has muted myself, dulled my own shine, and keep myself out of the conversation even when it was physically uncomfortable. That tightening of the jaw when the words won’t come out of your mouth fast enough and you can’t manage to spit it out without choking on the syllables. And you do everything in your power to hold back to save yourself the shame of being recognized as an actual person.

I suppose in response to this question was a slow-burning challenge.

Attending college was always the goal for me. But deciding on whether to go further or not wasn’t immediately in the cards.

I could never relate to other students who went to college right out of high school. I had no college funds; I grew up in a working-class military family. Scholarships? I wasn’t allowed to participate in any extracurricular activities because that meant I couldn’t be around to watch my nieces. My place was in the home and if I wanted to go to college, I had to figure shit out on my own. Getting in on only my grades was impossible. I was an okay student, not outstanding. But I loved to learn.

I remember taking the pre-SATs and passing. Every four-year university expects you to submit SAT scores so I thought I would take them to see if I could. I don’t recall the score now but something inside me asked, “why would you put yourself through this kind of pressure? What are you trying to prove?”

I ended up at community college, starting at Modesto Junior College. I actually got my tuition paid as a resident of California and my dad’s military service. All I did was pay student fees which were about $20/semester at the time. I was an idiot to leave California. I could’ve had the state pay for my entire undergrad!!

When I moved to Nevada, the VA at CSN (it was called CCSN when I registered) laughed in my face. They were like, we thought you were the vet, and I’m like no, I’m the daughter of the vet, Nevada won’t pay my tuition? They were like, yeah, no. We don’t do that here.

LITERALLY their facial expression

I had to reassess what I wanted to do to move forward. I wasn’t keen on taking loans out so I started working full-time and taking just enough credits to be full-time so that I could stay on my parents’ insurance for as long as possible. It was tough.

By the time I was done, I was done. I was mentally exhausted but I learned a lot about myself as a person and what I wanted to do with my career. I was pleased with my job at the time but as the years steam-rolled on, I realized that graduate school is where I needed to be.

What a to-do. I requested prospective student materials, attended an info session in-person, and applied using a story that I wrote during a social media blackout (An Idol Story will always be my baby).

But even as I was doing that, I was talking myself out of it. I could write if I put my mind to it. However, I was the only one funding my lifestyle and that does take a toll on your creative reserves when you’re worried about what bill to pay next. I would write in spurts and think to myself, this is sustainable.

It was not.


Eventually, I got in and completely picked up 90% of my life to move back to the Bay Area.

I’m grateful that I shut the voice up in my head and leaped headfirst off the cliff into a truly creative life. I feel like I’ve opened myself up to growing further than I ever thought possible.

And the great thing is that I’ve never quit learning. I’m taking an in-person poetry class with a former poet laureate of Clark County. We began meeting this week and already I can feel words and phrases and that nervous energy that wants me to put pen to paper. I missed that during this self-imposed sabbatical.

Being creative is giving yourself permission to get out of your comfort zone. I think this is especially true when you’re trying to be an adult and keep the lights on. It’s okay to schedule a weekly time to be creative because maybe that’s all you can do while the world is falling apart.

tree branch