Just this morning I was online chatting with a group of FB friends about some important life decisions they’re considering. Like anyone making important life decisions, there was some self- doubt being sloshed around. Should I go back to school? Is it possible to get a job overseas? Am I too old to do this? Aside from the questions, there was one statement that stood out from the rest.
Thank you for the encouraging words…I was going to give up on that road.
This entire chat got me thinking about the things that hold us back from our goals. That final statement made it abundantly clear. There are already so many roadblocks we encounter in life and the biggest one is us.
Let me share a story. It’s a personal one I’ve shared with only a few.
When I was a senior in high school, it became painfully apparent going to college just wasn’t in the cards for me. I made excellent grades. Being the drum major, I was the supreme queen band nerd. I excelled in music and was involved in a ridiculous amount of extracurricular activities. I even received a “Youth of the Year” plaque from the Exchange Club. Yes, I was that kid. Even with all that, college was out of my reach for a variety of reasons I’ll leave for another day.
I was desperate to get away. I knew I had to leave to make something positive happen. Staying put was a fast road to nowhere, so I made the decision to become a U.S. Marine. Here’s where the roadblocks became mountains.
My recruiter had never placed a woman in the Corps before. Never. He wasn’t about to start with me. As soon as I walked into the recruiting station, he sat me down at his desk so he could go talk to the man in charge down the hall. This is what I heard.
Gunny, there’s this girl out here. How do I get rid of her?
Give her the tests, and when she fails, you can get rid of her.
Yes, that happened. I’ll continue this part of my story later. Let’s jump to my family’s reaction. Oh joy.
Not one person. Let me repeat that. Not one person in my family supported my idea to join the Marine Corps. Not one person thought I could actually do it. Not one person had an encouraging word to boost my confidence. No one voiced an affirmation. No one. One family member even went so far as to bring a deranged friend home from the bar, who apparently served in the Army during the Vietnam War, so he could get in my face and tell me how the Corps was going to ship me off to Guam where I would be raped every day while there. Yes, he actually told me I would be raped every day if I joined the Marine Corps.
Let me fast forward 25 years later to today’s chat with my FB friends. I’m so glad to be a part of a group that offers encouragement to one another. It’s nice to hear the affirmation, the support. But what if that group didn’t exist? What if you’re that person without a group? Perhaps you’re that person with a dream that no one understands. Perhaps you’re that person with a goal no one thinks you can achieve. Perhaps you’re like the 18-year-old Jen with no one telling you they have confidence in you. No one to tell you yes, you can do this, go for it.
The bottom line, you have to have confidence in yourself. You have to recognize the value in what you want to achieve and the greatness that awaits you at the other end of the road, wherever that road may lead. There are more than enough people in this world who will either just ignore you when you talk about wanting to achieve something more or will say something negative to discourage you from even trying. Whatever it is you want to do, you have to do it for yourself. Not for anybody else. For you.
What would have happened if I had let the recruiter discourage me or let my family’s lack of confidence keep me from joining the Marine Corps? I don't know, but I can tell you what wouldn’t have happened.
I would not have been the first woman my recruiter placed in the Corps. I would not have graduated in the Honor Platoon from Parris Island. I would not have been the first woman Marine to receive the Sergeant Major Dan Daly Award. I would not have been the first woman editor for the Quantico Sentry. And I would not have experienced the sense of accomplishment and feeling of pride that came from two meritorious promotions and a Navy Achievement Medal.
And who knows? If I had not become a Marine, perhaps I would not have graduated from college either. Maybe I wouldn’t have my master’s degree. Maybe I wouldn’t be pursuing a PhD. I definitely would not have met all the wonderful people along the way who have helped shape me into the person I am right now. Specifically, I’m talking about my wonderful husband.
I’m not listing all the highlights as a way to toot my own horn. Anyone who knows me well knows I don’t ever talk about any of this stuff. And don’t think everything was roses either. I didn’t mention the demotion I experienced between the meritorious promotions or the divorce I had to go through before meeting said wonderful husband. The setbacks are all a part of the journey. But those are stories for another day.
What I do know is whatever your goals are, whatever your desires are, whatever you want to achieve, you have to have the confidence in yourself to go for it. Don’t let anyone else make that decision for you. My wish for you is this, take that step forward and let your journey begin. I promise you, you will be happy you did.
Jennifer Furlong has 25 years’ experience in the communication field and teaches communication and public speaking courses in the Savannah area. She earned a B.A. and M.A. in Communication from George Mason University in Fairfax, Va. She currently resides in Richmond Hill, Ga. with her family of canines, felines, and humans. Let's be social! Follow me on Facebook, Instagram, Tumblr, and Twitter. Just look for Professor SpeechLady. See you in cyberspace.
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