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  • Jenny

30. A Defining Moment: My Graduation in Miami

Not every trip I have taken was for the intention of pure enjoyment. This particular trip was taken as a great sense of pride and accomplishment. Unbeknownst to anyone but a few select family members and close friends, I was secretly pursuing my masters degree in psychology online in the evenings after work. By keeping it private, it motivated me to successfully keep my work and school responsibilities separate from each other, where one never affected the other. I also felt like I didn’t need to announce what I was doing for personal reasons; I needed to prove to myself—and myself alone—what I was capable of, without anyone’s approval or disapproval swaying my experience.

And what I found I was capable of was graduating with a full masters in a year and a half with a 4.0, all while holding down a full-time job, being a hands-on single mother, and offering my services as a part-time volunteer for a website community.

Tired though I was, I was passionate about it all, and it filled my life with joy.

I love school and learning; I always have. And since it was online, everything was written, including long final papers, and crazy as it sounds to others, it was an educational pursuit come true to use my written word over physical participation. The time came for my graduation, which was to be held in Miami. I had officially graduated in August, but the ceremony was not until January. During this lapse in time, I also enrolled in and became certified as a life coach, so the completion of my education and training coincided with this official graduation.

It was an extremely bittersweet time for me. I was so incredibly proud of myself for what I had accomplished, and the success in which I accomplished it. I was honored to go to Miami to sit among my peers and be called up to receive my official diploma. My family was unable to attend for financial reasons; plus, I couldn’t afford to also fly my children down with me, so I had asked my mom to stay behind and watch them, so that I would feel at peace. There was going to be a live online viewing of the

event, so although it was not the same as being there in person, it gave me and my family some comfort to know that they would absolutely be there in some way, even if in spirit.

I wasn’t disappointed in that, really. I understood completely, and this was more of something I needed to do for myself rather than for others. I knew I had the love and support back home, rooting me on. My children were busy making me presents for when I returned, along with planning a little surprise party for me. And when I came home, I did have all that love, joy and pride of my family and friends who recognized me and made my graduation time really special.

The only time it felt a little sad was when I walked across the stage to get my diploma, with my name called out, knowing there was no one in the audience genuinely clapping for me, or waiting to give me a hug. However, there was another girl I had befriended who generously shared her family with me, who were more than happy to give me hugs of pride and congratulate me in the moment.

But the feeling of immense joy made all of it worth it. I had done this.

I had sacrificed long nights reading, writing and studying to earn top grades and graduate with honors. Divorce did not bring me down, but instead, inspired me to take on this risk. It never affected my job, or my time with my children, but it gave me a true sense of identity. I was no longer just a mom, or just an employee—I was my own woman, following my dreams, and making them happen.

This was for me, and although I do not need a piece of paper to prove my worth, it certainly made me feel special and accomplished. I just needed to have faith in myself.

As magical as this moment was for me, there were also other situations going on in my life that made this a less than stellar moment for me. I had just come home from another trip out to Los Angeles the week before, where I was able to meet even more of the amazing connections I had made online at a special anniversary party. That was a wonderful part of the trip, where friendships were deepened and new memories were made.

But not everything was as warm and fuzzy as the times before, and relationship breakdowns were happening, and trusts were being broken.

I was questioning who my friends truly were, and why I was exerting so much energy into people and activities that didn’t seem to be investing back in me. On top of all of that turmoil was another turn of events that put a bit of a damper on my trip to Miami, which ended in not being able to meet up with

a new friend of mine I still believe I am destined to meet one day.

Yes, my purpose down there was to receive my diploma with pride, which I did. But sitting at a Cuban café, and sitting alone on the beach the day before was not how I had envisioned this trip. The vibe of relationship breakdowns everywhere was not what I envisioned during that whole month. Two trips gone wrong, which should have been such utter highlights of my life.

I guess in a sense they were; they highlighted the character of who I was being during that time, and the hypocrisy of expectations I held of others versus the standards I bent for myself and my own behavior. It made me take a good, hard look at who I had become.

Yes, I was a successful business woman, with a new degree, certification and additional wisdom in metaphysical subjects. But what I also was, was a mom who spent a little too much time socializing, flirting and avoiding sitting still in an attempt to block out the pain and seek the attention that I thought I was denied throughout my marriage (and my childhood).

It was an awakening that I was seeking way too much external validation and hope to get me through some trying years.

And it was the culmination of these two trips that led me to truly accept the healing I had ahead of me: to find my self-worth, my self-respect and my self-love. And to recognize that all that was happening was a necessary breakdown to lead me within.

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