This is our oldest daughter, Jessica. And today she graduated from Brigham Young University.
Attending her commencement and convocation exercises was amazing. I can't even begin to describe my pride in her achievements and in the incredible young woman she is.
We don't have much money. We live paycheck to paycheck and always have. At times of job loss we've been on food stamps and church assistance. My husband and I both attended some college, but neither of us finished our degrees.
Jessica loves learning. She's so smart and works hard. She always wanted to go to college and I've known for most of her life that we couldn't afford to send her. I remember telling her that if she wanted to go to college, she'd need a scholarship or would have to work her way through. Turns out she needed both.
She earned a full-tuition scholarship for four years through good grades and test scores. Some of her abilities are genetic, to be sure. She's a quick learner and has been blessed with a mind that works the way the school systems are set up to test. But she also had to put forth a lot of effort. She had to sacrifice things she wanted, which sometimes meant her social life. But she did it.
But there was still the cost of books. And for a time there was the cost of living away from home. And there was the expense of her trip to Russia to teach English to young children for four months. She paid for these things herself almost in entirety.
For the first two years of her schooling she worked a 4:00am job as a custodian. For the next year she worked a 6:00am job as a custodian. And near the end she finally got her dream job - doing custodial work in the evening. (Just kidding about that being her dream job, but the timing sure was better.) All of this to pay for her books and other things she needed, because we couldn't. And she worked these jobs while carrying a full-time load of classes.
Everyone has their own path in life. Not everyone will go to college, nor should they. I don't think success is measured by whether or not a person has a degree or how much money they earn. I don't think a person will be happier just because they have a bachelor's degree.
But what I do think will make a person happier and what does constitute success is an ability to have a dream, to want something with all their heart, and to have the drive to make it happen.
These last two days I got to see my daughter realize a dream of hers that she's worked so hard for almost all her life. And it was an absolutely amazing experience!