I’m signed up.
In four weeks, I’ll walk onto a college campus for the fourth time. Unlike a year ago, the process demands less fanfare. It’s now a familiar road, one synchronized with the concept of a new normal. Leukemia and school – best friends forever, the beginning of a country song.
My journey gives credence to the age-old advice to never take things for granted. You never know when you’ll get a second chance — or a fourth — to finish what you started.
When Sprycel failed, there was an unrelenting temptation to give up on the idea of ever getting my undergraduate degree. My thinking wasn’t an exercise in the art of pity, it was more the symptom of a swinging pendulum. Every roller coaster has its dull moments.
I knew if I gave in life would become a lot more difficult. To find purpose, I would have to be a lot more creative, develop more relationships, become a better communicator, create a better platform to exhibit my skills, etc. I would have to do things the old-fashioned way, minus the ability to rely on a degree I didn’t have.
I began thinking about many different career scenarios but I kept coming back to the same conclusion — I’d feel empty if I didn’t complete what I started. I knew that no matter how successful I’d become, I’d always regret not getting my degree. If I had all of the money in the world, I’d go back to school. I knew the answer was clear.
In the meantime, two communications jobs came open within Oncor, the company I work for. I was excited, the positions seemed right up my alley. It was the opportunity I had waited for, a chance to finally use my skills and abilities in a career that was more than just a job or a means to the end.
I contacted the hiring manager to introduce myself, provide a little of my background information and to share my desire to work for our communications team. Through our interactions, she told me to contact the professional recruiter who weeds out applicants for the position.
“Don’t take anything personal,” she said. “She’s a tough one.”
The next day I contacted the recruiter with the manager’s advice in mind. I like critique, but I didn’t know what to expect. I told her of my experiences with leukemia, my desire to help people and my efforts outside of a job I didn’t enjoy. She was really intrigued.
It turned out that the recruiter is the president of her own company. We had great conversations about life, careers and everything in-between. She even provided me with positive criticisms about my resume’, something I wouldn’t have otherwise had. I didn’t know what it meant for the communications position, but I knew she was on my side.
A few weeks later, I called to see if she received a final copy of my resume’. Ten minutes into the conversation, she said, “You know, I really hate this, but I don’t think you’ll be able to move the cup for an interview.”
My heart dropped. I knew I could sell myself, I just needed the chance.
“Oh, really?” I asked, trying to mask the disappointment in my voice. I wasn’t surprised. This is a reality of the new normal. The world hammers in the idea over and over again: the conventional jobs, the ones that provide insurance, require degrees.
Although I had been through so much, my mind kept going back to the moment I dropped out of school because I had no clue what I was doing, the time I dropped out because I found out I had leukemia and again when my medicine was no long working.
“Yes, I’m afraid so,” she said. “There are just so many applicants, you’ll likely be pushed out of the top 10.”
She explained to me the process for determining who gets interviews. Points are given for objective items like experience, a college degree, and a degree in a relative field, all things I officially lacked. It was easy to see that, no matter how qualified I was, it was the paper that couldn’t be manipulated. Despite the hiring manager and position recruiter being on my side, there was nothing I could do.
“You’re doing all of the right things,” she encouraged. “Great things will happen for you. I’ll keep you in mind if I hear of anything else.”
I was bummed for a few days, long enough to realize that feeling sad wasn’t going to change my reality. I looked at UTD’s course catalog and decided to go for it again.
Leukemia has held me hostage for too long. I don’t want to be a prisoner anymore. As difficult as this test of endurance has been, I have to keep moving forward.
My major will be Emerging Media and Communications. I’m excited. I’m no longer chasing a degree, I’m chasing a dream.