Higher Education

I was not a very good student.  My report cards from elementary and secondary school all boasted the same sentence prefaced with this phrase “If only Tonya would apply herself more…”   

Aside from English, my marks in all the other subjects were close to failing or mediocre at best.


Math I didn’t get… at all.  That frustrated my teachers to no end and me to tears.

Geography seemed useless – really I needed to know the capital of Tanzania?

History was boring – All those dates and important people who have long since walked this earth – what’s so important about that?

So at 17, a little wide-eyed and naive, I decided that perhaps I should get a little guidance about my future and booked an appointment to talk with a counsellor.

I’ll never forget that day.  A country hick sat down in a country school guidance office with a report card, the 50s and 60s screaming inadequacy and failure.  I was looking for a future, a sense of direction.  And then I got the look.  The guidance counsellor glanced down at my marks and then up at me, his eyebrows rose right up to the start of his receding hairline and he pursed his lips.  His breath came out in one big sigh and he started with “Look…”

And with that word and the words that followed I felt the death blow of defeat.  Failure became my middle name and I wore it like a badge.  “Get married” he said, “have children” he said, “work in a dress shop” he said.

He didn’t come right out and say, “You’ll never make it.  You’ll never succeed.”  But he might as well have, because what I heard that day was…

“You are stupid…”

And it is amazing what you let your mind choose to believe, how one interaction shapes your years and life.  How one misguided conversation leads you down a path to that thing that is your life.

I followed his advice.  I got married, gave birth to two children, I even worked in a dress shop.  And please don’t misunderstand, had I been given the choice again I would’ve chosen my life now, all over again, every single moment.  But what I wouldn’t choose again is the name of Failure.

What I wouldn’t choose again, is the absolute paralyzing fear I would experience when I would make a mistake at work.  I wouldn’t choose the constant looking over my shoulder and wondering when the next person would call me Failure.

So when my current boss approached me 7 years ago and asked me to rewind my life, give a play by play of why I never went further with my education this was the story I told him.  And when he pointed me in the direction of University I thought he had lost his ever loving mind. 

And I don’t remember how I overcame my fear that year, how I shed the name of Failure and made the application.  I do remember that when the call came that hot summer day telling me that I had been accepted and would start part time that September I wept like a little girl. 

And for the first time in a long time I felt the stirrings of a vision.  A faint heartbeat of a purpose thrum a steady rhythm as I placed one tentative foot in front of the other and pursued this dream that I didn’t even know existed.

For seven years I have been doggedly pursuing this dream of obtaining my degree.  Seven years of a 40 hour work week, parenting, marriage and cramming school into the edges of my day.  Seven years.

So it really didn’t come as any surprise this past February when I began to feel restless in my spirit.  It didn’t really come as any surprise that I felt the frustration of being stuck in a job I no longer felt called to be doing.  It didn’t really come as any surprise when I felt God whisper a crazy idea to my heart about a forty-something returning to school full time.   

A forty-something girl catching the dream of her youth.

So this September this wonderfully crazy, insanely impossible dream will become a reality.  I am breathless with excitement, a little knock kneed with fear but I wouldn’t exchange any of it for one single moment.


God spoke to my heart and pushed His holy breath up under these fledgling wings and I am soaring with possibility and the updraft of His grace.

Take delight in the Lord,
and he will give you your heart’s desires.

Commit everything you do to the Lord.
Trust him, and he will help you. (Psalm 37:4 & 5 NLT)


  1. So proud of you girl! So very proud – and excited!

    • Thank you friend. I’m so excited too!! I just can’t wait and part of me is scared spitless. But God’s got this. Right?

  2. I want to punch that counselor in the face. I love the way you wrote this, and how you embrace the life you have, but pinpoint the motivation and the fear as the issue. And I’m so proud of you for fighting for this, and for going back. I know that I had some classes when I was in college at 19 and 20 with adults who came back, and they had a great influence on me. I’ll pray that you get that extra bonus as well. 🙂

    • Oh I read your comment and I laughed out loud. I love being a mature student, I love the perspective that life has given me!! Thanks for your prayers… I’ll need them. EEEKK!!! 42 year old college student… who knew?

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