I believe in the power of self-determination. My life cannot be led by someone else; it is up to the me to chart out my own course. I was granted free will for a reason, to be able to choose, no matter the circumstance, the outcome of my life. I know that nothing is out of reach when you have enough determination.
I grew up in rural South Georgia, the land of continuity and complacency. Where getting married and having children is the main goal in life. Where gossip and religion rule. Where everyone knows exactly how their life is going end up.
From an early age I knew I wanted more – to meet new people, to travel, to taste the exotic, and of course to seek my fortune. I also knew that I could not do that at home. I recall sitting in my sixth grade social studies class and over hearing some of my friends discussing which church they were getting married in, which neighborhood they were going to live in, and which elementary school their children were going to attend. It was at that moment that I realized how different I was from everyone around me – I didn’t want anything they were discussing. Of course I could have had everything I could ever need if I stayed – an education, a decent job, a family, and other great amenities that so many would kill to have – but I just wanted more. No one else could understand why in the world I would want to leave; they couldn’t grasp how I could ever leave the comfort and security of Coffee County. I just had to do it myself.
I began plotting my escape in middle school, dreaming of the day I could leave. After years of scrolling the pages of The Princeton Review, my senior year finally came. The “counselors” at my high school did little more than tout the wonders of community college, my parents wanted me to stay close to home and save money, while my friends wanted me to go to state school and party with them. It was up to me to make my dream come true.
On a class trip to Washington, DC, a certain something caught my eye – everything was so completely different from home. My senses were overloaded; everywhere I looked there was something even more wonderful than before:
monuments, museums, restaurants, embassies, businesses, schools, and most importantly – self-driven individuals. I then found a place right smack in the middle of it all, The George Washington University. I had found my new home.
Back in Georgia, it took more than a mere description to sway my family into letting me go. Their utter lack of enthusiasm to the entire process nearly stopped me. They tried their hardest to discourage me by refusing monetary support. But there was nothing that could stop me – several student loans later and I was on my way to our nations capital. I didn’t care that I was mortgaging my future away – I was finally free.
I’m not comparing myself to Cubans risking their life on a raft to Florida for freedom – but I would like to think we all share something in common, the personal power to better ourselves, no matter the cost. I believe that anything can be done through self-determination, but only when it is coupled with the absolute desire to do so.
If you enjoyed this essay, please consider making a tax-deductible contribution to This I Believe, Inc.