5.18.19

I AM A COLLEGE GRADUATE

Today I am going to tell you a story that I hope will inspire you, and show you that you are capable of doing exactly what you put your mind to. I am not proud of all of the details, I feel vulnerable even sharing this, but I know someone will be benefitted from hearing my story. Even if it is just one person, that is worth it to me.My college graduation was on May 8th, 2019, and although the week of celebration was great, it was not an easy ride to get there.I was never good at school. It could be because I almost failed my high school math classes, because I could never find the motivation to do my homework growing up, or because my anxiety kept me home from school a lot of the time growing up. I was always behind, always confused, and always, always embarrassed of where I stood academically. I will never forget the day I realized how much I was struggling, and that it was not a secret. I vividly remember hearing a classmate tell me in junior high that I would never be able to get into college. I was so hurt by that, I walked away from that comment hearing “Your life won’t amount to anything, so don’t even bother trying”. For a long, long time I replayed that moment in my mind. The rest of junior high, all throughout high school, every time I got a test or an assignment back with a giant “F” on the top of it, or ANOTHER 23% on my math tests, I shrugged… “Yep, exactly. Never getting into college”. You can imagine the amount of motivation or expectations I had for myself. Sure, there were some classes I did well in, but even if I was maintaining a “B” or a “C” average in there I felt absolutely… stupid. I dreaded the idea of applying to college for years. By the time it was “college application time”, I had no real plan or desire to create a future for myself. I knew my family was moving, but I had no idea whether or not I would go with them, or stay home. I didn’t have anything I was particularly “good” at, so trying to pick a major seemed like the death of me. And, of course my grades were not what I needed in order to get into the schools that seemed “cool” or “popular”. I started the application process at a lot of colleges during my senior year of high school, but never had the guts to actually submit a large majority of my applications because I knew I would get a rejection letter. Rewinding just a little bit, I found out in November of my senior year that my parents were relocating to Atlanta. I had all the intentions of staying home, going to school with (or near my friends, depending on where I could get in to), but one morning my mom took me out to breakfast, and shared with me a list of schools that she found in Atlanta that I could potentially be able to cheer at in college, and hopefully be able to get into. Long story short, I ended up in Georgia that weekend at a cheer clinic at Kennesaw State University and had an application submitted to that school. To be honest, I was bitter about the move. I did not want to leave my home, and I went to the clinic with intentions of hating it and giving my mom the big “I told you so. I am staying home.” To my dismay, I actually… loved it. I met people I felt like I knew for a lifetime who made me feel talented, at home, and important (hey, Gary). Before I knew it, my heart was set on this school that allowed me to have a fresh start. No one had to know about my struggles, my anxiety, and the things I felt embarrassed to be. I went home, got my trip planned for January (KSU’s next cheer clinic) and prepared to get ready for the next four years I would be spending at KSU. I headed down to Georgia in January, still awaiting that big acceptance letter where I would finally get to prove the people who doubted me (including myself wrong). If you have heard my story before, here is the part you probably did not hear. I got to my hotel in Atlanta, laid down in my bed, and saw an email from Kennesaw State University admissions. It was finally here! I was going to a four year university!!! I opened the email, and could not believe what I saw. Tears welled up in my eyes as I told my family (who just drove from Illinois to Georgia) to take me to this cheer clinic what I saw. “I was denied…” My chest hurt in a way I had never felt before. “There is NO way I am going to this stupid clinic tomorrow. Not a chance.” Those old thoughts about my life and my worth were creeping back in. My mom held me and said, “I am not going to force you to go, but I still think you probably should”. I had zero intentions of going to the clinic, but when I woke up that next morning (the morning of the clinic) I felt a peaceful presence come over me, and I heard God tell me “Go. Just go.”Romans 10:17 says, “So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.” With tears rolling down my cheeks I put on my KSU apparel, a big bow in my hair, and put on my old, trusty high school cheer shoes. My heart broke at the clinic as I learned the school song for a school I would never get to cheer for, and met people I would never get to cheer with. At the end of that weekend I sat in the backseat of my Ford Edge on the entire drive back to Illinois trying to come up with how I would tell the people in my tiny town that I didn’t get accepted into this school that I had made a huge deal about. I remember praying (which to be honest, I had not done very much of back then) that God would fix this, and that I would get in to college SOMEWHERE. I felt my phone vibrate, looked down, and saw another email from Kennesaw State University admissions that said the words I prayed to read. “Congratulations! You have been accepted to Kennesaw State University for the Fall 2016 semester.” Later, I figured out that I had not properly completed the application process originally, and it was not valid. But, it was corrected over the weekend, and my admission was approved. I knew in that moment I would never take my college education for granted. I learned to trust God that day. To trust that even amidst the rejection, and the hurt that He still intended on giving me exactly what He wanted for me. 2 Corinthians 9:8 says, “And God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work.”Later on, I saw my transcripts and still to this day I really do not know how I was accepted to this school. I completed high school with a low GPA, I did not meet the course expectations to get into KSU (missing a math and a science class). I did not deserve the admission, but I am so grateful that I got it anyways. I worry that had I gotten accepted that first time, I would not have set goals for myself the way I ended up doing. God did some really interesting things within my first two years of college that brought me experiences, jobs, people, and goals that I knew I wanted to achieve to prove myself, and those who doubted me wrong. Within those two years I learned, I loved, I lost, I grew, I changed, and I decided to make a name for myself. I grinded, and I grinded hard. I struggled taking nineteen credit hour semesters, cheering at the collegiate level, balancing duties and fulfilling roles I had never fulfilled before. But, I knew that I would graduate. In fact, I would graduate early. And what the heck? Why not do it with honors? In college I put a lot of pressure on myself for the first time, I took my education seriously. I chose to be in my dorm studying at 2 AM rather than going out with my classmates, I chose to leave people and things behind that were not helping me achieve my goals. It was SO not easy physically or emotionally. I was cramming, and I felt like I had to work so much harder than everyone around me because none of it was coming naturally to me. Luckily, I found a major (after FIVE major changes) that allowed me to study communications, fashion, and marketing. A major that taught me all about the things I actually cared about. The next thing I knew, I was 15 credit hours away from graduating college. Working two jobs, being an athlete, blogging, and taking full load semesters (including summers) was a challenge for me. But, every time I felt tired or like it wasn’t worth it, I would remind myself of where I came from and how far I had come. Psalm 18:2 says, “The Lord is my rock, my fortress, and my deliverer; my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.”May 8th, 2019 finally rolled around and I walked across the stage, and was handed my diploma. I had done it. I beat the challenges that tried to stump me. I dealt with a lot of unfortunate circumstances throughout college, but I just prayed my way through them, that God would not let those roadblocks get in my way. My journey of education, and especially college was not always easy. Through the hurt, the stress, the heartbreak, the embarrassment, the loss of my sport, and the other challenges, I was able to seek refuge in Christ, and with His guidance, I was able to do it. I graduated from Kennesaw State University with a Bachelor of Science in Integrative Studies with an emphasis in Communications, and Apparel and Textiles with a minor in Engagement Marketing. I graduated Cum Laude and I was hired at a company I have wanted to work for for years less than a week before graduation. God always provides. I hope this inspires you to do whatever it is you want to do. Whether it is completing school, getting that promotion, fulfilling a role you were unsure you could fill, or even just trusting God in a rocky circumstance, I hope you find value in my story. Whatever you are going through… you’ve got this. You are worthy of all the things you hope to receive, and you are worthy of reaching the goals you have set for yourself. It is not always easy, but it is always worth it.

XO

,Maz

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