Traveling Student

Teresa P. Thompson

© Copyright 2002 by Teresa P. Thompson 

Photo of Teresa.

 I clasp my hand to my graduation cap as I heard my name being called by the college dean.  It had finally happened---I had finally earned my Associate in Arts Degree from the nearby community college.

     Although the task seemed impossible, I had already made the decision to pursue my journalism studies at Eastern Kentucky University in Richmond, which was almost a three hour drive from my home town of Harlan County, Kentucky.

     “Not bad.”  Many would say; except I wasn’t the typical college student who had the freedom of just packing up and moving to the campus.  I was a thirty year old divorced mother of two girls, both of which had their own lives and school to think of.  They were not about to just leave the schools and friends they had known their entire lives; nor was I about to ask that of them.

     Therefore the following fall semester found me facing a journey that I would never forget and would soon come to cherish.  I had made the decision to drive the nearly 200 miles back and forth to classes three days a week.

     “Impossible,” some might say.  And there were times that it seemed just that---“Impossible.”  Especially when a week after classes began, I was called for an interview with the local newspaper in my hometown.

     I knew that it would be an even bigger task to attempt the 40-hour-per-week general assignment reporter position, but I also knew that it was an opportunity of a lifetime.  It was the break that I had been waiting for---“the chance to prove myself as a writer.”

     There was no way that I was going to turn the position down when the managing editor called the following week and said, “You’re hired.  When can you start?”

     There I was, exactly three months after I had graduated from the two year college, attending classes 200 miles away and working a full-time job as a reporter.  Not to mention the fact that I was also the mother of two girls who still needed my supervision and care.

     The extent of exhaustion that I was experiencing was beyond description.  There were times when I did not know if I was “coming” or “going.”  Many times I felt that I met myself at the door.  The days were long and soon I realized that my girls were growing up without their mother.

     It wasn’t until I found myself one afternoon, in my car, waking up from a nap at a restaurant parking lot halfway between Harlan and Richmond that I realized that the exhaustion had taken me over.
     Although I knew that it was time to give something up, I couldn’t see myself just “quitting” either my dream job or my pursuit of a journalism degree.  Therefore I kept pushing myself---the long days at classes, the torturous drive to and from school, the homework that I seemed to be consumed with, the long hours at work and the duties as a mother all seemed to be my calling.

     I wasn’t superwoman, but there I was, after being in a lifeless marriage for twelve long years, I was finally pursuing my own dreams and priorities.   Although I continued this scenario for a year and a half, I am saddened to say that I realized that I had to stop something.  But what would it be that I would give up....

     With one semester to go, during Christmas break 1997, I made the decision to put classes on hold for awhile.  I was planning to take at least that semester off and concentrate on my job and my daughters.  But as fate would have it, I met a wonderful man and fell in love and was married.  Before the fall semester rolled around, I discovered that I was pregnant, and that ended my pursuit of a bachelor’s degree for the moment.

     Christmas 1998 found me the new mother of a third baby daughter, and that’s when the priorities in my life became clear.  Although school had been a wonderful experience and my position as a reporter was a dream come true, it was then that I realized that I needed to devote my entire attention to the girls---all three of them.

     Although I returned to my job after my maternity leave was up, I resigned within a couple of weeks and became a stay-at-home mom.  It has been almost four years since I made that decision, and I have never regretted a day of my choice.

     I am happy to say that I am not only a full-time mother, but I am pursuing my dreams of a writing career by engaging in freelance writing positions.

     Even though I am at home more these days, I hold the trips to and from EKU dear in my heart.  It was a challenge that I chose and it will be a story to tell my grandchildren someday...How their grandmother drove almost 200 miles to classes for a year and a half.  That’s a traveling expedition that not very many people have the opportunity to that I will forever cherish.

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