How I Learned to Be Someone I Never Thought I Could Be

 My family and I recently relocated for my husband’s new job. On my commute to work I pass under a well-known bridge in Houston that is covered in graffiti art. The artwork that resonates most with me reads, “Be Someone.” I view it as an everyday reminder to create a new goal for myself between my home and the office. A few of the daily goals I’ve set for myself have been to:

  • Be Someone that puts in a little extra effort when no one else will.
  • Be Someone that gets to work early to ensure I get to my son’s football game before it starts.

I’ve been juggling family, work and school for the last 5 years. I’m grateful to have 3 great kids and a husband who have supported me in my goal to return to college for my bachelor’s degree. Yes, you heard right, my bachelor’s degree.

When I was 18 and graduating high school. I didn’t have a lot of motivation to go to college. I was ready to be an adult, start living on my own and I felt that I could get to where I wanted to go without going to college. My parents didn’t go to college and they seemed just fine so why did I need to go? Those were my exact thoughts back then. Thus, I went straight into the work force in the oil and gas industry. 

I worked hard to differentiate myself by taking on tasks that no one else wanted to do. I put in extra hours to make sure everything stayed on schedule.  I trained others that were in the same position as I was on other projects to make sure the company was successful.  I took every opportunity to attend training events to improve my skill set.

Eventually, I met with my department chief and showed him a job analysis to prove that my position had evolved beyond my job description and my current salary. This helped me progress not only to a different title but also to another pay grade (without a college degree.)  During that time, I worked alongside degreed individuals and made the same amount if not more money than they did.  Although this gave me a sense of accomplishment, I knew in my heart that it wasn’t sustainable. 

When the oil and gas industry is good, it’s great!  When it’s bad, it’s terrible. When a downturn hits, it doesn’t matter who you are, there is always a chance that you will be laid off.  That is exactly what happened to me in March of 2016. 

At this point, I had to really dig deep to figure out what I wanted my future to look like. After doing a little research I found this study on the income gap between young college and high school graduates. On average, those with only a high school diploma with the same amount of experience will make $17-24$k less and have a higher unemployment rate than those with a bachelor’s degree. The issue of whether it should matter if a qualified candidate does or does not have a college degree is debatable. However, there is no black and white answer and it often depends on the company and the industry. 

What I really wanted for myself and my family was a management role and a competitive salary that was sustainable. After much reflection, I knew that I was about as far up the ladder as I could go without a college degree. My chances of landing a management role with a new company were slim to none.

We all know there are several variations of a glass ceiling, some we can control and some we can’t. At this point in my life, I did have some control. I researched a ton of online programs because I was looking for a curriculum that would be immediately applicable to the oil & gas industry. Realistically, I knew I couldn’t commit to an in-person program because I was juggling a full-time job and raising a family.

In the fall of 2013, I started pursuing my BS in Industrial Engineering Technology through an ABET accredited online program with The University of Southern Mississippi.  I grew to love the flexibility of going to school online, but it’s important to know that it is not easy by any means.  It takes a self-motivated and dedicated person to be an online student and you must have excellent time management skills. 

This December when I walk across the stage to receive my diploma it will be exactly 20 years since I finished high school.  I am a true believer in that it is never too late to go back to college. As I push through these last couple of months, the graffiti message I read each day has taken on a whole new meaning for me. I will Be Someone my 18-year-old self never thought I could be.

What type of Someone have you Become or what Someone do you aspire to Be? Share your thoughts by replying below.

  • My mom went back to school full time with 4 kids at home (she had a 2 year nursing degree right out of high school) while also working and went on to get her bachelor's and master's degrees doing mostly distance learning classes - so your story feels so familiar. As a child of a mom who pursued her degree(s) as a non-traditional student, I can tell you firsthand that you are a great role model for your kids by prioritzing your aspirations! Looking back I have no idea how my mom did it (we were 13, 11, 9 & 7 when she started), but the end result was definitely worth it. We all attended her graduation & watched her accept her diploma - so I understand how important that is for you. It was her first time actually being on the University of Iowa campus (which later also became my alma mater). Thanks for the great post & sharing your story!
  • I would like to be someone who inspires people. I have a voice and a lot to say. However, I'm shy about sharing personal facts. That's why I love your story, it's personal and powerful. It inspires me.