Often the life changing decisions we make that lead to our most remarkable experiences can be traced back to a defining moment. My personal experience is not particularly unusual, until one considers the most pivotal decision that shaped my future was born in a small computer lab at the University of Illinois Chicago. It was thirteen years ago, and I was a twenty year old single mother sitting in a comfortable office chair vigorously typing a term paper. With little less than two hours before I was to board a train back to the suburbs to retrieve my daughter, I had an epiphany. Somewhere halfway through my writing session I decided that I wanted to be an academic. It was not the self-induced coffee frenzy, or the pressure that I felt to complete the word count, but it was the high of accomplishing a goal. I had achieved the level of success necessary in my days of studying quantitative and qualitative research to now complete my essay. However this paper turned out, I knew I was changed forever. It was at that moment that I knew I wanted to conduct research, solve problems, and employ ideas that changed the beliefs of others.
Back in those days my ritual began at 6:00 a.m. I would wake up in my small apartment, and get myself and my special needs daughter Taylor dressed before I called a taxi to transport us to the babysitter. The taxi would drop us off, at the sitter just before sunrise. After placing my daughter’s carrier in the vestibule of the caregiver’s home, I positioned my hands in my pockets and tightened my backpack for the five block walk to the bus stop. As I waited at the corner for the bus, the concepts for my paper that I would write later that day flowed through my mind, and my enthusiasm for the day’s challenges increased.
Thirteen years, three cities, and three academic degrees later, I still have the identical aspiration to do something that matters in the lives of people. Through the long days at UIC, struggling to raise an autistic and deaf child, I never lost the motivation or purpose I discovered that day in the lab. Although the busyness has subsided, I still have a tremendous desire for The Good Life; life filled with passion and purpose.
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