Yesterday, I had an interesting reflective day and, I went back to a song that I cried to so many times because it touched a fearful nerve that still sits with me today: “I’m Still Holdin On” by Luther Barnes.” If you haven’t heard, listen to it and you will understand why it means so much.
For as long as I can remember I struggled with seeing my own potential. I believed that the hardships that I had faced for 19 years of my childhood [rape, abuse, sex trafficking at my church] were the only things that mattered, and I could never be more than an abused, raped, transient child who had no home. I was not afraid of that life to be honest because it was all I knew. I have lots of family, but I did not have any protection, safety or love, or the three lower levels of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. But like so many, I lived to tell the story only after getting saved (which for me was not an easy feat; just the last choice before taking my own life) at 19 years old, with a 2 month old little girl and another song that came into my spirit, “Order My Steps in Your Word” written by the Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir.
Many people were and continue to be placed on my journey to give advice, teach a class, open a door to a position, etc. All of this was because, as my steps were “ordered”, I believe that God placed people in my path to guide me forward.
Where did I go? I always wanted to go to school, but I really understood that I could not go to school and pay for childcare at the same time. I could not pay daycare prices with McDonalds wages at that time. However, I applied for resources at the community college to assist with childcare (that was actually onsite) and contacted the Medicaid office for help. Additionally, I needed a car because my county did not have a busing system. By this point, I had a man friend, and one of the first things he did was take me to a used car dealership where we found a lovely early 1980’s automatic Toyota for $500. I was set. I started community college in 1991.
NUGGET: When I went to register for my very first set of classes at the community college, I sat before a female academic advisor as a young Black female, with a young baby, in a very rural town. She asked what I wanted to major in, and I said electrical engineering. She reviewed my high school transcript, which showed that I graduated at the top of my North Philadelphia Simon Gratz Class (a very low income, disregarded high school at the time), my parental status, and my race and decided that I was being completely unrealistic. She suggested that I major in childcare. I said, “Thank you” and walked out with a lot of ungodly words in my heart. I found the articulation agreement for North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University (NC A&T) and registered for the courses that would transfer to their Electrical Engineering degree. From that day till this, I’m cautious about being advised about my academic career, as I believe people see what they perceive as weaknesses rather than resilience and/or strengths and survival.
I fully transferred to NC A&T in 1993, by had to withdraw after the semester started due to pregnancy complications. Eventually, we had a healthy girl in March of 1994, and in August of 1994, I returned to NC A&T. Life was crazy, but I was used to crazy, and more importantly I was determined not to quit on me. Everyone in my life before my new little family said I wouldn’t make it, but I would not join that bandwagon. So, when life got crazy for this overachieving perfectionist, I got help.
NUGGET: Your help is ever present; it is not missing. Sometimes, our eyes avert themselves from the help because our pride does not want to humble us to ask. “You have not because you ask not”, says James 4: 2-3. When it got tough, I went to my psychology instructor and told her everything about my life. She listened and she directed me to an amazing FREE resource that I absolutely could not have survived without. You see, I often set high expectations for myself. I had to earn A’s, my family had to have a great mother, I wanted my husband to have a perfect wife, so my first real help was from my psych professor who directed me to FREE therapy.
Finally, in 1998, I walked across the stage at NC A&T with a Bachelor of Science in Psychology (changed my major after my instructor helped me in my junior year) and graduated Summa Cum Laude.
Of course, going to school as an adult with a million challenges is already a mountain too high to climb, but I truly believe that if you start walking you, will have climbed 100 mountains and not be tired, but revived. All of the challenges will become your fuel and all of the voices will become your wind.
The wind continues to fuel my journey.
Pamela Hampton-Garland Ph. D.
Dr. Pamela Hampton-Garland is an Associate Professor of Adult Education at the University of the District of Columbia in Washington, DC. She has a Master of Science degree in Adult Education from North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University and holds a Doctor of Philosophy degree in Curriculum and Teaching, with a Concentration in Cultural Studies, from the University of North Carolina in Greensboro. Her research interest is in the area of Cultural Capital which is comprised of Embodied, Objectified and Institutionalized capital and the role each play in the retention of non-traditional adult learners pursuing higher education. Dr. Hampton-Garland is passionate about life-long learning for adults in various settings. She is happily married to Mr. Vernon Garland and is the mother of two wonderful daughters, Miss Gabrielle Garland and Mrs. Domonique (Garland) Dickson.