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Who Do You Want to Be?

January 6
by
Steve Aanstoos
in
Inspirational People
with
.

Do you remember the first day you were dropped off at college? What it felt like? The huge campus you thought would take years to get familiar with? The culture shock of a new town, new place to live, new people?


The desolate, extremely small, old, 12×14 box they call a dorm you were supposed to live in for a year? The feeling of the unknown and the uncertainty that lay ahead? All of these things can be very overwhelming at first and can distract from the true purpose of college … which in my opinion is to balance the whole “college experience” and at the end of the day master your skills in some field of studies you truly enjoy.

For me, growing up I always had a sense of direction, always aspired to do great things, but I really never grasped or questioned how that would look long-term.

I will never forget the day I was dropped off at college at James Madison University. For me, I believe it was a very different departure than most. My mom promised me that she wouldn’t cry or make a scene … and she actually followed through with that promise (It probably helped that I was attending the same university as her and how close I still was to home.)

However, something I will never forget for the rest of my life happened at our final goodbye. I was left with words from my Mom saying, “Steve, if there is one piece of advice I could give you – please try to figure out what you are truly passionate about early, and the money and success will surely follow, I love you.”

Most kids leave home for college and want nothing to do with their parents. But our parents are our greatest mentors. My mom’s comment was powerful and sticks with me to this day. And you may wonder why she left me with these words. The truth is most people who go to college have no idea what they want to do.

My mother told me when she was in my exact same position she wanted to have a “good” life and pursued a BBA in Business Management. Four years go by and she gets her degree. Shortly following, my mom was breezing through a fairly high paying job and worked for a long time having a very successful career.

After about 20 years she hit a major wall in her career and life.

She was truly unhappy with the path she had gone down and felt she was definitely missing something. This was the definition of a mid-life crisis in my opinion at the age of 44 my mom decided to quit her job, and pursue her true passion – teaching.

My mom did the unthinkable, in her mind (and mine), and went back to obtain her Master’s Degree in Education at George Mason University. This was done at the age of 52, after 8 years of substitute teaching. Once she obtained her Masters of Education, she then was able to get a full time 1st grade job teaching special education students.

It took my mom about 2 years to obtain their master’s while substitute teaching full time on the side and attending classes at night. Her job hours currently are about two times as long as her other job with far less than half the pay. Who would want to take this sort of job? It takes a very passionate, caring, and loving person, and to me, my mom is all of that and more.

A lot of kids in, or planning on attending college want to pursue a high-paying career, eventually start a family, and live happily ever after right? That seems like a pretty solid life plan to me.

But what about making a difference in this world – because after all that is the ultimate test of legacy and impact.

You can’t take with you the money, cars, clothes, or any of the materialistic items – but you can leave behind something that you are proud of and something that makes this world a better place.

This is a story about change, influence, and everyone who is unsure of their future. My mother changed her career at the age of 44. For all of the people out there thinking they want to be successful and wealthy remember this, “The greatness of a man is not in how much wealth he acquires, but in his integrity and his ability to affect those around him positively.”

This can be told time and time again and people will understand, however, people truly need concrete stories and real life examples in order for it really to have an impact on their own lives. This in turn will hopefully set off a chain reaction of them trying to influence other lives and will only make this earth a better place.

Tomorrow I challenge everyone reading this to reflect on where they have been, where they are currently, and where they plan on going – it is never ever too late, my mom is a prime example.

Reflect on the past, live in the present, and plan for the future. Reflect on all the good and bad things that have happened to you, live in the here and now – because at the end of the day that is all you can control, and plan for a future that you would be truly happy living and everything will fall into place.

Lastly, for everyone out there who is afraid or unsure about their future…that is perfectly okay. Uncertainty is one of the strongest motivators out there and you should use it as encouragement and fuel for chasing your dreams rather than a deterrent.


This story about my mom is a reminder that the earlier you find your passion the better, however, it is never too late. I leave you with one of my favorite quotes, “Don’t go where the path may lead, go where there is no path and leave a trail.”

-Ralph Waldo Emerson

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