Here I am now: a 19-year old senior in college, planning on finishing this degree in December and pursuing my life-long goal of becoming an officer in the military.
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When I was 16, I did something most high school sophomores didn't think was possible. I left high school with a Certificate of Proficiency- ready to take on the world and leave my mark.

Making the decision to do so was easy. Taking the exam was fairly easy. Leaving the high school I hated was easy. What wasn't easy was dealing with the consequences- the large amounts of disbelief from friends and classmates, the questioning of my sanity from family members, and the one thing almost everyone in my life seemed to have in common: I was setting myself up for failure.

That's when I knew I had to prove them all wrong. After taking a semester off, I started college at the age of 16, taking 15 units and still unable to legally "represent" myself. As time went on, I came to realize that college was my thing. I suppose I did really well because classmates would be amazed at my work and assume I was in my 20's (maybe my brain was, but definitely not my baby face). Before I knew it, my classmates turned into my support system and my professors became my friends.

I found myself here. I found my true passion at that school. Believe it or not, my love for communication grew from taking a Public Speaking class. Eager to learn as much as I could, I enrolled in more communication classes and soon fell in love with each and every one of them. Time flashed by, because a month after I turned 19, I got my AA in Communication with the intent to transfer out to a 4-year university.

Here I am now: a 19-year old senior in college, planning on finishing this degree in December and pursuing my life-long goal of becoming an officer in the military.

I have many people to thank for helping me get here, but the truth is, I have myself to thank the most. I allowed the spark in my heart to take me to places I never thought I'd be. I pushed myself forward, I constantly was seeking new challenges, and I never gave up. It wasn't easy getting here but I can whole heartedly tell you that every single curve ball thrown my way and every little triumph was worth it. I'd do this all over again in a heartbeat.

I suppose the moral of my story is this: Don't be afraid to be who you are. Don't be scared to follow your crazy dreams. If you believe in yourself and your abilities, chase after what you truly love and you will succeed. Whether it is finishing school and becoming a working professional, leaving work to raise a family, wanting to take a break from school to travel the world, or seeking the world's craziest job- do it. Life doesn't stop for anyone so you might as well take that leap of faith while you still have time.

Don't ever let anyone tell you that how you are isn't okay. Being normal is okay. Being unconventional is okay. It is okay to be someone that people don't understand. Life isn't about defining yourself for others. Life is about defining yourself for you. You only get one life to live and one person to become. Why not create the best and happiest version of yourself? I promise you that you aren't doomed if you aren't doing what everyone else your age is doing. Conforming to society's standards isn't for everyone. There is no need to follow the North Star like everyone else. Sometimes, you just have to take the road less traveled and follow your own star.

Walking down this road has been a whirlwind. Many things have attempted to prevent me from success. Beyond that, even more things have driven me closer to success. Because of this decision, I have met some of the greatest and smartest people and befriended some of the most dedicated and humble professors. I can't help but think that had I not made that decision at 16, none of this would have happened.

It took a lot of courage and determination to get here but this has been the hardest and most rewarding journey of my life. As my undergraduate college experience nears an end, I know that looking back I have made all the right decisions for myself and for my future. When all is said and done, the best thing that I can tell myself is, "I did it".

I get to be a success story. You can too.

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