People have always told me my whole life that I need to have confidence. Confidence in myself to go talk to that cute girl I have a crush on. Confidence in myself that I will do well in school, or in sports. Confidence in myself to finish my novel. Confidence in myself to just be me. Well, I’ll tell you why having confidence in myself after 27 years of life is so difficult for me.
My whole life I have been bullied, whether it be by classmates, friends, family, teammates and coaches, and even teachers and professors. Bullied by people who are supposed to tell you uplifting things so that you will succeed in life. People in your life that are supposed to instill confidence in you. Now, I’m not trying to get people to have pity on me. That’s not my reason at all. The reason is for people to understand why I am the way that I am.
I’ve had people in my life tell me, “Evan, you’re too fat to sit in that chair, you’ll break it.” “Evan, you’re too slow.” “Evan, you’re too dumb.” “Evan, you’ll never publish a book, let alone a best seller.” “Evan, you’re not good enough.” That’s the worst of them all, “Evan, you’re not good enough.” I would always ask myself why I was never good enough. So, I quit trying so hard. I barely graduated from high school. I barely graduated from junior college. I barely graduated from a four year university. Why you may ask? Because I didn’t have confidence in myself. I just figured the people in my life would see that I tried a failed and say, “Evan, you just weren’t good enough. You should have tried harder.” How was I supposed to have confidence to try harder and hope to succeed and exceed their expectations of them, when my whole life I’ve been told I’m not good enough?
My mom, dad and sister were the only ones who always pushed me to do better. They were the ones to tell me, “Evan, you can do well.” Although, it was hard for me to listen to them when the amount of people telling me that I can’t, were louder than my family telling me that I can. So, I figured I would seek some help from almost complete strangers to instill in me the confidence that I needed to succeed. I sought help from two professors at Central College. Brian Peterson and Sue Pagnac. These were the two people in my life that weren’t going to give up on me besides my mom and sister.
In my final semester at Central College, Brian and Sue took me under their wings. They both knew the struggle I was going through losing my father the year before. They knew that I struggled with alcohol abuse the year before. They knew the suicidal thoughts I had the year before. They knew I needed help and they didn’t give up on me, even though I didn’t make it easy for them at times.
I really bonded with Sue, because she could sympathize with me because like me, she lost her father a year or so before I lost mine. She was the person I could go to when I was struggling with losing my father. She would always tell me things like, “I’m always here if you need to talk about it or to talk about anything to keep your mind off of it.” Then she would tell me things like, “Think of all the good times you had with your dad and dwell on those. Think about the happy moments you had with him and hold on to those.” Sue saved my ass the last few weeks of my final semester at Central. I needed a 2.0 major GPA, and she helped me achieve that. She worked tireless with me on my Senior Seminar paper, which was 20 pages long. It was the most difficult college paper I would have ever had to write. It was actually the hardest paper I had to write in my entire life. I remember that when I started the paper the day it was assigned. I went to Sue and told her, “Sue, I have no clue where to start. I have to have so many resources to write this paper. I’ve never written anything like this.” You want to know what she told me? She told me, “Evan, gather as much information as you can on your topic. Read. Just write anything and everything that comes to mind of the topic and we’ll go from there.”
It was a very long 8 weeks. I forget the exact grade I needed to get on that Seminar paper, I know at least a C-. I remember when I finally finished all my drafts with Sue, she read through the whole thing with the guidelines that my professor wanted our papers to follow right next to my finished paper. Once she finished reading through it, she looked up at me from across her desk and said, “This is not C work, this is at the very least B work. You worked very hard on this, I don’t see you getting any other grade less than a B.” Well, once I got the graded final paper back, I had received a C. I took the graded paper to her and she was so disappointed. She wasn’t disappointed in me, she was disappointed that the professor for that class had graded my paper so harshly, but she was still happy that I got the grade I did, because it meant that I passed and I would graduate from Central College with my Bachelor’s degree in English.
Brian never gave up on me either. He knew how much of a hard time I had with losing my dad. My final year at Central I would have weekly or bi-weekly meetings with him to tel him how classes and everything were going. He would always point me in the right direction for different resources I could use to help me with my final year. He even arranged that I had 2 hours in the morning set aside in the test taking room at the Student Support Services office for studying. I tell you what, that final year at Central, I probably did more studying in that year than most students do in the whole four years of college. At least that’s how it felt. It’s been nearly two years since I graduated, and I remember waking up at 6 AM every morning to start studying, then I would go to class, go grab something to eat real quick, go to the library to study, then go to another class, go to my work study job and study there. Then I would grab a quick dinner, after dinner I would go to the library until it closed at midnight. Then I would finally go to my dorm room and continue to study until 2 or 3, sometimes 4 in the morning and repeat the process. Brian once told me he admired my hard work and determination but that I needed to get more than a couple hours of sleep at night, in order for the studying to pay off.
I just want to give Brian and Sue both my thanks for never giving up on me when it seemed like everyone else in my life had given up on me. I owe it all to them for getting me to graduation day with my degree in hand. That was the happiest day of my life. I want you both to know that you made such an impact in my life. This country needs more educators like you.