The Paths I Have Traveled – Ashley Kelly

thepathsihave traveledThey say that everyone walks their own path in life – that everyone has their own journey. Everyone has hardships and problems, but it in the end it is how we overcame these obstacles to better ourselves.  My story is no different. In twenty eight years there have been a lot of struggles and fights. In fact, I am still struggling to come out on top.

Looking back on my life, there have been a lot of significant factors that changed my life.  Some of these include graduation, trips overseas, deaths of loved ones, and even marriage. However, I can point to two of the most significant things that happened to me that would forever change my life, as well as my views and opinions.

It was December of 2007. I was a senior in college and about to graduate with my degree in Criminal Justice. I was walking to Psychology class on a warmer than normal winter day. I had a voicemail from my boyfriend Nick’s mother. She was hysterical and I couldn’t make out a word she was saying other than the fact that she was repeating his name over and over again. I decided to call back before going to class to see what was going on. She was able to tell me something everyone fears. Nick had been killed in action in Iraq. I was stunned and completely in shock. I had just talked to him a few days before. He was bored in Afghanistan and was thinking of volunteering his unit in early. I begged him not to, but I knew him. He was stubborn and his heart was with the military and his country. Deep down I knew he was going to do it. Now, here I was a few days later receiving the phone call I had dreaded. Nick was gone. His fellow soldiers, his commanders, everyone tried to tell us how much of a hero he had been. He saved many lives that night by forcing them to take cover as he stayed out. Five of those men that he saved were only eighteen years old. But all I could hear was that the guy I loved, the one who I had made plans with to move to Maryland with was gone. Along with him went my plans of attending graduate school closer to Fort Mead to be with him. We had plans to move in together and eventually start a family. I just saw my future torn from me in a split second. I was so angry with him. I blamed him. I blamed the soldiers that shot him. I never felt so angry, upset, and scared all at once. It took its toll on me. I started skipping classes, partying a lot, and doing anything I could to try to numb the pain. I eventually dropped out of school, never finishing my degree.

Fast forward few years to May 29, 2009. My life again changed in a way I never thought it would. My partying ways had found me giving birth to my son Brandon. Again I felt those floods of emotions all at once. This time though, they were different. I was so happy and in awe. The most eminent feeling though was fear. I was scared of what kind of mother a 23 year kid could possibly be. I was scared because I didn’t know the first thing about kids. I was also scared because it wasn’t something I had planned or expected.
I left the hospital that day, as many first parents do, not fully knowing what to expect. I knew, however, something had changed. I suddenly found myself watching my son as he slept. I would hold him any chance I had. And if I was having a bad day, all I had to see was my baby boy smile and everything was alright again.
Brandon and I grew up together. He has changed my life in ways I could never have imagined. I watched him take his first steps, say his first words, go to preschool, and this past summer – I watched him play his first t-ball game. I knew my son had deserved better. So, I did what any parent would do. I got a full time job and went back to school. I decided online would be the best since it would allow me to spend time with my son and work all at the same time. It was difficult. I had to re-enter school as a sophomore. This meant repeating a lot of classes that I had already taken. It’s been an uphill climb, but I will graduate with the degree I started so long ago. I should be graduating this December, but I have pushed it to March for financial reasons. Either way, I am coming out on top. I even narrowed that degree a little further. I will be receiving a Bachelor of Science Degree in Forensic Psychology in March of 2015.

I like to think that Nick had something to with Brandon coming into my life. He always knew what to say to motivate me. Maybe this was his way of still giving me the push that I needed to follow my dreams. I also know that now I will be able to tell Brandon that he can do anything he wants. I can tell him how important college is because I will have my degree as well. It won’t just be empty words. I can do anything I put my mind to. I had lost that will for a while and it took me some time to realize it again.
We are all capable of following our dreams and overcoming any obstacles that life may throw at us. It just depends on how much we are willing to work to succeed. Nothing ever comes free or easy in life. That is what makes every reached goal and every opportunity taken worth every bit of pain in the end.

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