Last week, I finally wore my green cap and gown to my socially distanced commencement at Utah Valley University.  I graduated with my Bachelors in Integrated Studies, with emphasis in Psychology and Leadership. 

I do not believe that a traditional education is the only way to find success, but I do believe it is vital to set and achieve goals throughout our lives. Doing so keeps us alert and hopeful, and it reminds us that we can achieve whatever we put our minds to. 

I was surrounded by most of my immediate family members, my mom and dad, my siblings, Dave and Camille, Izzy, Maria and Etoni. Kenzie made this really fun balloon spray that went across the top of the 15 passenger van that we were all in as we drove through the graduation.

UVU did an outstanding job of making the celebration top notch, and I sincerely believe that I loved it more than a traditional commencement. My family was able to drive right beside me as I walked across “the stage.” They cheered, took pictures and video-recorded the entire thing. The professors from the College of Humanities and Social Sciences were there to congratulate us, and even President Astrid Tuminez jumped up to give me a hug when I was taking a picture with my diploma! She is a passionate, wicked smart, firecracker leader in a tiny adorable body.   

After the initial “walk,” we hurried over to watch my daughter Whitney’s boyfriend graduate from the business college. She ran up to him with a blow horn and we all cheered for him. It was such a fun memory, and his parents were so cute to print off a banner for the back of their jeep that had pictures of he and Whitney, as well as some other favorite photos. (We actually shared our at-home quarantine graduation, too, and he spoke at that one. It was all a surprise to me. In fact, I need to post that to my blog next! It was amazing!)

Afterward, UVU had a flyover by the school of Aviation, we listened to a live band, and we heard the President and Gail Miller speak. Jon took the kids home before that part because there was a gap before the speakers. It gave me a minute to sit on the grass alone and reflect on the many wonderful things I experienced as an undergrad. As I stared up at the school, I flashed back to the first time when I arrived on campus in 1993. I was seventeen, nearly eighteen. I was a baby; and when I arrived at the school, I achieved exactly what I wanted to, back then: play and discover my independence. My focus on schoolwork was nonexistent, but I still grew.

Twenty-three years later, I returned to finish my degree. I chose to attack math first, because that was one major block for me. I enrolled with two of my daughters, and they witnessed me fight one of my longest standing frustrations. They saw me cry in math lab and complain about forgetting formulas, but eventually, we all finished!

It was HARD to walk onto campus in 2016 as an ol’ lady, but doing that gave me the confidence to finish. I kept thinking, ‘If all of theses young’uns can graduate, so can I! And I marched around for the next three years until  I finished my degree in 2019.

I learned many things during my time at UVU, but one of them is that the talk I hear amongst the older generations about the young people not working hard, is wrong. They are talented and passionate. Their generation just does it in a different way than mine, just like we did things differently than the generation before us. We are in good hands. I listened to them debate in class about current events, talk with one another about the latest technologies to plan our group projects, and present masterfully crafted papers. I learned to be even more accepting of diverse ways of thinking and being, and they learned from my experience as a mother, business owner, and community servant. I’m a big proponent of cross-generational education. I had the chance to boost the confidence of young women and tell the students of the greatness when they couldn’t see it themselves.

I related with my professors even more than the kids, a lot of the time. I imagined that I had finished my schooling the first time around, and I wondered if I would have chosen to teach like they did. I saw them reach out to kids who were less communicative and work to get through to each unique learning style. I saw them care and strive to do their best for each student. I appreciated when they pushed me further than I thought I could go, which was sometimes because I had never learned a program when I was in school, or after I’d written a 36-page paper, and they knew there was more in me.

I experienced running for the local city council during my last semester in school, and although it was the hardest year to try and fit it in, I am glad I did. I did not have the time to do everything I wanted to do to win the race, but I took as much time as I could away from my children, work life, and school. I did not win the election, but I won many other invaluable lessons.

I learned to research and write academically and use it to back up the community work I have been doing in my NGO, Humans Driving Change. I learned to understand the difference between opinions and data, and how important it is to get our information from the right sources. I was frustrated by the countless edits to my papers, but it was always worth the time it took to write another draft.

I learned many more things, but most importantly, I saw the massive support system I have built around myself. I couldn’t have finished if Jon didn’t support and encourage me. He brought home many dinners and entertained the kids during times I was studying for finals and writing research papers. My kids brought me food often, and they slid notes under the door when they needed to get me a message and I had turned off my text messaging so I wouldn’t be disturbed. Maria and Kenzie were both life savers, as they helped me with my kids and keeping up with my life. I know this is one perk of being an older student and owning a company.

Finally, I was raised by parents who taught me that I could be anything I wanted to be and do anything I wanted to do. I had grandparents who encouraged and supported me from birth, and I wanted more than anything to achieve my goal of attending and FINISHING college. My biggest goal in life is to be a mother who supports and encourages my kids to work to achieve their dreams. I want them to understand that development and education, in any form, doesn’t stop when you have kids. In fact, it is even more important to search for ways to integrate it into our life at that point. Either we are alive and learning or we are dead, and I intend to live and learn until I’m dead.

Oh, and one more quick PS. I AM STARTING MY MASTER’S DEGREE NEXT WEEK! I have chosen to study Performance Psychology at an online school in California called National University! I want to do work like my friend, Dr. Craig Manning. He wrote the book, The Fearless Mind, and I love it!

But we can talk more about that later. What I need to share right now is that THIS IS MY CALLING. I was born to study resilience, self-efficacy, and the human brain. I love understanding the science behind our decisions and how to train it to CRAFT our life path. I can’t wait to share my journey here on my blog. HOORAY! I’m finally done with the part of school that was a box to check, and now I get to dig even deeper into my future focus, which is helping the people around me STOP SPINNING in their mind, like so many people are right now, and learn to direct their energy in a way that will completely shift their life.

The science of Performance Psychology, regularly called Sports Psychology, is not only needed by the top performing athletes. We all need it. Families, businesses, and communities. I am seriously considering offering retreats to strengthen women, working with people in my friend’s businesses, and even offering training/information here on my blog. I will start by learning and sharing here, and then see where this journey takes me. YAHOO!