By Kosha Oswald
Today, I am who I choose to be. While that may not sound like much to most people, those words took years for me to say. It’s the fall 2016 semester here at Grand Rapids Community College, but it isn’t my first semester in school. It is however, my first semester going to school for what I want. This time around I am not doing what my parents want me to do, I’m focusing on me.
I graduated from high school in 2011. My body was full of nerves and excitement as I waited in line for my diploma. I wasn’t nervous about walking across the stage in front of everyone. I was nervous about what was going to happen in the weeks to follow, and excited to finally be away from most of the people in my class. My high school experience wasn’t amazing. The four years there were rough. For years I was bullied by a group of people I once called my friends who decided I no longer fit in with them. While we could have just gone our separate ways, they instead chose to make sure that I hated going to school. I spent my last few years of high school ignoring almost everyone and defending myself. So when my name was called and I got that diploma, at least one of my problems was solved. Unfortunately, my other problem was just beginning.
After graduation I was expected to start at Baker College for Radiologic Technology. I had no interest in moving two hours away from my boyfriend or my family. In fact, I had no interest in Radiologic Technology. I had no interest in pursuing a career in the medical field, but my parents did. My dad chose my major. He wasn’t paying for my education but I still let him decide. I didn’t want to disappoint him or my mom. I wanted to stand up for myself but, like the many times I had tried before, I knew it was no use. My choice was to argue with my parents or accept their wishes. I realize now that I made the wrong choice, but it seemed like the easier choice at the time. I had dealt with enough drama in the last few years and didn’t want to deal with more.
So, in September of 2011, I moved two hours south to Owosso. I was nervous and frustrated with myself. I acted like I was excited when I was around my parents and siblings. I thought if I acted happy about it, I would be. The first few weeks were hard, being away from the people I had seen every day for the last 18 years. As time went on though, I made friends and went to classes and did my best. I did great in classes and I kind of enjoyed them. I knew I didn’t love it, but everyone was so proud of me for doing so well. I finished classes after two years and then moved onto a nine-month internship.
I was assigned to a hospital in Reed City. This meant that once again, I had to move to another area where I knew no one. I would also have to do an unpaid nine month internship to learn a job I didn’t even want. Only this time I decided things would be different. I decided I wasn’t going to do it alone. I didn’t want to. I knew it would upset my parents, but I had my boyfriend move in with me. I told myself that I deserved it. I was doing the career they wanted me to do, I should get something out of it. My parents, as expected, were not on board with the idea, only visiting twice and not staying long either time. But for those nine months I lived with my boyfriend and learned Radiologic Technology (X-ray).
In 2014, I graduated with my degree and was optimistic about the future. I looked for a job in X-ray back home in Midland but with only one local hospital, I had no luck. I still needed a job. So, I decided to work as a nanny until I found something. It was a great job and I loved it. I was actually happy doing it. My parents weren’t though. Obviously, they were unsatisfied and kept on me about getting an X-ray job. They seemed to think that jobs just fell into your lap. It was so frustrating to deal with their disappointment after everything I had done just for them.
For the last three years, in order to make them happy, I had abandoned my dreams and it still wasn’t enough. We barely talked for a year because when we did they always seemed so disappointed in me. We would argue and most times I would end up leaving upset. I felt like I wasn’t good enough for them, and I was sick of feeling that way. I was tired of feeling like I had to please everyone, while letting myself down in the process. I realized that I needed to make a change. I was sick of letting them and other people influence how I saw myself and the choices I made. I decided to surround myself with people who supported me and wanted me to be happy.
In 2015, my boyfriend and I moved to Grand Rapids so he could go to school. We lived close to the Medical Mile and since I had done all that work to receive my certification, I actively looked for a job in X-ray. I had some luck and obtained a position at Spectrum Health in Greenville. My parents were ecstatic. They were finally proud of me again, but I wasn’t proud of myself. The job wasn’t what I wanted and I would come home everyday in the worst mood. I decided after just a few weeks that I couldn’t do it anymore. My parents were once again disappointed in me. But luckily my boyfriend wasn’t. He was the most supportive person of my choices and just wanted me to be happy, as he always had.
We got engaged in October of 2015 and married in January of 2016. I faced criticism from my parents yet again about this life decision. They seemed especially unhappy about the short engagement, but after being together for eight years a long engagement seemed pointless. I also decided that it was our decision when we got married, not my parents. After getting engaged, I went back to being a nanny for a bit and enjoyed it. Until I decided that I was going to go back to school.
I had always enjoyed writing. At one point I intended on studying journalism until I let my parents talk me out of it. I thought it was too late for me to do what I wanted, but my husband encouraged me to follow my heart.
Now I am back in school. My major is communications and I love it. I love that I am doing what I want and finally sticking up for myself. I used to always think of what other people wanted and how it would affect them. I don’t want to say I’m selfish, I’m just no longer a pushover. I spent so long trying to make other people happy even if it meant I wasn’t. I am choosing not to do that anymore. I love my parents and my family, but I need to do what’s best for me. I’m not the same girl I used to be. I’m the woman that stands up for herself, that sets her own goals and goes for them.
Today I am the woman I want to be, on the path I want to take. I want to encourage everyone to make the choices in life that they feel is best for them. Don’t let other people make your decisions for you or define who you are. Your happiness is important and you deserve it.