Embracing Fear, Overcoming Challenges, and Going for Your Dreams

A few weeks ago, I saw the #16 school bus pull around the corner, and I immediately had a flashback. For two years beginning in 2000, I rode that bus as a helper, tending to and keeping watch over the kids. It wasn’t the most glamorous job, and the pay was minimal. But it helped me get to where I am today, all the same.

See, I tried going to college right out of high school, but because of a panic disorder, I was unable to continue with my classes and moved back home after just a year. I felt like a loser. I felt ashamed.

I started working at the local prosecutor’s office as a secretary. But I was struggling, in so much darkness, and weighed down by the fear that I’d never accomplish my dream of getting my degree and becoming a teacher.

Every day I went to my job as a secretary, and every day I felt a little more lost from myself. It wasn’t the job. It was just that my heart and mind were screaming at me to GET THAT DEGREE! Instead, I worked at a job that didn’t align with how I wanted to serve the world.

I was pissed off, too! I felt like an adult trapped in a two-year-old’s body. Everything was hard for me. Going to Walmart was tough for me. Driving five minutes to my job was a challenge. Just walking around my block was an ordeal. All because I had a panic disorder.

It made me question myself. Why wasn’t I a strong enough person to do what so many others could? What my soul longed to do?

But one thing I never lost was my dream. So, I began therapy and, little by little, started learning how to control my panic disorder—never forgetting my goal of one day reentering college.

In 1996, that’s exactly what I did—with a basketful of nerves!

I’d been married a year and was working full-time when I decided to jump back into school (also full-time). I knew I’d have to continue working my full-time job because we needed the income. Thankfully, I had a boss who understood and even valued that I wanted to return to college. So, we worked out a deal: I would start work at 4:30 a.m., then leave the office around noon to get to my classes at the University of Southern Indiana. I’d drag myself home around midnight and start all over the next day. I did this three days a week for three long years.

There were times I thought I would lose my freakin’ mind! The days were long, the work (school and job) was all-encompassing. I was overworked and exhausted. But the long hours and hard work paid off:

In 2000, I got that degree!

Unfortunately, there were very few teaching jobs available at this time. So, I went to work as a program assistant for $8.00/hour. Here I had just worked my ass off for three years straight, had a college degree, and was making just eight bucks an hour. Argh!

Plus, I was newly divorced with a two-month-old baby, and my meager pay just wasn’t quite enough to make ends meet. That’s where good old Bus #16 came in.

For one hour in the morning and another hour in the evening, I rode that bus. It added an extra $80 to my weekly paycheck—and made all the difference in the world to a struggling single mom.

When I saw that same bus roll around the corner, it made me truly realize just how far I’ve come. It made me pause to honor my struggles and my ability to push through them. Because with a healthy dose of courage and determination, I’ve realized so many of my dreams! I’ve been a teacher, a literacy coordinator, and a curriculum director. And now I’ve launched not one, but TWO businesses.

None of it has been easy. But it has ALL been worth it!

Because I’m a dream chaser. I refuse to lose hope. I see obstacles and try my best to leap over them (even though I might be filled with fear). Sometimes I succeed, sometimes I fail. But I always TRY.

Someone once asked me where I find the courage to take such big steps in my business. My answer? When you’ve known fear as intimately as I do, you also know how to walk through it.

P.S. Curious about that second business I mentioned? It’s Strobel Education. If you’re a teacher, or involved in the education field in any way, check it out!

Question: Are you letting fear hold you back from something you really want? What is it? And what steps do you think you need to take to accomplish it? Share your fears and/or a story below in the comments.