Dear Kelly,

With how difficult the spring semester seemed, I decided to take a break over the summer. Now, with classes starting back in just a couple of weeks I’m trying to find inspiration, so I can get my head back in the game. Where do you look for inspiration when you need it?

I believe we all feel like this reader from time to time, especially when our focus is pulled in so many different directions. When school is in session, we possess the ability to be “laser focused” on our coursework, studying for tests, writing research papers and holding group meetings to complete projects. Then, the semester ends, those last assignments are turned in and you feel it — that sigh of relief with knowing, hopefully, that you’ve finished the semester victoriously. Since there is a break before classes begin again, we often allow ourselves to relax and enjoy the absence of due dates and quizzes. But before we know it, it’s back to school time, and we must shift the spotlight back to completing the goals we have set for ourselves.

Just like this reader, I find that being inspired helps me to prepare for the semester ahead. Where does that inspiration come from? Well, for starters, as a Christ follower, it comes from my Lord and Savior. While I tried to do it “my way” for many, many years, I believe He always had a plan and ordered my steps to a time such as this. When I finally relinquished my control and gave Him the wheel, I began to see my life change in ways I never could’ve envisioned. Therefore, I find a wealth of inspiration in knowing that Christ has always had a plan and a purpose for my life, and I can’t wait to see what happens next.

I also find enormous inspiration through my family. I get it from my husband, Garrick, of almost 28 years, who from the beginning has seen my potential and tells me often how proud he is that I am conquering the goals he always knew I could accomplish. Both of my sons, Dylan and Dalton, inspire me because they were the ones who challenged me to finally go back to school and have been my constant cheerleaders along the way. My parents inspire me through their everlasting encouragement and praise throughout this journey and always keeping tabs on how I am doing, what’s coming up next and recognizing each of my achievements as they happen. And then, to be completely transparent, sibling rivalry also plays a role in inspiring me. My brother, Todd Lewis, was a Mercer University student right out of high school, back in the ’80s. I have to be honest, although I always wanted to attend Mercer, after a couple of decades, I lost hope it would ever happen. But here I am, and there is this fire in me to finish my time here with a higher GPA than he had and maybe some additional honors, as well. Yes, it may be childish, but at the same time, I would lying if I didn’t say it drives me to succeed.

As Mercer students, we also have our Mercer family to inspire us. After all, Mercer’s mission is, “To teach, to learn, to create, to discover, to inspire, to empower and to serve.” While the Mercer family may look different from campus to campus, one thing is true: There are teams of individuals that are all dedicated to our success. This begins when you enter Mercer, as the Enrollment Management team is driven to ignite that spark in all of us, so we can begin the journey to reaching our full potential. It continues as our advisers and professors keep the fires lit, through recognizing our progress and reminding us of what we are capable, while also encouraging us to go beyond that. In addition, there are teams of individuals at Mercer who are there to help us attain goals that we may have never recognized, like the Academic Resource Center and the Center for Career and Professional Development. The Mercer family has embraced and inspired me since my very first day, and they have helped me see what I am truly capable of. It is because of them that my goals have expanded, and I now see myself going further than I ever could have thought was possible.

I find inspiration within myself. Every once in a while when I am discouraged, I sit back and remember what I have accomplished in the past few years. There was a time in my life when I couldn’t imagine being the woman I am today. I remember giving up on ever earning a college degree. I can recollect conversations I had in my head where I reminded myself that I had tried college and failed and that I was as successful as I could ever be, working part-time, making $8 an hour and being told on a regular basis that I was “replaceable.” I remember what it was like when I enrolled in college at age 44 and made my first A on a quiz and how excited I was. I recall the pride I felt when I made the President’s List for the first time and finished in the top nine of all Technical College System of Georgia students, all 217,000 of them. I reminisce about the moment I was accepted into Mercer and was awarded the Mercer Next scholarship. I look back to all of my achievements and remind myself there is a life ahead of me. While previously I never imagined it was possible, now it is on the way to becoming reality. Knowing where I was versus where I am now inspires me to reach that place I haven’t gotten to yet but know I will.

Honestly, when my sons went off to college, I felt like my book was over. I had raised my children and wondered what story could possibly be next. What I didn’t realize, though, is that the book is FAR from being over, and there are many, many chapters waiting to be written. Finding out what happens next in my story truly keeps me inspired and determined.

While inspiration comes from many different sources, it should also come from each other. As Mercerians, we should strive to inspire each other daily. We can all relate to the challenges that we have faced over the past several months. We need to share our determination and strength with our fellow Bears, and by doing so, we will build a stronger, more unified Mercer community. I pray that I have inspired you and want you to know that through your letters and emails, you have truly inspired me!

I am eternally grateful to all of you, and wish you health, happiness and continued success throughout your journey.

Do you have a question about distance learning or coping with school in these challenging times? Each week Kelly Browning, an early childhood education/special education major and student ambassador at the Henry County Regional Academic Center, answers questions from the Mercer community. Email her at kelly.l.browning@live.mercer.edu or fill out our online form to submit your question anonymously.

 

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