By Helena Rodriguez
When you enter that dark, cavernous passageway of uncertainty that life so often brings us to, it’s hard to see the light at the end of the tunnel. Sometimes it’s just a flicker, just a spark, just a shadow up ahead, if that.
Sometimes there’s nothing but darkness.
By continuing to move forward — cautiously at first, and then with the full steam of a locomotive — I promise you, that light will come into full view at just the right time.
It’s all about keeping your eyes forward, moving toward the light, toward your destiny, and not looking back into the vast darkness that lies behind you.
As you students head back to school this week, it’s important to stay focused on the light at the end of the tunnel. The thought of returning to another year of teachers, homework, term papers and other responsibilities can sound draining. The road ahead looks long and unwelcoming, with no end in sight.
It can be tempting to want to give up, no matter how close you are to the finish line. We live in a society of instant gratification. We want to see immediate results to our work. We want to see the fruits of our labor before their due season. We want to put it all on credit; having fun now and paying later. But that’s not how dreams become reality.
It’s not about waving a magic wand. It’s about hard work. And as painful as that sounds, it’s the sweat, the tears and the hurdles that have to be jumped that make crossing the finish line all the more glorious in the end.
How many young, promising students in high school or college, eager to be independent, have thrown their education out the window in their quest for instant gratification? The lure of a new car and clothes right now sounds more inviting than more years of schooling and dependence on others. Sadly, those students don’t see the big picture. They enter the tunnel from the wrong side. They see the light first and then the darkness surrounding it.
I know what I’m talking about. Not only have I been there and done that, but I’m doing it all over again. Believe me, I know the feeling of wanting to throw in the towel. I know the feeling of wanting to take the easy way out and settle for less than my biggest dreams.
I returned to college last fall, as many of you know. I talk about this often because there are so many life-changing lessons that brought me here. I already had a four-year college degree in journalism from Eastern New Mexico University, but for 14 years, I wanted to get a master’s degree and a Ph.D. Finally, I quit my job as a reporter and moved back to Portales. I returned to ENMU and lived happily ever after, right?
It’s been a tough road. At one point, I even wanted to go back to my old job where at least I had security. There were no jobs in Portales. Before enrolling back in school, I did some substitute teaching, which I was not cut out for. Then I came to work for this newspaper company. Coming from a medium-sized newspaper to a small newspaper was a humbling experience. I began to question why I left my job in Abilene, Texas, in the first place. I had to remind myself constantly of why I came back.
Then last fall, I enrolled part-time and finally became a full-time student last spring. But still no happily ever after. I felt like quitting again. Just giving up. It was hard going back to school. I had great expectations, but my confidence was low. There were new students and new teachers. Not many people knew me anymore. Although it’s common for adults to return to school late in life nowadays, in my particular field of communications, most of the students are young, going straight from undergraduate to graduate programs.
So I decided to switch my major to English, only to change it back again this fall to communications. I’m still not 100 percent certain of this decision. I just know I want to teach writing. It’s OK to take a few unexpected turns along the way and it’s even OK if you’re not exactly sure where you’re going — like I so often feel — as long as there’s that beckon of light in the distance.
So many times, I just want the answers to all of my questions, to my destiny, written before me in black and white, on a chalkboard like in grade school. It’s hard to walk in the dark. It’s hard to live by faith. But one step at a time, that’s what I’m learning to do.
I’m starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel now. I’m glad I didn’t turn back.
Helena Rodriguez is a columnist for Freedom Newspapers of New Mexico. She can be reached at