Shelly R. Wilson

Labels Do Not Define Me

It took me a long time and much consideration to realize the truth of who I am. Labels such as “quiet, smart kid who likes to read” tend to adhere themselves to us physically, mentally and emotionally. These labels tend to define us and will limit us if we allow them to. As the oldest child and only daughter, my father made it clear to me that he expected great things from all of his children. I excelled in school and was able to skip my junior year of high school after changing schools because of the classes (or lack thereof) they offered.

I attended a nearby junior college out of high school after marrying my high school sweetheart. I graduated Summa Cum Laude in May 1990 with an Associates of Arts in Accounting. I regretted not continuing with my education and sensed the extreme disappointment within my father. A 2-year degree was not good enough period. I knew that I could return to school at any time and was waiting for the perfect time to do so. After many years, I set a goal for myself and decided that I wanted to finish my education before my son graduated from high school, and I set out to do just that. The college I originally attended received the necessary accreditation and become a university. I returned to school March 2008 and graduated in May 2010 exactly one week before my son graduated from high school, which was exactly 20 years after receiving my AA degree.

Being a self-proclaimed over-achiever as well as having a Type-A personality, I graduated Summa Cum Laude with a Bachelor’s degree in Business and a minor in Social Science-Psychology. I was deemed the Outstanding Graduate for the School of Business & Technology and was inducted into not one, but three honor societies for my efforts – Sigma Beta Delta International Honor Society for Business, Management, and Administration; Alpha Chi Honor Society for Academic Excellence;  and Psi Chi National Honor Society in Psychology.

My father came to my graduation stating, “You finally listened to me and got your degree.” I chose not to let his words affect me and undermine the joy I was feeling for my accomplishments. However, I will admit that I was longing for something a little more from him. I understand that he is who he is and I am who I am. I am my father’s daughter, but his words and actions do not define who I really am.