Grad School, Against All Odds With a shaky childhood behind her, a speech-language pathology student shares the life insights that got her to—and are carrying her through—graduate school. Student's Say
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Student's Say  |   November 01, 2017
Grad School, Against All Odds
Author Notes
  • Tatiana Windley, BA, is 2016–2018 vice president for finance of the National Student Speech Language Hearing Association. She is a second-year graduate student in the speech-language pathology program at SUNY–Plattsburgh and an affiliate of ASHA Special Interest Group 3, Voice and Voice Disorders. tatianawindley@gmail.com
    Tatiana Windley, BA, is 2016–2018 vice president for finance of the National Student Speech Language Hearing Association. She is a second-year graduate student in the speech-language pathology program at SUNY–Plattsburgh and an affiliate of ASHA Special Interest Group 3, Voice and Voice Disorders. tatianawindley@gmail.com×
Article Information
School-Based Settings / Professional Issues & Training / Student's Say
Student's Say   |   November 01, 2017
Grad School, Against All Odds
The ASHA Leader, November 2017, Vol. 22, 42-43. doi:10.1044/leader.SSAY.22112017.42
The ASHA Leader, November 2017, Vol. 22, 42-43. doi:10.1044/leader.SSAY.22112017.42
As a child, I lived in an area where the sound of gunfire was as normal as hearing music on the radio. I was never allowed to go to the park or play outside. My future felt out of my control.
As I reflect on my upbringing, I am grateful to be sitting where I am today. While I have faced many hardships to get here, I have learned many life lessons that not only led me to graduate school, but that I will carry with me for the rest of my life.
My mother had me at such a young age that I was placed in a foster home until she was ready to care for me. When that time came, she struggled immensely. She had to work long hours, leaving only me to care for my younger brothers for many years. The childhood portrayed in the movies I watched and books I read was not my reality.
Instead, the suffering and traumatic experiences I faced from various forms of abuse by my family members made me wonder what I had done so wrong. These experiences still make me cringe at the sight of a belt or cause me to panic when I hear loud sounds.
The fact is, these moments taught me my first valuable lesson: I am stronger than I think I am. With that thought in mind, I always hoped I would make it out of that place. And I did.

The childhood portrayed in the movies I watched and books I read was not my reality.

I left home before graduating high school, sleeping wherever an open door welcomed me. I was fortunate enough to find somewhere stable to live with a family friend and to receive the unwavering support of my teachers, who helped me in every way they could. Although I loved my family very much, I knew that to be successful, I needed to leave home.
School was my only way out, and I focused my energy on my schoolwork. I thought my path was chosen for me before I even had a chance, but then I received my first college acceptance letter from Plattsburgh State to study communication sciences and disorders. At that moment I realized my journey was only beginning.
During my senior year of high school, I learned my second valuable lesson: There is nothing wrong with asking for help. I quickly learned the toll of a financial burden. I was no longer living at home and was working a part-time job. I could not handle it on my own, but my pride did not allow me to accept help. This attitude disappeared once I realized that I could not possibly juggle everything alone.
I would not have made it far without the help of many people around me. My teachers ensured that my senior expenses were paid for, and also the first of my college fees. A woman gave me a home until I left for college. Without the help of these amazing people I would not have made it to where I am today.
The third lesson dawned on me during my sophomore year of college: The only person who can decide what I am capable of is me. That year, I was working three to four jobs at about 35 hours a week while trying to manage my academic workload. Many people doubted my ability to succeed because of how much I had taken on, but they failed to understand that I had no choice because I was supporting myself.
I was surrounded by doubt and worry, wondering—were they right? Absolutely not. I realized that just because someone says I can’t do something doesn’t mean it’s true. I used the doubts of others to push me through the finish line, and this mentality allowed me to achieve the Dean’s List from my sophomore year to graduation. I still managed to be an active member in various clubs and organizations around campus. I am the only one who truly knows my abilities—which brings me to the next lesson.
I learned the art of time management. Throughout college I sought counseling; although I was excelling in many aspects of my life, my circumstances took a toll on my emotional well-being. I was diagnosed with severe anxiety, depression and post-traumatic stress disorder.
After showing myself how much I could manage, I had trouble deciding my own limits. I had struggled to turn down new opportunities or extra shifts at work because I felt that I needed to do as much as I could. I began putting more pressure on myself and became my toughest critic.
I soon realized that I was overextending myself and, as a result, my mental state was suffering—I was not invincible. I owed it to myself to take a breather now and again. Learning how to manage my time efficiently was the greatest gift I could give myself, even now.

Every painful and heartbreaking experience I endured brought me to where I am today. These experiences made me who I am.

This brings me to my final—and possibly most important—lesson that I have learned on this journey: I need to forgive and let go. For years, I harbored anger and resentment toward those who were absent when I needed them most and toward those I felt had wronged me. I now see that every painful and heartbreaking experience I endured brought me to where I am today. These experiences made me who I am.
I embrace the hardships that continue to come my way because now I know that I can take on anything. Throughout my life, I never felt that I had control of my future. Now, I know I am the only person who is in control.
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FROM THIS ISSUE
November 2017
Volume 22, Issue 11