What I was not told about independence is how proud I would be to look back on the many years of stability my parents provided me. I won’t ever be able to say that I made it through college on my own, or that I struggled to find support in my endeavors of becoming a journalist after college.
My parents paved the way since I began getting letter grades instead of gold stars on assignments. They would do it ever-so-subtly, beginning with the dinner of my choice if I brought home perfect grades on my report card. Entering middle school the stakes were raised — and so were the incentives. Soon it was an mp3 player, or some new gadget of the time, that kept me pushing toward straight-A grades and making school a top priority. The bribes were expected, and so were my good grades. Soon, my parents had me (and my future) right where they wanted.
When it came to high school academics, along with juggling three sports and a riveting social life, my parents made it very clear that I would not have to find a job during the school year if I proved my mental worth with a high grade point average. Due to the availability of fun jobs in Tonopah, I wasted no time hitting the books and ensuring that my only job would be during the summer. By the time I had decided to pursue journalism in college I had grown accustomed to the simplicity of the curriculum at our small high school, which proved devastating to my introduction to college academics.
My parental support kicked into overdrive, both emotionally and financially, when my grades slipped below the required GPA for the Millennium Scholarship after freshman year and I returned home for the summer to a heartfelt, yet forceful, speech. In expressing their sentiment for the challenging transition I was undergoing, my parents informed me that life could drastically change if I did not want to attend college anymore. While none of their options were appealing, they provided me with context to Chinese philosopher Confucius’ idea of work: “Choose a job you love and you will never have to work a day in your life.” The first semester of my sophomore campaign saw a dramatic turnaround in GPA and pep talks had become showers of love and exclamations of praise. I continued to seek that reaction during the remaining two years, which led to the highest amount of praise possible during Saturday’s graduation commencement.
I am not ashamed that I needed help to achieve a high accomplishment. In fact, I am more proud to say it was a team effort on the part of my family, friends and myself. They wanted it as badly (if not more) than I did because they also knew we had done it together. I was told numerous times that graduation was “my day,” but in all fairness it was “our day.” Sure, the diploma will have my name on it, but my parents will display it in their bedroom because it is just as much mine as it is theirs.
Garrett Valenzela is a reporter at the Sparks Tribune. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.