When it comes to a lifelong dream, never say never.
Nobody knows that better than Melissa Gillespie, a 37-year-old mom who just graduated with a nursing degree from Southern New Hampshire University — 17 years after she began.
The story goes like this: no one in her family had ever earned a bachelor’s degree — but she still had dreams of getting one herself.
When she started college classes 17 years ago, however, she didn’t realize that in the midst of her effort, her family would be moved three times for her husband’s job (he is in the Navy). Or that she’d be caring for three children.
But despite it all, she didn’t lose sight of what she wanted.
At one point, she was accepted to nursing school in Washington state while her family had to relocate to New York. During that time, her original prerequisite credits expired — so she retook every single class.
Later, her husband found out he would be moved to Virginia. Gillespie couldn’t finish her degree unless she stayed. So, her husband left for Virginia and Gillespie continued to study while raising the kids. “My hero lived on a ship for 19 months across the country from his family so that I could go to school,” she told Today.
In the face of continuing challenges, she remained determined.
“While the journey was frustrating at times, I am too stubborn to throw in the towel on something I want to achieve,” she tells Babble. “Giving up is easy. There can be one hundred reasons to quit on yourself each day. There only has to be one reason to keep going. My family is the one thing that motivates me during the toughest times.”
Remarkably, Gillespie earned her associate’s degree in nursing back in 2015, and then graduated with a bachelor’s this year, on Mother’s Day. Not only has she created the career for herself that she always wanted, but she also changed the example of what is possible for her children. “I have always told our children that in order to get something done, they need to find a way or make a way,” she says.
Gillespie now loves her new career, having been a practicing nurse since receiving her associate’s degree.
“As a nurse, I am able to demonstrate empathy and caring toward people who may not otherwise have a great support system at home,” she tells Babble. “When I come home, I know that even though I’m tired, I’ve done good work and am able to show our children that they can make a difference in their world.”
As far as the future is concerned, Gillespie says she will go to graduate school, but not before spending some well-deserved time with her children first.
She also has some advice for others who want to pursue an education. She tells Babble:
“The one person standing between you and your dreams is yourself. You probably won’t wake up every single morning wanting to write a research paper or to go to class. Do it anyway. Your future self is waiting to thank you when you’re done. If I can do it, anyone can!”
Congratulations to Melissa Gillespie. And to her honorable and resilient military family — we salute you!