Your life is as a lump of clay, ready for the touch of a masters’ hand. What will you create? Will you be a garden gnome, or Michelangelo’s David? Really it all comes down to how much work you’re willing to put in. Do you have the patience and perseverance to acquire the knowledge you need to achieve your greatest potential? Who do you want to be? Whose life do you want to touch? What is your dream job? Will it be fulfilling? Will it help you on your path to self-reliance so that you can help others as well as yourself? The opportunities are endless, and it’s up to you to decide. I have spent countless hours fantasizing and dreaming of my future. I know exactly what I want to be, and how I want to spend my life, but that dream seems so distant. I’ve had to cut myself a break, and realize that the shaping of a sculpture doesn’t happen all at once, but by the slow steady manipulation, and modeling of the clay. I’m not going to lie, there have been days where I have taken that clay, and near defeat, smashed it back into a ball, just to start all over again. I know what I want to become, the struggle lies in making the decisions today that lead me in that direction. “decisions determine destiny” (“Decisions Determine Destiny,” New Era, Nov. 1979, 4). There have been many mistakes along the way, but also great victories. Through steady learning and research, I have gained copious amounts of knowledge that have helped me see the sculpture that I want to create, and the small steps I need to take to make that possible.
“Education is the key to opportunity” (Gordon B. Hinckley, “The Perpetual Education Fund,” Ensign, May 2001, 53). I grew up in a household where neither of my parents completed their college education, which meant that at times money was hard to come by. I remember having such broke down beater cars, that on many days wouldn’t start, so us kids would have to get out to push, in an attempt to jump start the engine. We always managed to get by, but more often than not, we always had the help of others to provide the necessities of life for my siblings and I. My father worked many odd jobs, while my mother babysat on top of taking care of her own seven children to make a little extra cash. Her dedication to her children was her highest objective. She homeschooled most of us children, and spent hours making learning a top priority. Unfortunately, my father was in a near death car accident, where he spent the following three months in a coma. My mother’s attention turned to my father in the Hospital, and us children were enrolled in the local elementary school. This was a devastating time in our life, as we didn’t have the needed insurance to cover the cost of the accident. After a very slow recovery, and earthly angels anonymously donating the thousands of dollars needed to cover all the medical bills, my family started on their path to self-reliance. My father found a job with a company shoveling Cole, which was grueling filthy work. Eventually he moved up the ladder to a prominent position in the company, and was given benefits, as well as retirement. My mother took a few classes at the local college, and learned sign language, so she could become an interpreter. The road to success for my family was difficult due to a lack of education, but no matter the situation we find ourselves in, it is our responsibility to do all we can to better our lives, through learning and education.
“Our responsibility is to rise from mediocrity to competence, from failure to achievement. Our task is to become our best selves” (Thomas S. Monson, “The Will Within,” Ensign, May 1987, 68). I learned very quickly growing up that I was not keen on the idea of being mediocre, I had been there, and knew that I didn’t want to go back. I am very grateful for my roots, they gave me the first shaping’s of the sculpture of my character. I saw firsthand how to work hard. I was also a witness of charitable sacrifice from my parents as well as others, and realize that true happiness in life comes not from how prominent we are, but from selfless service to others. Knowledge, and gaining an education help us become self-reliant, by providing greater possibilities for gaining more substantial employment. Education also expands our minds, opens our eyes to different ideas, promotes greater creativity, and gives us greater empathy for the human race. When we rise above mediocrity through education, we have the greatest chance for satisfaction and success in life, for then we are capable, and have the means to teach others about self-reliance, as well as providing the means to bless others that aren’t as fortunate.
Failure is a guarantee of this life, but the great thing about clay is that it is never permanent, we can re-shape and re-create it into whatever it is that we desire to become. The question is, what is it that you want to become? The clay is waiting, be sure not to let it dry out. Start molding it today. The decisions that you make today will determine your future destiny. Education will start you on the journey of creating your own masterpiece. Keep in mind that all good things come at a price, and knowledge is one of the most precious gifts that we can obtain. The cost may be great, but we have a charge to rise above mediocrity and to become our best selves. This pursuit of education and self-reliance, all point to the ultimate goal of happiness, which comes as we give selflessly. Don’t ever let failure define who you are, start today to manipulate the clay into the sculpture that you desire, be it a garden gnome, or Michelangelo’s David.
This blog post was written as a submission for the Activia training scholarship, for your chance to enter the scholarship, go to https://www.activia.co.uk/scholarship-us