The Real Rocky Difference by Johanna Trout

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Photo courtesy of Johanna Trout.

Photo courtesy of Johanna Trout.

I’ll never forget the beautiful fall day that my phone rang, and I made the decision that changed my future forever. When I started studying for my high school equivalency test, I planned on taking some night classes, getting started on a degree that realistically I might never actually finish. I just wanted to prove to myself I could, never dreaming of the opportunity that would be offered to me. Looking back, it seems crazy that I actually considered not quitting my job, not taking a chance, but that was a different me … a me before Rocky Mountain College.

Just two weeks later, I walked into the first classroom I had ever been in, clutching the public speaking textbook I had half finished to try to calm my anxiety. It didn’t matter to me that I was twice the age of most of my classmates, I felt like a middle schooler at her first dance: scared, excited, and sure everyone was looking at me. That first semester stretched out in front of me like an endless road that I had no choice but to just put one foot in front of the other and hope for the best. What I didn’t know then was that I didn’t have to do it alone. Every step of the way, every class I was ever in, I just kept meeting more and more people I would never forget. Good people. Great people. And as much as I loved every book I read, every assignment I pored over, every minute I was assigned to a classroom, it was the people at Rocky Mountain College who gave me courage, listened to every speech that was way too long, and told me that my ideas were worth sharing.

Today, looking back, I am sad to leave. Sad to leave the place where I took my first voice lessons, wrote my first papers, and cried over so many great books. But mainly I am sad to leave behind a place where I felt like I belonged. A place where I knew every day I could count on a smile, a story, and an empty seat waiting for me. Where I would be given problems that I could actually solve and receive help when I asked. College for me was not my first chance out on my own, but my second chance at a life I never thought I would get to experience. Where I got to feel what it was like to get an A when you worked hard, an extension when you needed it, and a re-do when you totally bombed an assignment. Where I got to cheer on my classmates at a hotly contested game, and applaud their awards and achievements and milestones, walking shoulder to shoulder with some of the future’s finest.

Yes, there were some excruciatingly hard parts about learning how to function as a student at 34 sometimes when flipping back and forth between student and mother seemed like trying to play in two movies simultaneously, walking off one set and onto the other without a pause. However, no one ever made me feel like what I had to offer wasn’t good enough, or that what made us different was more important than what made us the same. And although I am sad to leave, I take with me not only a degree and a teaching certification, but an appreciation for the strength that can be found in a community. We truly are better together. #RMCForever

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