Voices: Her dream was halted at 18, but Englewood woman showed ‘dreams deferred can indeed become dreams realized’

NOTE: This guest column by Englewood’s Shawnieka E. Pope, a licensed clinical social worker, appeared on the Dayton Daily News Ideas and Voices page Thursday, Aug. 27.

The biggest time of disappointment and embarrassment in my life was June of 1991.

At the ripe age of 18, I had my life all figured out and it fit neatly in this box filled with my dreams of becoming a child psychologist.



I was to graduate from high school and begin my next chapter, studying psychology at Spelman College.

I believe I earned my place.

While in high school, I meticulously executed my plan to ensure my rightful place on Spelman campus.

I was an honor student, inducted into the National Honor Society, active in numerous extracurricular activities, completed community service all while working part time.

Yet, none of this counted.

Due to circumstances out of my control, I was unable to attend college after graduation.

This was certainly not the outcome I had anticipated.

Fall 1991, I was left behind to work full-time while most of my classmates and friends left to begin their academic journeys.

I shoved documents through a huge scanner eight hours a day for the meanest supervisor ever! My 18-year-old brain could not begin to understand any of this, it all seemed so unfair. I was so mad at God for not adhering to my plans. Slowly I began to lose the desire to attend college and spent many moments lamenting. I became comfortable existing in this dead-end space. Reflecting, I now understand my supervisor’s purpose. Although I was completely miserable, this experience helped to develop my grit, work ethic and resilience.

I am a believer and in my mature faith, I completely understand God never abandoned me. I earned a bachelor degree in psychology in 1998 and a master’s degree in social work in 2002. Both degrees are from Indiana University–Purdue University Indianapolis.

I now serve as an adjunct instructor for associate’s and master’s level social work students.

I recently accepted a semester appointment as a visiting faculty member for a university here in Ohio. While completing on-boarding activities on the campus, 47-year-old Shawnieka brought along 18-year-old Shawnieka and together we stood on this beautiful campus sobbing, rising boldly, rewriting our new ending to a hidden story that once represented such pain. Dreams deferred can indeed become dreams realized.

Equifinality is the property of allowing or having the same effect or result from different events. Last year I traveled to my hometown Indianapolis to speak to high school students for career day. I shared my story, and I also introduced them to the word equifinality. I asked them to look around at their classmates. I reminded them that our life’s journey is a very personal one. No two paths will look the same, and that is OK. I encouraged them to release the need to compare. Finally, I encouraged them to embrace and be open to receive the lessons and/or skills life’s detours can offer.

Shawnieka E. Pope is a licensed clinical social worker with more than 20 years of experience. She loves teaching and serving her community.

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