I had to take a proctored exam this past Friday. I walked into the office at Ellsworth Hall, and a middle-aged African American woman approached me (I didn’t catch her name), explaining the process of the exam and whatnot. When she was done, I took a seat and awaited the exam time. Having a severe case of exam anxiety, I quickly took out my laptop and swiftly studied as many notes as I could.
The woman politely interrupted my frantic studying and asked, can you come here for a minute?
Sure! I walked over to her desk.
She turned her computer screen towards my direction and asked is this you on the computer, on WMU’s homepage?
Honored and blushing, I told her yeah, that’s me!
Her reaction: priceless.
She went on explaining how she has always wanted to meet me after reading my story about my nationally awarded documentary Painting Dreams: The Story of Johnson Simon and all the recognition and honor I’ve received since its completion. She then told me that God has amazing plans for me and my future and that I had a gift that I need to continue to share with others. She said I was smart, beautiful, and that I was going to make it so far in my life. She then shared this Bible verse with me: There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens. Ecclesiastes 3. She said that my time, my season, is now. I need to embrace it, and don’t hold back.
Wow I thought. She moved me so much that I forgot all about the exam I was stressing out about.
Later that day, it got me thinking. So many amazing things have happened to me since I transferred to Western Michigan University 2 years ago from Alma College. Then I thought, what if I never transferred? What if I would have stayed because that’s what everyone else wanted…my friends, parents, boyfriend at the time, teammates on the cheer team? What if I had sacrificed my happiness for theirs?
Transferring to WMU was honestly the first time I actually did something for myself without caring about what other people said or thought about my decision. People said I wouldn’t survive at a big school. People said I wouldn’t get noticed as easily as I did at Alma College. People said I was making a mistake and that I’ll regret leaving.
They. Were. WRONG.
Now, two years later, I’ve done more and accomplished more in these last two years than I have in my entire life! When I transferred to Western, my main goal was to make a name for myself. That’s exactly what I did. I got featured in the last issue of WMU Magazine. I’m on the freakin’ homepage of the University’s website! And so, so much more. I’m a national award-winning documentary filmmaker. Everyone knows Tirrea Shanice Billings. Not too long ago, a faculty member walked passed me and said hey, superstar!
So much for not going to be noticed.
Not only that, but I’m happy…so, so, so happy. Happier than I’ve ever been. Kalamazoo and WMU has given me a sense of belonging and self-discovery. I truly found myself and my purpose here. And whenever I’m away, I don’t say I can’t wait to get back to Kalamazoo. Instead, I say I can’t wait to get back home.
All this would have never happened if I sacrificed what I wanted for what other people wanted. And at first, I felt bad about transferring and leaving what I had at Alma. I’m a people pleaser, and it was hard seeing people disappointed about my decision to leave. I felt guilty.
Now, two years later, I’m realizing that I should never feel guilty about doing what makes me happy. Nobody knows what’s best for me better than me. I’m graduating from WMU in 5 months with so many accomplishments, goals for the future, and memories that I will cherish forever.
For once, I put my happiness and what I wanted first before anything else, and it payed off.