Have you ever wanted to do something but obstacle after obstacle kept getting in your way? What did you do? Give up or keep going? My daughter and I enjoyed watching Queen Of Katwe together.
The movie is based on the vibrant true story of a young girl from the streets of rural Uganda whose world rapidly changes when she is introduced to the game of chess.
As a result of the support she receives from her family and community, she is instilled with the confidence and determination she needs to pursue her dream of becoming an international chess champion.
As we watched the movie, I reflected on a very important time in my life where I persevered and realized my dream.
In Queen Of Katwe, the lead character Phiona has almost no possessions, can’t read and sells maize in the street to try to scrape together change for her family, which includes two brothers, a sister, and her headstrong mother Harriet.
This is a stark contrast to my upbringing. I grew up in a middle-class family with my mom, step-dad, and brother. Both of my parents worked hard to give my brother and I the best life they could. We were never homeless, hungry, or without anything we needed. We had summer vacations, bountiful Christmases, and owned our own home.
My dream was to be the first person in my family to graduate from college.
My parents couldn’t afford to finance my expenses, so I worked throughout the duration of my college years. I paid for my own living expenses, transportation, etc. I worked 30-40 hours a week all year long.
Take a Break & Refocus
The first thing I did was give myself permission to take a break.
Though breaks might seem counterproductive, they’re more important than ever. There’s no way to perform at your highest level without allowing time for rest.
So when I needed a break, I took one. It helped me refocus, renewed my resolve, and helped me to come back stronger than ever.
High school was easy for me. I graduated from high school at the top of my class, with joint graduation from a governor’s school dedicated to STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics).
College wasn’t exactly like that. It took money, time, and focus. I rarely had all three at the same time. What I did have is perseverance.
Perseverance is steadfastness in doing something despite difficulty or delay in achieving success.
Do It Your Way
The second thing I did was come up with a game plan that would work for me.
It took me six years to earn my undergraduate degree instead of the traditional four-year program most people have. Why? I took a semester off when I needed to.
Working 30-40 hours a week while enrolled in college full-time is a lot.
I utilized the Independent Studies program to save money since there was no class time to pay for. I took online classes (nearly 15 years ago!) so that I could do classwork after my work day ended.
I parked at the office complex where I worked to save on commuting and parking expenses. I ate microwave meals in the student center.
Just like Phiona (in Queen of Katwe), I was a pawn who made it all the way across the board, against all odds, and becomes a Queen.
Make Your Move
Finally, I just kept moving.
In chess, “make your move” generally means to “take your turn.” Make your move literally means do something.
The only way to make progress is to keep moving. Moving is taking a series of individual moves.
Just like college, chess is a game that equalizes issues of class, race, ethnicity, and income. It can be played (and won) by anyone in the world.
Related: How Three Working Moms Made History (& You Can, Too!) By taking it just one “move” at a time, I realized my dream.
I went on to earn a Bachelor’s degree in Communication Studies from UNC-Chapel Hill, which is in the Top 30 Colleges in the US.
I took breaks, did it my way, and kept making my move. I encourage you to watch Queen of Katwe with your family to learn about the true story of a young girl from the streets who gains the confidence and determination she needs to pursue her dreams, too.