Ethan Pham, The Paisano

I traded in my work boots for student loans. It was a strategic decision. After I got laid off in January, I only had two choices: go back to school or find another job.         

Education was never my priority. For the better part of four years, I had education on the back burner. The most important aspects of my life were social gatherings and money. As they began to rise, my GPA saw a rapid decline. I was in over my head juggling work, community college, lovers and friends. Since then, my priorities have changed.

Priorities are not deadlines. Priorities are ambitions. They all require action and desire. Many priorities are accompanied with deadlines and college is full of them. Jobs are often our number one priority; not because we desire to work but because we desire to get a decent meal and a night’s sleep.

Some people are unaware of their priorities. Consider addictions. Among the most dangerous priorities are alcohol, illegal drugs, sex, cigarettes, sugar, fat and social networks. These are several things and activities that people are enthusiastically devoted to. The devotion may take a toll on the body as well as our emotions. They’re also undeniably capable of wrecking relationships.

I, too, have allowed my desires to punish me. Those desires were my priorities, the things I placed the most value on. If they were deadlines, I would have met them early. I’m grateful that they weren’t deadlines because they would have precluded me from pursuing new goals and opportunities.

Deadlines that are met do not slap expiration dates on priorities. Deadlines that are met mean more deadlines to come, but the priority remains the same or is capable of being changed.

I’ve had three major priority changes in my lifetime. At first, I favored social status, then it was money and now it’s straight A’s. I was successful in my social life and made a decent living before I got laid off, but I wasn’t a success. My social life led me down a dark path and my desire to earn money was so strong that I was willing to “break my back” doing it.

When one’s ambitions change, so do their priorities. I’m no longer interested in social gatherings or earning a lot of money. I want to use my knowledge to help people. This shift leads many to a happier and healthier life. What we strongly desire, we are capable of achieving.

Successful people choose the right priorities. They work hard, think forwardly, learn from their mistakes, meet their deadlines and constantly assess their performance. They are willing to sacrifice their time, money, energy and relationships. The right priorities are capable of changing the world, but we must chase dreams that benefit us, not desires that bring us down. Higher education is a great place to start.

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