My Thoughts on President Donald Trump Speaking at Liberty University’s 2017 Commencement

by Jeremy Carden

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Considering how much President Donald Trump has been in the news (and Twitter) before and after his entry into the White House, I just wanted to give some of my thoughts about him speaking at Liberty University this weekend.

Let me just put it out there; I am just a student at Liberty University. My academic career for the time being will be coming to a close within the next few days after I turn in my final paper.

I have had an amazing time both as an online and residential student. Not to mention, I am about to hit my third year working for Liberty’s online department as an academic advisor.

My current job title aside, I am writing this post as a student and NOT as an employee of the university.

No one pressured me into writing this post, and I am just going to discuss my own feelings about this particular commencement speaker.

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I want to speak to everyone that is questioning why Trump is speaking at this particular university’s commencement despite all of the controversy surrounding his character.

Politics and whatnot aside, a lot of people do not think Trump’s personality and religious beliefs make him someone that would fit the glove of a “Liberty University commencement speaker.”

The thing about Liberty students that has astounded me over the past couple of years is the group of people who either mail back their degrees along with expressing feelings of shame for even being a Liberty student at all.

At the end of the day, Donald Trump and Jerry Fawell Jr. are not the professors who taught the classes that students had to pass in order to earn their credit hours. SallieMae and other loan agencies are not going to wipe away the debt that students owe just because they were Liberty students (if they are can someone let me know? Seriously, I need this student loan monkey off of my back…).

Jokes aside,  I do not think that the decisions of President Falwell supporting Donald Trump justify any past or present Liberty student for feeling like their connection to the university has been tarnished.

Do I agree with everything the university has been doing over the past few years?

As a student, I feel that Liberty University is not the same college that I visited back in 2008 as a young College for a Weekend (C.F.A.W) student. Some of the values and direction of the school seems to have shifted since I walked around campus a few years ago.

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However, I have lived in Lynchburg away from the campus for about three years now. Yes, I have worked for the school for almost three years, but working at an off-campus site and living on campus are two different things.

I cannot give a true insight about my thoughts on the school because I have not been there for awhile. I can only speak about my time there, and some of the differences that I have noticed. My job does not allow me to see behind the scenes as to why some of the decisions that have been were made. I just hope Liberty continues to be a positive institution of education and faith rather than the political convention that a lot of people view it as today.

With that being said, I want to get back to the students who are willingly mailing back their degrees. You are throwing away four years (or more) of your life away just because you get angered by the decisions of another person. With that in mind, I hate thinking that some people are not going to commencement just because Trump is speaking.

Even if you do not go to the main ceremony, I hope that you will go to your individual ceremony to cross the stage. Graduates, you have EARNED this! There is no reason to not go just because you disagree or dislike the people standing behind the podium at the football stadium on Saturday morning.

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I have to say as a person who does not really dabble in politics or identify myself with a particular political party, it is pretty cool to say the President of the United States is speaking at my commencement!

Come on, not a lot of college students have the privilege to say that about their graduation. Sure, their speaker may have a better commencement speech, but level with me on this one here.

I go into all of my thoughts regarding the upcoming commencement in this video:

Consider this a video that you can listen to in the background while you are making dinner or cleaning out your closet. Maybe you will nod your head in agreement to some of the things that I say, or you will immediately dislike my video before shutting off your computer.

Regardless, I would like to get some feedback in the comment below. It is always interesting to get the thoughts of others on topics like this.

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I would like to request that if you disagree with others below, please refrain from tearing each other apart. Respectfully engage in a conversation with others that will leave both parties thinking about the topic at hand.

Am I angry or excited about Donald Trump speaking at my commencement this year? 

I will put it like this; I am excited to be graduating! Republican candidate Mitt Romney spoke at my commencement in 2012 (yes, I have a few Liberty degrees under my belt). I was actually excited about a man who could possibly be the next President of the United States of America was speaking at graduation!

However, I was disappointed that his speech and just the atmosphere of that particular day was more about politics than the actual graduates. I was sitting with the other graduates, and I was astounded on how divided the crowd was.

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Whenever Romney said something that had even an ounce of political substance behind it; half of the stadium applauded while the rest were as stiff as stones.

I have no doubt that the same thing may occur this weekend. Also, it would not surprise me if there is a lot of booing and jeering going on…

Considering everything that has occurred in the past year around Liberty’s campus, I would not be surprised if there are large groups of protesters this weekend. Maybe more protesters than actual graduates…

Walking into the main ceremony, I want it to feel like a true graduation. Not a riot like the desegregation movement in schools or people boycotting a business for making “offensive statements.”

Honestly, I want this to be a great commencement. I want Trump to give a great speech to inspire us graduates! We are about to go into the real world outside of Blackboard and weekly school assignments. I want to get a speech that will inspire me to go out into the world and make a difference while becoming a better person.

Overall, if he gives a great speech that we will be talking about for weeks to come (in a positive way) then I will be satisfied.

I want truth and a sincere speech rather than a false sense of religious beliefs to blend in with the university that this event will be taking place at.

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To everyone traveling to Lynchburg this week, I hope you have a safe trip! It might be raining, and “Drenchburg” does not play when it comes to the weather.

Just remember that use this weekend to cheer for your graduating family members and friends. Do not let the true purpose of this event drown in the sea of politics (and possibly rain) because this is a defining moment of achievement for the students!

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My Theme for 2014: Clarity

by Jeremy Carden

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HAPPY NEW YEAR!!!!!!!!!!Image

Today is that time of year when everyone makes up a list of things that they want above all else! I’m not talking about writing up their Christmas List for Santa because that was last month…

Most people define New Years as a time of rebirth or a fresh start to set new goals for themselves. Everyone has something in their lives that they’d like to accomplish or obtain. Others use New Years to reflect on the old year and how they can make the New Year even better than the last one. If anything New Years is when people tell themselves and others (especially through social media) that this year will be a time when things are different.

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One of the most common resolutions made by people is the lose weight. It makes sense due to Thanksgiving and Christmas being a time when people throw out their healthy lifestyle in favor of huge dinners and endless desserts. As usual, the gym will be packed for the first couple of weeks in January before it is once again empty.

In my case, I decided NOT to write up a list of things like I did last year. Within the first 3 weeks of January, at least 5 of the things on my list literally fell through causing me to panic. It was like I was plotting out every little detail of how I wanted my life to go and not how God was going to see me through it. That was one of the biggest wake up calls of my life. About two weeks ago, I decided to take out the list I made for 2013 and read through it. Getting towards the end of my list I realized that I didn’t accomplish any of my self-centered goals, but I did get other important things crossed off my list.

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Back in May, I finally got my degrees from Liberty University. Last night, I took them out of my closet and for the first time since I got them in the mail…I just looked at them.

When I first got them I felt empty on the inside questioning what to do next. I did start graduate school in the fall and I’m going back in a couple of weeks. However, there is this dreary realization that my time is running out. The time that I have left in college is winding down, and the real world is waiting for me. 

Something that I want and need to stop doing is dwelling on the past and ignoring the things that I have already accomplished. Just because I am not where I want to be in life right now is no excuse for me not being thankful for what God has already helped me to achieve. Deep down I know that being more appreciative will help to make my life a little bit easier.

Also remaining humble is a positive trait to practice because I know the real world is a big world. I’ll be competing with people with the same degree(s) as me, and for the most part all of the accomplishments that people praise me for in college might not mean squat in the real world. From what I’ve seen during the internships that I’ve experienced, it is more about who you know and what you can do rather than what awards and degrees you have. 

Overall, the main thing that I hope to accomplish or obtain in 2014 is clarity. I’m going to try my best to have a more positive outlook on life and see what God is putting in front of me. That was one of my main issues in the past: not seeing what God has already put in front of me because I’m too distracted at what I want for myself.

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I’m not looking for God to show me the blueprints of my entire life and answer a lot of the questions I’m sure you are wondering about:

  1. Who am I supposed to marry?
  2. When will I meet the person that I’m supposed to marry?
  3. What job/career am I supposed to pursue?
  4. Will I get hired by my dream job this year?
  5. How will I pay off my student loans?
  6. Will I be able to afford to move into my own place this year?

And the list goes on and on and on…

My goal is to do my best at whatever I decide to pursue in 2014. I’m not sure what the future will bring, but I am sure about who holds my future.

I hope that this is a message for someone out there that is uncertain about what to do over the next 364 days. Here’s to a New Year of endless possibilities and experiences!  

College Dating #5: You Are Not Alone

This is the final part of my 5 blog series about college dating. The theme of this blog is realizing that you are not alone.

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No, no this isn’t about Michael Jackson’s hit song “You Are Not Alone.” This is for people who are single OR in a relationship. You are probably asking yourself; how come you know so much about relationship advice but you are single?

Well I guess I can speak from not just the experiences that I’ve had but the relationships I’ve seen in my lifetime whether it be between strangers or close friends of mine who I know found someone special.

Personally, I have been living the single life for about five years now. I’d say the main reason that I’m still single is because I haven’t found anyone that I feel compatible with. That being said, I think it is important for me to find someone who I can relate to because in the end looks will fade but the love of a good woman will not (if you treat her right).

So as a final blog of encouragement I want to reach out to everyone single or not. For the people who like me are still single and sometimes find yourself yearning for the love of a good woman (or man), buck up. All of this time that we have to ourselves is meant for us to work on the most important person that we can be in a relationship with; YOU!

Yes, “you” or yourself if you want to put it that way. I might have mentioned it in another blog about how a relationship shouldn’t be a scapegoat in order to make an escape from loneliness. Not to mention if you are not ok with yourself, how are you going to be able to show affection for someone else if you don’t feel comfortable in your own skin?

Don’t worry the right person will come around when you least expect it. I know I know I sound like a one of those people who give the same advice and repeat it numerous times like a broken record. The thing that makes me mad the most is that the people who tell me “the right person will come along, don’t worry, be patient, enjoy being single while you can!” are all in relationships!

That is like someone who is a millionaire (because they won the lottery) saying; “Don’t worry sometimes I miss the days when I only had $20 in my wallet…” What the heck is that supposed to mean?! It is like people who use hash tags on Facebook or a face without a nose, it makes no sense at all!

Ok, I’m going to list off some of the things that people in relationships tell me that I should be thankful for when comparing my single life to theirs since they are in relationships.

  1. “You should be happy because you have all of this free time on your hands! Me? I have to take my girl out to dinner, walk her to/from her classes and spend time with her when I wanna hang out with my friends…” And so on…
  2. “Are you upset because you are single?! At least you have money in your wallet to spend on yourself!!”
  3. “At least you don’t have someone breathing down your neck asking you 101 questions all the time!”
  • Where you going?
  • When are you getting back to your dorm?
  • Who are you talking to?
  • Who is that girl?!
  • Why didn’t you text me last night?
  • When can we go out again, I want to see you!  (Even though we just saw each other 30 minutes ago…)
  • Can you come over to my dorm window tonight so we can talk?
  • Do you think I’m fat?
  • When are we getting engaged?
  • How come you don’t buy me anything?!!
  • Can we hang out tonight? (Despite the fact that I have a truckload of homework to get done)

Here are my responses to the things that my friends in relationships tell me;

  1. Just because I have free time on my hands doesn’t mean that I wouldn’t enjoy the company of someone special.
  2. I’m a COLLEGE STUDENT! Any money that I do manage to get my hands on is usually spent on things for college like food, supplies for some random class project, books, fees for a club or something so I might have a little stashed away for a rainy day.
  3. Sometimes it is good to know that someone cares enough about you to ask how you are doing, what your plans are, etc. To a certain extent there is a thin line between caring and neediness and some girls like to dance too close on the boarder of both.

For the people in relationships right now, the only encouragement that you really need to hear is that everyone goes through the ups and downs of romance with their significant other from time to time. What man hasn’t wanted to strangle himself because it seems that every winking moment he has is spent with his girlfriend?

I think for the past 2 ½ years, I’ve had roommates who had girlfriends and they’d go out and I wouldn’t see them until it was curfew. That was usually because they would be with their girlfriends most of the time. I can’t remember one day when they didn’t sigh because of something that happened when they were out. Despite complaining and being angry when a text from their girlfriend woke them up in the middle of the night, I could tell for the most part that they were happy.

So, if you are going through some tough times with your guy or girl, no worries! Those bad times are what make the good times worth it. Overall, that is just about the best kind of advice I can offer to anyone who is in love or longing to be in love with someone.

I hope that my blogs have been an asset that can be applied to your life as you make it through college whether you end up in a relationship or not. Just know that not everyone finds their true love on campus. As I mentioned before, someone once told me that college is supposed to be the best time of your life, but I’ve always wondered about that statement…

If college is supposed to be the best time/years of my life, then what does say about marriage?????

I think the most positive way of looking at it is this; when it comes to marriage it will be the best time/years of “our” lives just something to think about if you are looking up at the moon and the stars and wondering if your future spouse is doing the same.

College Dating #4: Don’t Cheat or Try To Be a Player

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This blog is for the men but of course it applies to the girls as well. In my other three blogs about dating in college, I’ve addressed the importance of finding the right person and how that usually happens at the right time when you least expect it. With that being said, why would you jeopardize a good relationship by cheating?

During my time at Liberty University, I’ve seen a few guys who labeled themselves as players. Some of them got away with it but a couple of them weren’t so lucky. I don’t know if this will apply to colleges aside from LU, but women tend to connect.

What I mean by that is for some strange reason it seems that EVERY woman knows every other woman. Never underestimate the possible connections formed between women because women talk…a lot!

The girl you are dating right now might know the girl you stare at during a boring lecture who sits two seats across from you in Biology class, the girl who lives in the dorm across the street from you and the girl who works behind the counter at the Starbucks you visit every day and so on.

Seriously, they are all connected in some way. That is why it is important to do your research and by that I don’t mean be a stalker. Also, I’m not trying to say that being a player is cool and to do your homework so you won’t get caught.

I’m trying to tell you a story…

I had this friend who lived on my dorm and he was dating a girl who lived on the other side of campus. He really liked her but about two weeks after they started dating, he was talking about how he liked this other girl on campus too. As time went on, he began to brag about how he now had two girlfriends and that was the man.

Well, let’s fast forward to around 5 days later; it was a Wednesday and he comes into the dorm looking mortified as if his Xbox 360 was thrown out of the 2nd floor window by his dorm mate. Someone asked him what was wrong and he said that his girlfriend(s) dumped him. Of course, we had to know how it happened because he just got dumped twice in one day!

He went on to say that both girls knew each other. Not only that they lived in the same dorm and were in the same Prayer Group (a weekly meeting in LU dorms when the dorm is broken into groups of 5 or more students who come together for a spiritual meeting kind of like a mini-bible study every Tuesday night).

During their Prayer Group the night before, both talked about how blessed they were to have a great guy in their lives. The other girls in the group asked who their boyfriends were and the girls were shocked to discover that they were dating the same guy! Needless to say my friend did not have the best reputation with any girl on campus from that point on.

The lesson of this story illustrates the importance of trust, honesty and commitment in a relationship. If you are not satisfied with the person you are dating it is better to be honest and breakup with them instead of cheating on them.

If you are thinking about cheating on the person you are dating (this goes for guys AND girls), just think about the repercussions of your decision before making it. Trust me, if you are doing right in a relationship with someone you won’t have time to be messing around with somebody else on the side.

Not to mention you will not only being hurting the emotions of the person you were dating in the first place, but you’ll make the person you were cheating with feel like a “side chick” (if she doesn’t know about the person you were dating to begin with). Do you remember the reason you got into a relationship to begin with?

If you started dating someone for the right reasons; you felt that this person is someone who you can connect with on an emotional level, brings out the best in you and you both really care about each other. Why would you be willing to throw it all away on some emotions you get just by looking at another person?

College Dating #2; Ladies Be Reasonable

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This is one subject that can get a bit touchy but it is something that I could not avoid talking about.

Don’t get me wrong, in a relationship I believe it is proper for the man to take out his girlfriend for a nice dinner or buy her something nice. However, it should not be something that is expected to be done numerous times. Why? Both individuals are in college and the last time I checked it isn’t the most inexpensive place to be in today’s world.

With rising tuition each semester, student loans, buying books, housing fees, buying gas (if the student has a car) and all the other things that take money out of a student’s wallet it is hard to keep a woman happy while in college. If women would be a bit more understanding then a lot of relationships would go a lot smoother.

I know times are tough after a long week of classes involving quizzes, exams, projects and of course the stress that comes along with that. Not to mention if one or both of the people in a relationship have jobs on top of that it just adds on to the daily demands already put into place from being a college student. Sometimes you just want to get away from it all with your man especially if the two of you haven’t been spending a lot of quality time together due to demanding schedules.

College relationships seem to be a “test” as to how two individuals would handle marriage when you really think about it. I’ve never been married but just from observation and talking with people I know who are in relationships some of the same factors are evident.

Here are a few of the similarities:

  • Bringing the stress from work or school into the relationship by taking those aggressive feelings out on each other often resulting in arguments due to misplaced anger
  • The relationship can sometimes get a bit stale with the same old routine over and over again. Don’t be afraid to spice up the relationship with something new. Instead of a movie go out dancing or just do something that you’ve never done before
  • Money can be an issue but only if you let it. Despite not being married, keeping a budget (and this goes for the men) is important because the school cafeteria and coupon dinners won’t keep a woman satisfied if this happens EVERY date night
  • The guy or girl may feel neglected if work and school seems to come in between them with dates having to be rescheduled due to demanding work schedules or exams/projects to work on

I know the last one listed above is true for guys who have girlfriends in the nursing program or ladies with a boyfriend studying law, those majors have a demanding schedule and it is not uncommon for person to feel a bit neglected. However, making time for one another is a topic I’ll cover in Part 3 of my “College Dating” blogs.

Ladies, sometimes it is best to keep things simple when it comes to date night with your man. As I mentioned above, there are many things that can cause stress and exhaustion while in college. Some nights it would do some good just to spend time with your man. Go out to a place off campus to get away from all of the distractions, look at the stars and just talk. Remember that old saying “Simplicity is best” and when it comes to love that really does apply. Those moments when the two of you can get away from everything so you can be together means more than anything he can buy you (ladies could argue that a wedding ring would mean more but that’s just based on opinion).

Overall, just remember that you are not the only one with a demanding schedule in college. If your boyfriend truly cares about you he will bend over backwards trying to make you happy. Also consider his feelings too, maybe he had rough day at work or a tiresome week of classes and he needs some attention. Just like text messages, phone calls or social media messages/conversations; it works BOTH ways. He doesn’t always have to be the first one to contact you. As a man, I can say that those little “I love you” or “Good morning” messages mean just as much to us as it does for females because it shows that you care. With that in mind, ladies PLEASE try to be a bit more reasonable when it comes to the dating expectations of your man especially while you are still in college.

God Will Take You through the Storm

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Ever since I graduated from college in May, I’ve been feeling unfulfilled in terms of where I am in my life right now. I have filled out at least a dozen job applications, mailed out around 15 scholarship and donor letters in order to get help paying for graduate school and network as much as I can in order to get a few doors open to more opportunities. However, it has been almost two months and my efforts have not been successful in the least. For the past 3 years at Liberty University I used my time to study, network and do whatever I could in order to prepare myself for the world outside of the “Liberty Bubble.”

Now that I am in the world outside of the bubble, things do not seem to be going well at all. There hasn’t been a single job that has called me in for an interview or one where my application made it past the first round of applicants.

I live in Southern Virginia and for the past few days we’ve been getting nothing but storm after storm. The day might start out with the sun shining for a couple of hours but before long those dark storm clouds roll in. Next thing you know the sound of thunder rumbles from behind the clouds before a flash of lightning stretches out across the sky. After that, it is followed by the inevitable downpour that goes on and off for hours. 

The storms seem to represent some sort of outward manifestation of the storms that I seem to be going through in my life at the moment. I seem to be going through a storm of struggle, where I’m trying to walk towards success but the wind and rain seem to be pushing me back making the journey a difficult one.

Going further into this situation, I am reminded about Jesus’ parable of the house on the rock. During that story, the man who builds his house on a firm and stable foundation will be able to survive the storms that come and beat upon the house. It is meant to represent the kind of life we should live building our foundation on the faith of God. When I think about it, I realize that we are all going to go through hard times in life.

Looking up to the sky, all we can see are the dark clouds making it seem like all is lost. However, it is important to remember that the sun although out of sight is still there behind those clouds. After the storm is over, the clouds will depart but not before that first beam of sunlight cuts through. To me this represents the reward of all of the struggles we must endure during the storm of doubt. For those who keep the faith and keep on going no matter what the storm may dish out, just knowing that the sun is on the other side makes the storms worth it in the long run. 

Can You Truly Be Happy For Others If You Are Not Happy With Yourself?

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We all have that one friend who is successful at ANYTHING and EVERYTHING that they attempt to do. Of course no one is perfect but they are labeled by other people as “Mr. or Little Miss Perfect.” I’m sure a lot of you can relate when I mention how frustrating it is to have something that you work for or something that you try to do fail miserably. Then there are other times when you put your all into something but the results are not coming as quickly as you’d like them to.

There is a saying I think about whenever I begin to show distain for other people becoming successful or getting closer to their goals while I’m still stuck in the same place; “Jealousy comes from counting others’ blessings instead of our own.” That green-eyed monster starts to rear its ugly head whenever I begin to feel trapped just dreaming while other people I know are having their dreams become a reality.

For the past 2 ½ years, I’ve been working to become a professional songwriter; writing over 150 songs, mailing out dozens of letters to artists, spending money on songwriting books and getting my work copyrighted, emailing/calling over 50 potential lawyers for representation so I’ll be prepared whenever I reach my goal because I’ll need professional help, making demos, my own website (http://jccarde5.wix.com/jtunesmusic), Facebook page (http://www.facebook.com/pages/JC-Carden-Lyrics/159893560774888) and the list goes on.

However, even with the many contacts that I’ve made through networking there hasn’t been any big ups in my journey so far. The closest thing to success is making contact with a guy who runs a recording studio who will record any song I bring in that has “hit potential.” Honestly, this is a lot better than someone who just wants me to come in and record a song even if it’s horrible just to get my money. That is why I am determined to just use that particular studio. Downside is that I haven’t been able to find reliable people to record demos with; vocalists, other lyricists, people who know about using the necessary equipment or composers.

As you can imagine, I haven’t been in the best of spirits since my dream hasn’t been going so well. The thing that gets to me is that some of my other friends just seem to “fall” into their success or their next step in becoming successful in their dream career. You know what I mean when I say that, those people who do not have to work for anything. They seem to have everything fall right into their lap while you are working your butt off but nothing is happening.

Many people that have made it in whatever career they were pursuing says that the struggle is what made them appreciate their success even more. That is because they know what it is like to start at Square 1 with nothing but their dreams and own ambition. It is not about what you know it’s about who you know. Nothing could be closer to the truth that than statement because I try to remember that in any situation I find myself in.

Patience is the key but it is hard for me to fit that key into the lock of success because of how long I have to wait for something to happen. It is true that most artists and musicians have been working at their craft for most of their lives. For me 2 ½ years ago was when I finally found my passion in life that one thing I wanted to do more than anything for the rest of my days. I’ve been writing for a good portion of my life but it was when I reached the age that I was able to do something about it that changed everything for me. I write songs, short stories, poems and screenplays and it gives me great joy to be able to look at any piece of my finished work. That is because I put myself into my work and that gives me the greatest satisfaction.

Another thing to remember is that you shouldn’t be jealous of another person’s success. In fact, you should rejoice especially if it is someone close like a friend or relative because someone you know that has been working and praying hard has finally achieved something that they’ve been working for. True success comes when you have someone to share that  joy with.

Will I ever reach my dream? That depends as to whether or not it is what God has in store for me but I doubt that He would give me such a heated desire to pursue this dream if it wasn’t meant to happen. My hope is that you too will find that one thing you love doing more than anything else. One thing that we have to remember is that everyone has their own race to run, their own dreams and goals to follow then achieve. No matter who is getting their blessings around you whether it be through hard work or seemingly just handed to them it doesn’t matter. Why? Just knowing that somewhere down the road your blessing is waiting for you as a reward for the hard work you put into that project you are working on right now makes the struggle worth it.