Going to college was never on my radar. I had no goal, no direction, no reason to spend four or more years of my life sitting at a desk learning. High School would have to do, so off I went to work and life.
And it has been a good life, sans that higher education. Ultimately, I got married, had a house full of kids, and generally enjoyed life. But I had plans for my own four kids to at least have some of that goal/direction/reason element that was missing from my own teen years, so Diana and I laid down some guidelines: work hard at school, be involved, make some decisions about the future. We gave them options: go to college, join the military, or learn a trade.
So they did, eventually amassing a total of fifteen years of military service, two trade degrees, a few bachelor’s degrees, and a master’s, with Diana starting the bandwagon by earning her degree as a forty-four-year-old so she could achieve her dream of being a teacher.
I am proud of each of them as they have become self-sufficient, happy, productive members of society. They have all worked hard to get where they are and they seem to have goals, direction, and a reason to get up every day.
But that is the big picture. Today we celebrate just one member of the family, one who has taken education to a higher level and accomplished a big first in my little family. A little back story will help.
My mom always said that Jamie marched to the beat of her own drum, an accurate observation by the matriarch of the Fleshman clan. Jamie did things her own way, colored outside the lines, dreamed big, but worked hard to achieve those dreams.
Her path led her into the United States Navy right out of high school, where she was chosen for language school. After a year in Monterey, California she took her newfound grasp of Mandarin to Hawaii, to do secret stuff in a big dark building. Needing a challenge, Jamie applied for Air Crew training so she could take her language skills airborne. After a rigorous stretch of training, including SERE school, where she mastered the skills of survival, evasion, resistance, and escape she headed off to Japan to fly in the belly of a plane and do more secret stuff. Pretty big stuff for a twenty-one-year-old fresh out of Soddy-Daisy, Tennessee.
The Navy was not enough, so she left that behind and headed to the University of Oregon to play Ultimate. Yeah, that’s right, go to college and throw a Frisbee. But while achieving the goal of making that team, she went ahead and got her Bachelor’s in Human Physiology. Which took her down the current path.
After applying to a multitude of universities (and being accepted by nearly all) Jamie chose Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia for its top-tier Physical Therapy program. And after nearly four grueling years we find ourselves cheering her accomplishment.
Because yes, we now do have a doctor in the house.
Jamie graduated, with awards, as a Doctor of Physical Therapy with a Master’s in Public Health.
And she isn’t quite done yet, as she now heads off to Boston for a year-long residency in neurological physical therapy, taking her already impressive accomplishment to a rarified height.
I suspect most parents hope their kids do better, go further, achieve more than they were able. Most parents want nothing more than to see their kids successful, productive, happy. And while I still don’t have a degree, or any plans for earning one (not just because of my age, but because I still have no goal, direction or reason to spend four years of my life in a school) I’ll have to say that my kids have exceeded my expectations, have done better, gone further, achieved more in every way.
Jamie G. Fleshman, DPT, MPH certainly has.