For many, this time of year is dedicated to spending time with our loved ones, to showing gratitude for what we have and all we have accomplished, and to displaying an abundance of love for something greater than ourselves.
And for me, this couldn’t be more true. For the first time in my life, I feel complete. What a journey it has been and I have much to be grateful for.
When I was younger, I couldn’t have imagined the dynamic, ambitious, accomplished, and truly happy woman I see when I look in the mirror today. Of course I knew I was smart so I’d be able to get good grades and get a job. Being a first generation college student, all I heard growing up was you’re so smart, keep getting good grades, make sure you go to college, and make something of yourself. Growing up, I felt like everywhere I looked, it was like there was a path to success already mapped out for me- by my family, by the media, by my teachers, and everything I read. Go to college, get a degree, get a job, climb that corporate ladder, become a VP with an office on the top floor with plenty of windows, have a family, and eventually retire so you can finally do all the traveling you ever dreamed of.
So that’s what I aimed to do.
I went to college (GO DUKES), took on several leadership roles, had an internship every summer, I even held 4 jobs all at one time while in school, graduated a semester early, and went on to work with a Fortune 500 company whom I relocated with 4 times, was promoted every 13-19 months, and had lots of potential with the organization. Then, one day I woke up and wondered what happened to the ambitious dreamer I used to be. The girl who always took on a new challenge, who loved learning new things and gaining new experiences. The girl who wanted more. Let’s take a step back so you can really understand.
When I was applying to colleges (9 to be exact), JMU was the last application I sent in. Actually, my guidance counselor had to remind me. I didn’t think I wanted to attend. I don’t know why, but I didn’t. Then, I went to visit. The first time was a school tour & the bus got lost so we only made the end of the event so I didn’t even get to see the school. (talk about disappointment). Then the opportunity arose again for me to attend Prospective Students Weekend (looking back now, that trip changed my life). This was a weekend for potential students to actually stay on campus for a first hand experience of the JMU life. In this weekend, my mind was made, I was going to be a DUKE!
For a girl raised by a single mother, in a low income, high crime environment, JMU gave me life! See, growing up all I heard about college was to go to class, graduate, and get a job. Being the first to attend college in my family, I didn’t have anyone to tell me about their experience. But my time at JMU was much more than going to class and getting a degree. It was an EXPERIENCE!
In 3.5 years, I learned more about myself than I ever thought was possible. I went in thinking I knew exactly what I wanted, where I wanted to go in life, and what I was meant to do. I didn’t know it then, but I was actually limiting myself. See, one can only dream to the point in which they have seen based on their surroundings, especially those we see as a child. Yeah, I could dream about being where other successful people were, but I didn’t REALLY believe it was possible for me. But looking back now, JMU gave me the space to feel comfortable and able to dream. I was on my own almost 4 hours from my family, meeting people from all over the world, seeing new perspectives, building amazing relationships, learning more about the business and hospitality world, and learning a ton about myself along the way.
My professors challenged me, I got involved with several organizations that helped develop my skills even more, I networked gaining professionally contacts, and more. My professors and peers I met helped me see that there was much more to me, that my past didn’t have to define where I went in the future and that I am the master of my own destiny as limitless as I desired. What a powerful thing when someone not only tells you that they believe in you, but shows you. In that moment, I wanted more because I got a glimpse of all I could really do. All I could really accomplish. I realized that I hadn’t given myself the credit I deserved; I was the one who got myself exactly where I was in that moment, and that wherever I wanted to be, I was the one who would get me there too. That I had all the skills and the drive I needed to make it happen.
Fast forward after I graduated and went on to work, this was exactly what I carried with me in my professional career. Then, when I was ready to challenge myself more and go for a promotion of which I was already doing the work for and was told to wait for a few more months, I realized I had lost her. And it was then, I started wondering that girl with the ambition, with the drive, with the dreams had gone. The girl I discovered years ago.
And it was also in that moment I decided it was time for me to take back ownership of my life, of my success, and of my happiness. For me personally, I realized that yet again I limited myself. I had always dreamed of being my own boss, of running my own business, of working towards something that was bigger than just me.
It’s been 2 years since I started working on my first business and this summer, I launched my second business. And now, I am a self-employed women and I finally feel complete because I am going after exactly what I want in life.
I mentioned earlier that this time of year is one of love, happiness, togetherness, and gratitude. As I reflect on where I’ve been, where I am, and where I am going, I can wholeheartedly say that I do not know where I would be if I hadn’t gained the experience of becoming even more self aware, developing my skills, and even more gaining new experiences and opportunities all of which have shaped exactly who I am today. I don’t even know if I would have had the same experience at another school.
All I know is I am forever grateful that I sent off that last college application all those years ago and that I have the honor to bleed Purple & Gold, full of hope, vision, and dreams.
Kierra Jones (’11) is an Entrepreneur and Empowerment & Success Coach dedicated to helping women entrepreneurs confidently shine inside out for the world to see.
As a JMU Alumna, Kierra continued her career within B2B Sales & Account Management with General Mills. Over the last 2 years, Kierra has been able to combine her passion for style, business, and women empowerment to build two businesses. She is the owner of an online accessory boutique, www.TheKJonesCollection.com where she helps women in business, style their success and went on to establish her private coaching practice, speaking, and private Facebook community of Women Who Shine with Kierra Jones where she helps women entrepreneurs gain confidence in themselves and their gifts so they can share it, shine in it, and sell it!
“The moment a woman knows how powerful & unstoppable she is, she can finally get out of her own way truly shine inside out to create the life and business she loves and deserves!”