I can hear the evening news blaring through the front door as I stand on the porch. There’s no sense in knocking, she’ll never hear me. I turn the knob and walk into my grandmother’s kitchen. It smells of coffee and cinnamon rolls.

I walk around the corner into the living room and find her pinning her hair up for the night — something I’ve watched her do a thousand times. She smiles and motions for me to sit down.

At 85 years old, my grandmother is still the toughest and most fiercely independent woman I know. As a child, my summers were spent playing cards and Yahtzee with her on the living room floor. Now, as an adult, I love to sit and listen to her stories of fighting for equal pay, standing up to those who thought she should be at home cooking rather than out working, and what she would choose to do differently now that she has the benefit of hindsight. My grandmother is the one person with whom I have always confided. I have shared my worries and frustrations with her as well as my moments of happiness and those that broke my heart. She always knows what to say or when a hug is the only remedy.

I take a seat on the couch and watch her finish pinning the last few curls. She knows I have something on my mind and offers me coffee and a cinnamon roll. I pour my heart out between bites while anxiously trying to explain my concerns about the future and wondering if I’ve made the right choices.

She sits quietly for a moment, and then, with all the wisdom only 85 years of living can provide, she offers me the best advice of my life.

She tells me to let go of the past and make today my new starting point. Handing me a pen and notepad she says, “When you go home, write down the most important things you want to achieve. Forget everything else until you succeed. Focus on what makes you happy and the rest will fall into place.”

She hands me a cinnamon roll for the road and I head home.

I sit for hours with her words echoing in my head, the gravity of her advice still sinking in. As I begin writing my list, I cry. For the first time in my life, I am putting my hopes and dreams ahead of another’s. I fold the paper and place it in my nightstand. Today is my new starting point.

Fast forward a couple years, and I can happily report the first item on my list is nearly complete. I promised myself I would finally finish my bachelor’s degree and have been diligently working toward that goal. My internship at Cecil College is the last step before graduation, and, interestingly enough, it has helped me realize I’m on the right path to another item on my list — a career I enjoy. When I selected my degree program, I wasn’t sure if it was the right choice. But, as I progressed through my coursework, I found myself really enjoying the material. Now that I’ve had the opportunity to put my education to work, I can confidently say I’m on the right path.

Every so often, I read over my list to remind myself that no matter how hard life seems right now, it will all be worth it in the end.

Thank you for taking time to read my story. I hope my grandmother’s advice is as helpful for you as it has been for me. I think I’ll head over to visit with her this afternoon, listen to some more words of wisdom, and maybe grab a cinnamon roll — or two.