DEAR ABBY: About 10 years ago, a letter appeared in your column from a woman who was debating whether to return to college. She said if she attended part time, it would take eight years to get a degree, and she'd be 45 years old. You told her in eight years she would be 45 years old anyway, and not to let that dissuade her. Your response struck a chord with me.
Shortly after reading that column, I decided to go back to school. I had attended college twice in my early 20s, but lacking direction, I dropped out twice. I always knew I was smart, but I was ashamed to say I had only a high school education.
So, at 38, I visited my local community college and talked to a counselor. I was terrified. I had no idea how to enroll in classes or what classes to take.
Going back to school was the best thing I ever did. It opened my mind to new ideas and improved my self-confidence and self-esteem. I found that being an older adult in a class of younger people was not so bad. I had a wealth of personal experience to draw upon, and although I had to budget my time and study hard, I had no problem getting good grades.
It took seven years, but I graduated from a university with a B.S. with honors and a 3.96 GPA. I was 44 years old and the first in my family to graduate from college. My entire family came to the ceremony. It was one of the proudest moments in my life.
Since graduation, I have received two promotions at work and am currently working on my master's degree. I will be 50 by the time I finish.
Abby, I want to thank you for printing that letter. During the years I was working full time and attending school, I never forgot your reply to that woman. It was my "rallying cry" and kept me motivated. -- ELLEN CONLEY, OAK HILLS, CALIF.
DEAR ELLEN: Every time I print that letter or one similar, I receive letters such as yours. The rewards you are enjoying have come because of your own efforts, and I'm sure your letter will serve as a "rallying cry," as well as an inspiration, to many others.
Congratulations on your academic and business successes. They are well earned.
DEAR ABBY: I had to respond to the letter from "Proud to Be Me in California," who had been teased from early childhood. "Proud" developed an eating disorder and became convinced she was flawed. A friend told her to reaffirm her goodness and belief in herself by saying out loud that she was a beautiful and special human being.
This reminded me of a story my husband told. He was a performer and appeared several times on the "Ed Sullivan Show." One night he was standing in the wings waiting to go on. Sammy Davis Jr. was going on ahead of him.
Sammy wore a large ring. Just before he made his entrance, he kissed his ring several times -- each time saying, "You're a star. You're a star." -- MRS. VAUGHN MEADER
DEAR MRS. MEADER: Sometimes even people who seem to have everything need to give themselves a pep talk. Like your husband, Sammy Davis Jr. was a brilliant talent. If that was the secret of his success, it certainly worked.
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