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Reason to Believe - A Modern-Day Fairy Tale

Wendy Dwyer


I was listening to the story of the Ugly Duckling this afternoon, which got me thinking about how things are not always as they seem.  Actually, it started earlier, in that weird way the universe has on knocking you in the head with a message until you get it. You see, I have a student in my class who was also in a developmental or remedial class a couple of years ago. In that class, she was almost always the student who showed up just as I was locking the door. She was always breathless, scattered, and practically haloed by that cavalier attitude that pretty young things seem to be able to pull off but I never could. It’s confidence based on waist size and perky boobs, and it’s enervating, to say the least.

            The student came in one morning, and she had clearly been crying. I kept her after class to see if I could help, and eventually she shared that her boyfriend had choked her because he thought she was cheating on him. I may not ever be an expert in small waists and perky boobs, but being hurt by someone you love is definitely in my wheelhouse, so I listened until she had no more to share. When she asked, I was fortunate to be ready and able to offer her some resources to help her make some important decisions. She wasn’t ready.

            As the semester continued, her life did not improve. Despite loving reconciliations and promises of, “Never again,” and “undying love,” my cavalier student soon looked like she was wearing a millstone around her neck instead of a small, sparkly heart. Before long, we were looking up resources for pregnancy help and how to approach single motherhood or its alternatives – decisions this once-carefree child would have to make sooner than later.

            Fast forward to the start of the school year, when on the first day of class, a shy student walked in, shoulders tight but head held high. She sat in the front row and began to cry when she realized I remembered her. She wasn’t the only one crying. Her daughter is now a year and a half old, and my former student may have lost some of her youthful exuberance, but she gained some strength and a sense of purpose during our time apart.

            I was not looking forward to my student’s first essay. After all, I knew what her writing had been like only a few semesters ago, when it was almost more appealing to go for my annual mammogram than get the student to turn in her assignments. But now, this semester, her paper was turned in a day early, after what appeared to have been multiple trips to the writing center and the library to get every detail right. The essay began with this, “I am ashamed of being a single mom…”

            Things are not always as they seem, and even pretty young things with small waists and perky bosoms and all of life before them have struggles and staggering disappointments to bear. But even though all is not as it seems, my student showed me, just by showing up and working hard even on the days when she had been up all night with a crying child or trying to get her homework completed while the baby napped and before her next shift at work, that there is always hope. Even when we are embarrassed by who we have become, humiliated by hurtful, hateful others, taken advantage of by those who have asked for and received our help, there is still something in each of us that finds a reason to believe and hope. And for this reason today, while many never achieve that fairy tale happily-ever-after, I am grateful.




Wendy Dwyer is a woman of many hats. A full-time Associate Professor at Indian River State College, she serves as a creative consultant for a variety of nonprofit organizations in the area. She also writes regularly for Luminaries, STUART Magazine, and a variety of other publications.

The creative force behind a variety of unique and wildly successful fundraising programs locally, including the Jewelia Project, the “What’s in Your Bag?” Food Drive, and the Silver Bells Holiday Home Tour, Dwyer is an active volunteer in the community as well, serving as a founding board member of the Van Duzer Foundation, and assisting a variety of local charitable organizations including: Mustard Seed, HANDS/VIM, Southeast Florida Honor Flight, Creature Safe Place, the Inner Truth Project, Guardians for New Futures, Fort Pierce Jazz and Blues Society, the Sunrise Theatre Foundation, LifeBuilders of the Treasure Coast, Heathcote Botanical Gardens, United for Animals, and many others.

An award-winning writer, educator, and public relations professional, Dwyer is always willing to assist non-profit organizations and provide dynamic and engaging public relations trainings for Treasure Coast charities.  Her book Asshats to Assets: How to Turn Crappy Jobs into Career Gold is available at  When she is not working or volunteering, she enjoys writing, walking, and spending time with her husband Dan and a large variety of rescued animals at her rural home west of Fort Pierce.





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