Gia Gaster - American. North Carolina, USA
You really don’t have any idea of how your life will turn out, and Gia Gaster’s story only reinforces this notion. In so many different versions of her story she could’ve kept her life the way it was for over 20 years – a bus driver, privately loving her partner, raising her son and her partner’s two kids. Yet even to her surprise, she kept taking chances and at 40-something years-old she went to college, graduated law school and became a lawyer. If that’s not a sign to have faith in your own journey, then I don’t know what else can be.
Culture, College and Coming out in the Carolinas
I grew up in Greensboro, North Carolina. I appreciate it more now than I used to. I always kind of felt stuck and always had big ideas like living in New York City... the big city...where I would find more open-minded people. I’m a lesbian and I came out late in life – it was hard to be out in the south (United States) for a long time. I've been with my partner for 20 years and we recently came out within the last 5 to 6 years. So being in the south, in general, felt closed off culturally, people were sort of stuck in their ways. I feel like that’s changed a lot now.
I wanted to be a teacher – I was interested in politics and just different things like that. I barely graduated from high school and I tried to go to community college. I took all kinds of writing classes and tried to take history classes but I kept failing classes and eventually I just began to think that I was dumb and was not able to do it because I had reading comprehension issues.
As time went on, I began to realize that I had dyslexia. I was undiagnosed in school. Eventually I dropped out of community college – I just thought I can't do school.
I came into driving a school bus at the age of 22.
Disability = Determination
After my second week there (as a bus driver), I got transferred to driving children with special needs and that stuck. I did that for 20 years. I fell in love with my kids. They inspired me, taught me so much about life. A lot of these kids had disabilities, some with autism … and just this resilience of getting knocked down, getting back up and finding the joy in life. Sometimes the best accomplishment they might have was just getting out of bed that day, going into school and having their physical or other therapies... watching their struggles and they still do it with a smile. They taught me a lot about life, perseverance and tenacity.
When the internet came out and I began to connect with other people that were more open minded than the people I knew in North Carolina. I began to talk to people who had learning difficulties in school and I decided that I wanted to give learning another try and was going to go back to the community college. I liked to take pictures and I like to write – so doing something creative, maybe do advertising. But it’s really because I would be smart enough to get through that.
The Click That Changed It All
One day when I needed to go to the Guilford Technical Community College website, I accidentally clicked on the Guilford College link and ended up browsing their website. Right on the front page of their website, they were showing, Peace and Conflict Studies. I'm all about bridge-building and peace and trying to teach people to talk through conflict. I just kind of like fell to my knees like, oh my gosh, you could major in something like this! I went and talked to them about it and fell in love with the program.
I had a pivotal moment my second year in a really hard class with a brilliant professor. I sought out resources to help me with learning and getting resources to help me through the class and ended up getting an A minus.
It was a pivotal moment in my life – I am not stupid, I am smart. I just have struggles and if I worked through it and seek help, I can do anything.
Raising the Bar
I graduated from Guilford College at the top of my class with honors. I went to law school in 2016, graduated December 2018 and I passed the Bar Exam on the first go in February. I swore into the state and federal court on May 23rd 2019 and after a few months, I started as a personal injury lawyer working on wrongful death, police brutality, premises liability, social security disability, and other things.
I became an attorney at the age of 49.
Gia’s Guiding Force
I feel like there's an outside force that's been driving me in this direction -
– that there's something that I'm supposed to do that's greater than myself... destiny or the spirits of the world, the energy, whatever, that there's something that's driving me somewhere and that my job is to just put in the work. It just feels so uncharacteristic for me to have gone to college and apply for law school – to get in and make it through law school.
I mean, law school was hard – basically for three years, all I did was either sleep or study or go to school. And I just kept fighting and fighting and fighting and clawing and climbing and feeling like there's just this great purpose. It just drives me and I can't really explain it.
It's comfortable to stay where you are even though you're not completely happy. It's hard to put your neck out there and to take chances, but that's where the growth is and that's where you begin to really find out who you are.
- Gia Gaster
On Twitter: @SouthernPoet
Update: After 20 years, Beth and Gia have decided to get married in September 2020. <3
Enjoyed Gia's journey? Then let us know! Here are other inspiring moments.
Read: "Freedom" - Everything in my life, I forgave. You always ask, why did that happen to me? There’s no other way! It had to happen for me to get to this point and other points.