Perhaps a more apt title for this post should be “It Took Me 31 Years To Finally Graduate and I Want To Inspire You So That You Don’t Give Up On Your Own Dream”. But that is a bit wordy. (smile)
This past Tuesday I took a two hour college final worth 200 points. Despite my previous A + work in the upper level class the instructor had made passing the final a criteria for passing the class. So if I didn’t pass the final I would not pass the class. Which meant I would not graduate. #nopressure
I finished the online exam and submitted it. It automatically reported my score: 192 out of 200. I had passed the class. Which meant I had completed the very last requirement I needed to FINALLY graduate.
It had only taken 9 colleges, 56 classes and 31 YEARS.
I stared at my computer and began sobbing. A good ugly cry with sobs so hard they wracked my entire body. This went on for a good 10 minutes. I finally pulled it together, offered up a prayer of gratitude and started thinking about how I could use this gift to bless others. The moment was too good not to share.
Of course the first thought that many of you might have is “Why did it take so long?”
Some of the delay was by choice but more often than not it was circumstance.
So, I’m going to share my journey of achieving my dream because someone out there needs to read it so they themselves won’t give up on their dream.
I’m also going to share with you the knowledge that I learned outside of the classroom during those 31 years. Because that is probably even more important. Number one, we are all geniuses. Start believing that now. Each and every one of us has something that we are good at.
I believe the above quote by Albert Einstein is 100% true.
School and life has not always been easy for me. You can read more about that in the Ultimate DIY Part I post HERE.
Growing up and attending elementary school in the 1970’s I excelled in art and English. Everything else was a real struggle. I heard the words “Stupid”, “Moron” and “Idiot” more times than I care to admit.
I would be in my 30’s before being diagnosed with Attention Deficit Syndrome (A.D.D.). I proceeded to learn new skills to assist me in dealing with, and overcoming, this challenge and turning it into a positive.
I have my 7th grade English teacher, Mrs. Linda Preston, to thank for first planting the seed that I wasn’t stupid and that I should go to college. I can never thank her enough.
The next few years were a struggle but I graduated from high school in 1986.
A few weeks later I packed everything I owned (two suitcases and one large box) into my 1969 Toyota Corolla and moved to Sacramento. I got a minimum wage job at a department store, enrolled in community college, and rented one tiny single room in a small condo.
I was fully responsible for feeding, housing, clothing and educating myself.
I was just 17 years old.
What could go wrong?
Two months later my car broke down. The repairs were over $500 dollars. I had to ride the bus to work, and work longer hours, in order to save up the money. It took over 4 months to save the money. In the meantime trying to fit in an additional 3 hours a day spent riding a bus, plus working 2 more hours a day meant that something had to give. I met with school counselors, tried to get assistance, but all doors closed. I had no idea there were scholarships, student loans or even food stamps. Remember, this was pre internet. I was on my own and people?programs that should have helped, didn’t.
This would be the first of many times circumstance would delay my schooling.
But I would not give up.
I would reenroll the next semester and successfully pass all three of my classes. This happened for two more semesters.
I then had my daughter. I was 20 years old.
At this time I made the choice to not attend school for almost two years. It was enough to run a licensed in home daycare so that I could be a stay at home mom. Even though I was working 40 + hours a week there were still many times our cupboards were bare. I am SO thankful for my good friend Pam who also was enduring similar circumstances. Often, we would combine what was in our pantries to make one good meal for our little girls.
When Alyssa Lou was 18 months old I enrolled in one evening class. It was located three miles a way from home. At the time my main mode of transportation was a bicycle with a baby seat on the back of it. Every Tuesday and Thursday night I would drop my baby off with Pam, or another friend, and bicycle the three miles to class. Yes, even in the scorching heat, bitter cold and pouring rain.
I did this for three semesters.
A similar bike, but mine was not even close to looking this good.
The military then transferred us to upstate New York and I could not afford the out of state tuition. #circumstance
A year later I made the decision to legally become a full time single parent. It took working full time and beyond to keep food on the table and a roof over our heads. At times it was still not enough. Eventually, I learned about food stamps. This enabled me to have enough money to return to school for one class, two nights a week.
I have my cousin Eric and his wife Tara to thank for watching my girl.
Yes, it was slow going taking just one class a semester. but I was not deterred.
Believe me when I say that I also encountered many people over the years who said that I would never make it. Perhaps they wanted me to fail to make themselves feel better. I don’t know. I didn’t waste my time to find out. Instead I took the situation of someone telling me I couldn’t do something and turned their negativity into motivation for me to complete a task.
Time passed, I met and married Mr. Decor. We moved overseas for four years. This was still in the stone ages when internet schooling did not exist. So I made the choice to continue learning but not receive any actual college credit.
I began working for the U.S.O. selling tours of various iconic European sites to military families. During the week I would go to the library and check out books to read up on what would be the upcoming weekend tour. I taught myself about the worlds great art and architecture and then went to see it in person via a group tour bus that I got to ride on for very little as an employee. It was a priceless education that is still, to this day, paying dividends.
Upon our return to the U.S. we were stationed in a rural town where the closest university was 1 hour away. By this time Sweet Guy had joined the family so I made the choice to once again set aside school for awhile. Yet I still chose to continue learning in other ways.
A few years later we then moved to Phoenix where I finally earned an associates degree in Interior Design in 2010. This long-term continuing education was not without it challenges. Each time I would transfer my previous college class credits from one school I would then need new or different class credits to satisfy that particular college. There were also a few other trials that you can read about in the Ultimate DIY Part I.
I then enrolled in A.S.U. and took just one class a semester. It was all we could afford as my goal was to graduate debt free. It also helped to maintain a balanced work and home life for myself and my family. During this time I was still learning by living a full life outside of the classroom. I self taught myself on a wide variety of topics that were of interest to me. Many of those topics became posts on this blog. (smile)
I truly believe that life itself can be a tremendous teacher.
Upon looking back at my overall education I can say this: I learned far more from life than I ever did in a classroom setting.
So yes, I will graduate with a 4.0 G.P.A. and graduate Summa Cum Laude and will soon have a piece a paper that SAYS I’m smart. But I’m also smart enough to know it’s not everything.
However, I personally needed to get my degree just for the confidence my education has given me. I also believe that my education will now open doors for me that did not exist before.
Both halves of my education have played key roles in who I am today.
Please know there were many, many times I wanted to give up. And I did, I gave up.
But then I would began again.
Because it’s never to late to pick up a dream where you left off.
It’s important to know that any dream worth while involves some sort of sacrifice. Over the years I have had to pass on countless fun activities, wonderful opportunities, and other amazing things because I chose to put my education, in such situations, first.
It is my great hope that today you will begin to realize your dream whether it is old or new.
Dig deep and you will find your strength.
If your dream is school please know that the internet or your local library can be a valuable source of free information. There are so many more avenues available today that make school possible. Reduced or free child care is in place on most campuses. Hundreds of thousands of dollars are available in the form of scholarships.
If I can do it, against all odds, you can too.
I believe in you.
Because some might ask:
~ My degree is a Bachelor of Arts in Interdisciplinary Studies. My areas of study involved a primary focus in art history with a secondary focus in American history centering on how women helped to shape the nation.
This basically means I can look at artistic works by great artists and discuss the work in detail in addition to being able to discuss the relevancy or discrepancy of how American art depicts actual American history. (Still awake? 🙂
But please know that I put my fancy pants on one leg at a time and somehow still manage to regularly fall over.
~ I will not be participating in a graduation ceremony. Instead, I will finally make good on a long held promise to my daughter. We will celebrate our college graduations by spending a week in NYC. She only had to wait four years for me to catch up with her. We leave in three weeks.
~ Pam and I remained friends over the years despite my many moves. She also worked very hard to create a better life for herself. I treasure her because she keeps it real and never misses an opportunity to mention how dorky I looked on my bicycle and that she’s so glad we’ll never have to eat generic boxed macaroni and cheese again.
~ At this time I have no plans to continue on with my education. It’s enough to have a PhD. in life experience. (smile)