Last week I finalized my fall school schedule, checked and double checked all my requirements, and applied for graduation for December 2011 with a Bachelor’s of Science in Economics.
And then I broke down crying.
This has been such a long road for me, with potholes and detours and roundabouts and a hundred other annoying obstacles that could be added to the “life as a road” metaphor. I started attending classes at the University in January 2002; even if you aren’t a math major it isn’t difficult to surmise that it has taken me ten years to earn a bachelor’s degree. In that time I have also acquired some excellent work experience, an impressive resume and the ever-elusive Life Degree, in a few months I’ll have the paperwork to back it up.
Rewind to 2004: It was a few months after I got married I was really struggling with school. It wasn’t too hard, I just wasn’t interested in any of my classes, topics, teachers, nothing. I had always loved school, loved learning, and was on the fast track to a earning a 3-year bachelor’s degree. And I hit a wall. Looking back, this probably had something (read: a lot) to do with my tumultuous marriage and home life, but at the time I didn’t link the two. My X and I talked about it for several days and mutually decided that we were going to make some changes in our situation. At the time we were both working part-time and going to school full-time, I decided to find a full-time job to cover our expenses and he would quit working entirely, take on an extra class or two, and finish his degree in the next two semesters. At that point, he would be the bread-winner and I would go back to school with–hypothetically–a renewed energy and a better idea of what I wanted to study. (The long term details of this plan also included both of us earning Master’s degrees.)
I started interviewing and within a few weeks I had landed a fantastic sales position at my same company and started earning far more money on my own than we had both been making prior to our new arrangement. I continued working, enjoying the office setting and the commission checks and my new co-workers. My X? Well, he didn’t do so great at keeping up his end of the bargain, none of which I found out until after I had moved into my own apartment and filed for divorce. Turns out, X was on his last semester of academic probation. He was kicked out of the University a few weeks later but failed to mention it FOR ANOTHER TWO SEMESTERS! He continued to tell me about his classes, homework, tests, fellow students, and there were piles of papers all over the coffee table scribbled with calculus and physics equations. I continued to fund his “required” textbooks and encouraged him to go out to lunch with his friends and buy himself whatever he needed as he worked hard to graduate. I had no idea he wasn’t actually a student.
This little charade went on for two full semesters before–for completely unrelated reasons–I moved out and moved on. And THEN I found out the truth of his situation, and I was no longer upset, I was livid. The money I had given him–thousands of dollars–that went straight to Cheetos and porn instead of textbooks and late-night study-session snack runs made me sick to my stomach, but the idea that he had lied to me for so long really just pissed me off. I hated him for encouraging me to drop out of school with the idea that it would be a good move for “us” when he knew full well that he wasn’t going to be graduating anytime soon. I hated myself for letting him talk me into it, and for not noticing, and for not checking with the University, or even asking to see his report card. He was my husband, I was supposed to trust him. Ha! Lesson learned. (Also, I’ve been through a lot of therapy since this incident and no longer
know think that all men are lying, abusive, manipulative jerks. Lesson (re)learned.)
At any rate, I was still working full-time, earning plenty of money to support my newly single self, so I started taking night classes to finish up my degree. At the time I had no idea just how long that would take. I haven’t attended every semester, I’ve taken breaks here and there, but I kept at it.
And now here I am, six years later, and I have finally applied for graduation. I will graduate with the exact number of credits required to earn my degree. Exactly. I haven’t switched majors, although last year I dropped my Political Science double major and Mandarin Chinese minor to eliminate a few extra semesters. (Dropping the minor also meant switching from a Bachelor of Arts to a Bachelor of Science, which I am a-okay with. Frankly, with a degree like Econ a BS seems to make a bit more sense than a BA.)
I am so very excited to finally be on the home stretch, one more semester and I will have that embossed piece of paper that represents years of struggle and heartache and frustration and analyzing and accomplishment. Dah, I can hardly wait!
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