“I'm movin' on, at last I can see life has been patiently waiting for me and I know there's no guarantees, but I'm not alone. There comes a time in everyone's life when all you can see are the years passing by and I have made up my mind that those days are gone”. – “I’m moving on” Rascal Flatts
I did it. After countless starts, stops, fumbles, frustrated moments, times of abject disgust and despair, I finally walked across the stage and received my undergraduate degree in Sociology (Cha-ching! I foresee big bucks in my future). Although I know it's not a measure of my intelligence, NOT having a degree made me feel inferior and less than. What’s worse is that people take this condescending tone when they realize that a person of a certain age is working towards their undergraduate degree. Here’s how the conversation usually goes once they’ve realized I’m “in school”:
Random Person: Oh you’re in school? That’s great! What are you doing?
April: Oh, I’m finishing up my bachelor’s degree in Sociology.
RP: (wide eyed) Ohhhhhhh. OK. Well, GOOD for YOU! Good. For. You.
I always get the sense that they want to punch me in arm, pat me on the back and say way to go slugger all while wondering what calamity had transpired in my life. Unwanted pregnancy? Drugs? Life of crime? Problems. In. The. Fam-i-ly? It killed me every time.
When I think back to who I was in high school, all I can remember is this feeling of apathy for college. I knew that I should go, and felt as though I wanted to go—I guess, but couldn’t seem to muster up the energy of actually applying to college. I HATED school and only did well in subjects that I liked. If I didn’t care for the subject matter? Forget it, zero fucks. In addition, I had the worst guidance counselor—her name was Mrs. Pravati. Boom, put that bitch on full blast, ‘cause that’s her real name. I can see her face in front of me right now—I remember every single thing about this woman. She was a short, squat, brunette, with no neck, bad teeth and a penchant for polyester suits—usually in a dark color that she paired with a loud floral blouse. Women like this always wear blouses, never shirts. She sported a huge rock on her wedding finger and drove a light blue Mercedes Benz station wagon, letting us know that she didn’t HAVE to do this, she worked just for fun. She had cankles with fat feet that she wedged into sensible pumps, which matched her suits; this probably contributed to the unfortunate way she waddled as she made her way down the hall. I can recall her, very clearly, telling me that I “might have a chance” of getting into community college. What’s more, I can remember her saying that to me in front of my mother, and my mother just sitting there letting this woman tear me down. Huh. I grew up way back in the day, before each kid was a special snowflake that had to be defended at all costs. When I was kid, I was not special—I was a tremendous disappointment. So of course Mrs. Pravati was right. I haven’t thought about that in years, knowing my mother, she would deny this ever happened. I can assure you that it did and looking back, I can see how that conversation sealed my academic fate. Sure enough, I didn’t bother applying to college. I just randomly showed up at my local community college and enrolled about a week before classes. Sure enough, I failed. I never found my footing; I never made any friends—nothing. A voice in my head told that I should keep trying, but the louder, more dominant voice told me to forget it--- You’re stupid. You’re disappointing. You’ll never do it. So I didn’t.
Once I decided that school wasn’t for me—never mind that everyone in my family and the majority of my friends all went to college and on to obtain advance degrees—I knew that I had to work. I found a clerical job at a small law firm and started work there. The attorney I worked for asked me repeatedly why I wasn’t in school would always answer the same way. “I’m not cut out for school”. Every time I said that, his response was “bullshit”. Months went by and finally one day he offered to pay for 2 classes in a paralegal program. I took him up on his offer and in 18 months I got my paralegal certificate. Soon after I started working in law firms—all the while thinking to myself that I should go back and I did a few times. It just never seemed to be the right time and I never seemed to be in the right frame of mind. After jumping from job to job for several years, I opted to get a job a university knowing that I would be eligible for tuition remission.
Let me tell you, it was hard and it sucked most of the time. There were moments that I felt I would NEVER get there. But 8, hard earned years later, I did it. For the first time in my life, I can honestly say that I am proud of me. It was an uphill battle the entire way through. I wanted to stop so many times, but I didn’t. It’s been 2 weeks now, and I am still floating. I did it, I have my degree and no one can take it from me. Next stop, if I have anything to say about it, is graduate school.
Dear 20 something April 40 something April fixed your misstep. You are forgiven and can move on.