Today I finished the last midterm for the final semester needed to earn my Associate’s Degree.
Flashback to Fall 1993: A new high school graduate begins what she thinks will be a two year journey at the local community college to earn an Associate’s Degree in Early Childhood Education. Little does she know that life is about to throw her some obstacles she never considered. At the age of 18, she has been living in an apartment with her boyfriend since before high school graduation believing they would marry and live ‘happily ever after’. By spring of 1994, she would be so tired of the arguments about her time being devoted to work and school and not much with her boyfriend. Before her 19th birthday in February, she would drop one class that was just overwhelming her. At 19, she was too scared to speak up for herself or ask questions. She never goes to the financial aid office to understand her options. She believes she has lost her scholarship by dropping the class, even though she has a 4.0 GPA. Oh well, she has a good paying job, works Monday-Friday until 6pm. “Life is good”, she tells herself while the little voice in her head tries to warn her this is a bad idea.
Between 1994 and 1999, our friend has married the boyfriend and has secretly hoped, wished, and dreamed of going back to school to get a degree. Life has put her in a different direction from Early Childhood Education and right into technology. Microsoft has become the norm and PCs are becoming common place in the home. She knows in her heart that being a woman in the IT field will be a bonus for her. The marriage is not smooth or healthy. She has been wondering if she should leave. She becomes pregnant in February 1999 and decides to work through the issues, provided her husband will stay on his medication and attend counseling. Her degree journey will stay on hold but not leave her heart.
Jump forward to 2001: We join our friend who is now a mother to a little girl who completely possesses her heart. Things have been fairly smooth with the marriage except that hubby is not happy with her income…the only income. They frequently fight about money. It is less expensive for him to be a stay-at-home dad than it is to have them both work outside the home and try to pay for daycare. One day hubby suggests our friend go to a local trade school. She jumps at the chance. She has mentioned many times going back to community college but hubby always gets upset by this. She believes he doesn’t understand that trade school is basically college on steroids. She enrolls and picks up her higher education journey by attending classes to earn a degree in the IT field as a tech support person. Our now 26 year old friend is still afraid to ask questions and agrees to the school loans needed to pay for trade school. She is just excited to be able to be in a class again and feels like she is moving forward in her education. The year goes fast! She does well in all her classes with a 4.0 GPA. She has completed three technical certification exams and is accredited as A+ Hardware & Software and Network+ tech person. She is proud of her hard work and achievements.
Summer of 2002 would prove to upset the marriage once more. Hubby begins talking about wanting to buy a house and if she is in school and having the school loan, how can they afford it. She tries to explain if she can finish the degree and get the certification exams completed she will be able to get a better paying job. Hubby will not be reasoned with. He stopped taking meds that summer and began drinking again. Our friend does not go back to the trade school for year 2. She knows that the marriage is at its end. She doesn’t know how but she is going to get her daughter and herself out of this mess. (That is a story for another time).
Fast forward to 2015: Our friend is now 40 years old. Her daughter is in high school. She is remarried to a man who supports and encourages her personal growth. She is also at a different employer who also supports and encourages her personal and technical growth. She has grown a lot since that summer of 2002. No one knows it but that dream of a degree has never left. Through her job, she has found she has a talent for working with data. She begins looking into degrees and career paths that fit her skill set. She has a mentor at work who she shares this dream with and is encouraged to look at the community college to see if there is a program that will work for her.
February 2016: On her 41st birthday, she tells her family that she wants to get her degree, the program she wants to go through and the community college she wants to attend. Hubby #2 and daughter are surprised because they had no idea this was going through her head. They both encourage her and understand that it will take time away from them. Finally, our friend feels good about herself and begins her higher education journey again in Fall 2016.
Fast forward to today: Attending the community college had been a good experience. I learned early on in Fall of 2016 that I could not afford the stress to pressure myself to go after that 4.0 GPA. Between work, school, marriage and raising a teenager and volunteering, there was already too much. A friend told me “C’s get degrees”. That may sound like a quote for underachieving but it has actually kept me focus on my goal…which is the degree. Taking exams during these middle aged years has sometimes been challenging. I get test anxiety and tend to get “brain lock” or “empty brain” while taking a test. Some midterms have been project related and those have been much better for me.
I am in my final semester to earn my degree. My graduation date is set for May 3, 2020. I am now 45 years old. My higher education journey has taken 27 years. There have been so many twists and turns along the way but I am finally approaching the finish line. I can see it right ahead of me. I am going to cross it…oh….and with a 3.0 GPA.