Three very exciting things happened in my life yesterday: W got back from his trip, I am finally a college(ish) graduate, and I got a new piercing!!!!
I don’t know which I am excited about most. Well okay, I doooo…but still, it was a banner day in Jade’s World.
First, the college stuff. You may not know this, but I’ve been trying to get my Associate in Arts degree (AA) for, oh, ~25 years. Yeah, I’m a forty-six year old woman in a well-paid job with a lot of responsibility, and I never got a college degree. Until yesterday, that is, when I officially applied for graduation after (finally!) completing the requirements for my AA.
It’s a long (boring) saga.
Like many young people, I started at a community college when I was 18 with no idea of what I wanted to do.
Okay wait, that’s a not the complete truth.
The truth is that all I ever wanted to do was to write. Since I was about 10 years old, when I realized that people actually got paid to do the thing that occupied nearly all my time (when I wasn’t riding my horse and reading) I had said “I’m going to be a writer!” What that might look like, that “being a writer,” I had real-life concept of, but there wasn’t anything else I wanted to do. In the end, it didn’t really matter though, as that dream was pretty well squashed right away by a career counselor at the community college who told me the “realities” of life: you can’t get a job as a writer/journalist. Be sensible, get a degree in business (or just about anything else), she insisted. I wasn’t brave enough to take the chance of failure, but neither could I bring myself to choose something else, so I just took general ed classes and hoped something would happen to show me what I was really supposed to do with my life.
That something came in the form of my first son. It wasn’t necessarily a sign of what I was supposed to do with my life, but it gave it a new, unexpected direction. Away from school for a time, away from dreams of being a writer – or anything else, for that matter.
Throughout the next 25 years I continued to take classes whenever I could, usually at night, one or two at a time, because that was all I could afford, time- and money-wise. In my first incarnation as a student, I had taken most of the required classes for the Associate degree and just had a last few to take, along with my electives. But I loved school and was curious about everything, so I took all kinds of classes, still searching for…something…to jump out at me and make me realize what I should major in – what I should be when I grew up. I took a lot of electives…classes that I took just because they interested me: political science, cultural anthropology, psychology, literature, creative writing, women’s studies…the list goes on. I have a shit-ton of college credits. But the sheer number of credits didn’t mean much, because they weren’t the right credits. Apparently it’s not the amount of school you take, it’s which classes. Who woulda thunk?
But damn I enjoyed getting the credits I had. I love school!
I don’t love algebra, however, and finally I realized that was the last class that was holding me back from that piece of paper. I tried and tried to pass the class. And failed, and quit, and gave up, and tried again. Finally, in January 2010, with W’s and Ad’s encouragement and help, I succeeded. I could graduate!
But of course it wasn’t as easy as all that. When I went in to apply, it turned out that in fact I needed three more classes. Two were classes specific to getting the degree in the STL community college system, add-ons called “Cornerstone” and “Capstone” classes, and one was a PE requirement.
But okay…I took them (and enjoyed them.) So, Sunday night when I got home, I went online to check into how to go about applying for graduation. For real. Finally. On the website, there was a link to “Request Degree Audit.” That was a new thing. When I had been through all this before, I had had to go in to the school to have them do the audit manually (which was how I discovered that I needed the additional three classes.) Now, when I was there before I had also had to deal with having credits that they were going to possibly disallow, because I had taken them in a school on the trimester system. A request to approve them had been submitted and the counselor told me she thought the approval would go through, so I assumed it had.
Sunday night, via the online system, I discovered they had not been approved.
I was…pretty despondent. It meant that I would have to take three more classes, one of which was a science class with a lab.
“Fuck it,” I said, pushing the computer away. “I’m done.” I was done jumping through academic hoops for a degree that meant nothing to anyone but me, and maybe not even that much to me.
My daughter was sitting there when all this went down. “Don’t give up, Mom, you’re so close!” she said, telling me I wasn’t allowed to quit. And she sat with me and tried to figure out what I could do. Unfortunately, the classes I needed were only scheduled as day classes. I work full-time. It just wasn’t going to work. “We’ll figure it out, Momma,” she said. I didn’t really think we would, but I didn’t tell her that, and went into work Monday morning fairly certain that I was just going to have to give up for real. But when I told my boss about it (she has always been very supportive and is very pro-education), she echoed what the Missy had said, and further, told me that if I needed to take classes during the day, we’d work my work schedule out. I have an amazing boss, and a wonderful daughter: it turned out that she had told my boss that morning about the situation, and she (my boss) had already decided that that was what we would do.
“We.” Apparently me getting this stupid fucking degree was a joint project now, between me, Ad, W, the Missy and my boss, of all people.
So – reluctantly, because I really was about done with the whole thing – I sat down to figure out my schedule and sign up for the G-D classes.
Their website wouldn’t pull the classes up. I called the school, and they told me to come in and register.
“Do it,” my boss said.
So I did. But when I got there, rather than just registering for the classes right away, something made me go see the counselor about the degree audit. One last ditch effort, I thought. That’s all. Maybe I can get credit for at least one of the classes…
She pulled up my info. She asked me some questions, looked at the long, long road it taken me to get there, wrote some things down, and then looked up. “We’re done with this,” she said.
I stared at her blankly. Did she mean I couldn’t take any more classes? Was there a finite number that a person was allowed to take?
“What…what do you mean?” I asked.
“I’m signing off on your graduation. You’ve met and surpassed all the requirements–” here she stopped and looked down at my bazillions of credits and shook her head. “More than surpassed.” She signed a piece of paper with a flourish and handed it to me. “Take this up to the registrar’s office,” she said. “And congratulations.”
And that was that. I am finally a graduate. A bonafide graduate! Oh, it’s only a two-year degree. And it’s not official till I get the confirmation in the mail, but…I did it, goddam it. I finished what I had started out to do. I’m not a quitter! (Even if it was through the combined efforts of Ad, W, my daughter and my boss that I didn’t quit.) Now I just have to figure out what to major in.
Cuz, you know, there’s that Bachelors Degree to get.