I am about to graduate from community college.
I should have graduated about 20 years ago, but instead, I decided to get married and have my kids and raise them. Now, after 22 years of break-time, I am about to walk across the stage and get my Associate of Arts degree. I am stunned that I made it.
When I started this journey a year and a half ago, I thought that I would be done in three quarters with my Associate of Arts and then head off to OSU to complete my Bachelor's in Music Education. But I had a few roadblocks along the way. For instance, I couldn't remember what I had learned in Math 22 years ago so I had to retake a class, which put me a quarter behind. Then, Fall Quarter 2011, I began to really struggle with my memory and my grades began to drop. Despite pulling A's in my first two quarters of Spanish, I couldn't remember any of my Spanish vocabulary. I couldn't remember the formulas I had learned in Math class the quarter before and was struggling to keep up. Memorizing facts and figures for Anthropology was almost impossible for me: I even forgot about two of my tests for the class. I just thought I was over-stressing myself by working, going to school and trying to raise my family.
Even though I was doing poorly Fall Quarter, because my grades had been so high Spring and Summer Quarters, I had been inducted into Phi Theta Kappa, an honors fraternity. I had invited the Math professor that shepherded me through my prerequisite Math classes to participate in the PTK induction ceremony. After all the pictures had been taken and the certificates had been awarded, I admitted that I felt like I didn't belong here because I was doing so poorly this quarter. my math professor looked me dead in the eye and said, "Yes, you do belong here. This is what education is all about. When you fall, you get back up. You are not going to let this beat you." She had such confidence in me. I renewed my efforts to overcome this roadblock of memory loss. I looked for ways to de-stress and re-organize to make things better and easier to keep track of.
But, two weeks after my induction, while making my grocery list, my whole world tilted to the right and slid away from my sight. It was like standing on the deck of the Titanic. By the time the medics had checked me into the ER, and the medical team was pumping anti-coagulants into my bloodstream, I knew that I was going to fail at least two of the classes I was struggling so hard with. I had suffered a TIA (commonly called a mini-stroke). I had been fighting the symptoms of the tiny little clot that impeded the blood flow to my brain through the whole quarter. This explained so much of my lost memory, but now I was two quarters behind. I was relieved that it was a solvable problem, but I was so far behind, I almost gave up.
After the failures of Fall Quarter and putting my body back together again, I set about re-prioritizing my goals. My family was 100% behind me and took on more duties at home so I had more time to catch up with school. I put myself and all of my works, prayers, joys and sufferings into God's hands and asked Him to lead me where he wanted me to go. I picked myself up and got back to work.
Winter Quarter was a blessing. I had Terri - my favorite Math Professor - for the Math class I'd failed fall quarter. I explained what had happened and with her characteristic confidence she said, "You're going to do great this quarter. You're gonna get this!' And I did: I reclaimed my Dean's List standing.
When I graduate in in two weeks, I will be wearing all the cool regalia in the picture above and I will graduate Magna Cum Laude. This is truly, one of the proudest moments of my life. I don't think I have ever worked as hard or long for anything in my life.
In addition to all of the wonderful things I learned in my classes, I discovered a lot about myself in this past year.
- Roadblocks require evasive maneuvers, but do not necessarily end the journey and sometimes the detours are more enlightening than the main roads.
- While learning more about science and the classics, you learn a lot about Catholicism and it's not all the bad stuff, but you have to approach it with a solid knowledge of the Catechism.
- Math is amazingly cool. (No seriously, Mom, don't laugh.)
- Family is more important than getting an A (but those A's are pretty nice, too).
- Striving to be better than you were before yields great rewards, whether or not it increases your paycheck.
- Sometimes the plan that you have does not match up with God's plan. In fact, usually it doesn't match up.
I have been pretty apprehensive about going on. I didn't know what I would "do" with my degree. About half-way through this journey, I realized that I had no heart for finishing my Bachelor's in Music Ed. I thought at one time, I might just frame my Associate's and hang it next to my bed for my own benefit. (Isn't that silly?) But, I have finally decided to continue my studies at Ohio Dominican University where I will be working on a B.A. in English with a minor in Music Performance. I still have no real idea of what I will "do" with that, but I'm just taking things one step at a time and seeing where God leads me.
Soli Deo Gloria! All for the Glory of God!