Those of you who follow me on facebook know that I am currently fighting my way through a statistics course. To help you visualize: I want you to picture a two year old going to the doctor to get six shots. You know the spaghetti legs? The clawing at the door jams? The cornered, wild animal look? Now put that on a 26 year old who hasn’t taken a math class in 8 years– and it’s not like I was good at it then, either.
I’m in an accelerated program to finish a Bachelor’s degree. The classes are 8 weeks long, but cover the same amount of material as you would in 16 weeks. If you don’t believe me, I will kindly send you my syllabus and a regular course syllabus, and you can note how the schedule is the same content, only compacted. It’s crazy talk. Everytime I get the new syllabi, my eyes cross and my knees feel weak.
I finished my associates degree in Early Childhood Education about a week before I got married. And then the plan was to coast, let Mitch finish culinary school, and then maybe go back to school for a Bachelor’s degree. The reasoning was that, for my CURRENT job, I don’t have to have anything more than an associates degree. And I love my job. LERV it Celine Dion style.
Then, as you know, we got pregnant, and my life was suddenly put into rather harsh perspective. I realized that, if I didn’t go back to school right now, and finish while the blastocyst currently residing in my uterus was still wee, it was just going to get harder and harder to go back. I realized that if I didn’t do it now, I might be looking at not going back until Maren was ALSO in college.
So that’s how I found myself applying for an accelerated program when I was 3 months pregnant, choosing a double major, and LOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOADING up on classes. I figured… get as many out of the way before she’s born. Get as many as you can done after she’s born. Rinse. Repeat. I took 18 credits in the 6 months I had left of my pregnancy, while working a full time job.
Then she was born. I took this picture:
on my laptop when I was logging into take a Psych test and download a few notes for my world religions course. The date on it is February 17th– five days after Maren was born. Three days before this picture was taken, I was still in the hospital, trying to wake myself up enough from the pain meds to fill out a scholarship application that was due by 5 pm that day. I got the app in on time… and I got the scholarship.
I got the worst grades of my life that semester, but cleared another 12 credits.
This quarter I’m taking 12 credits, including the dreaded Stats. I found out about two weeks ago that so many education majors fail stats every year that if you enroll in the 2010 catalog, you don’t even have to freaking take it, instead you can take two algebra courses to make up for it. I’m not sure which is worse.
But. There’s two weeks left in the course, and right now I have an A. A strong A. Everytime I get a test back, I want to run through the streets holding it up high screaming, “LOOKIT! DOES ANYONE HAVE ANY GOLD STAR STICKERS??? DOES ANYONE HAVE A FRIDGE I CAN PUT THIS ON????”
And I’ll tell you what. I don’t want to do the commencement ceremony when I’m all done, oh no. The day I graduate, I want to be lying on a beach somewhere, wearing only my stats study guide and my graduation cap. The whole world may have to avert its eyes. Fair warning.
I’m writing this tonight partially because I’m feeling a little cocky. But also because I’m feeling a little frustrated.
Lately, I’ve been hearing a lot about non-traditional students, accelerated programs, online classes, etc, and how if you are any of those things, you do not equal education. The college in my hometown closed recently because they didn’t get their accredidation for the new school year– from what I gather, this was mostly based on rumors that, to make money, the school was going to offer online classes, accept more non-traditional students, and offer more study abroad programs (or ‘semester screw around’ programs, as I’ve heard them called).
My school is a state school, it is not for-profit, so I guess I can’t really comment on whether or not a for-profit school is the Devil. But here is what I have to say.
I am above average in the smarts department. School is pretty easy for me. I got very, very lucky, and I literally have thanked God about a million times for it. I’ve attended a huge university and a small community college, and I’ll tell you what. I’ve never worked harder at school than I’m working right now, doing an accelarated program that is 50% online. Do you know what my online stats class is? They handed me the book and said, “Here you go. You have a test at the end of each week that cover2- 3 chapters. You have a final in seven weeks that covers the entire text, and if you don’t pass the final, you fail the class, no matter what your course total was prior to the exam. Have fun.”
I wish that we all had perfect opportunities to make the most out of the years between 18 and 22ish to get our college degrees the traditional way. Believe me, Mitch and I talk ALL THE TIME about what we can do to be sure that Maren is able to take full advantage of that time. When I graduate, I’ll be 28 years old, trying to find a way to make my ‘maturity’ into an asset over the 22 year olds I’ll be competing against for jobs. If I’d done things the right way, I’d be making a lot more money and have a lot more security than I do now, and would have been doing so for like, five years. Of course, of course, of course, I would have rather had that for myself. For my family.
But, since there is no such thing as a hot-tub time machine, here is my real-time big-time wish:
I wish that the people who WERE able to get their degrees done in that traditional time period would back off. I wish that it wasn’t a contest. I’m working so hard, but at the same time, feel so embarrassed. I don’t want to do graduation, I don’t want to have a party, I don’t want to be a part of any of the celebration– because I JUST FREAKING KNOW that there will be someone rolling their eyes because they graduated when they were twenty two, so what’s the big deal? Graduation is like, so six years ago. I don’t even get why people are like that– what is there to be insecure about? Me graduating doesn’t negate your degree. Don’t worry, they don’t have like, a limit for diplomas and once they get there they have to start taking away people’s who graduated a long time ago. RELAX.
Bottom line: It hurts my feelings.
I feel very wimpy to admit that: but I want to explain to you why I say that, and why I feel that way. Because in order for me to go back to school at this point in my life, double major, graduate in 27 months, I have to make some pretty huge sacrifices that no 18-22 year old I know ever had to make. It hurts me to make the sacrifices and know that other people are looking down on me for doing so, but that’s not what really hurts. Because, really, if anyone wants to condescend all up in my business, we can take things outside.
What really hurts is that I’m not the only one. MITCH is making those sacrifices with me.
And MAREN is making those sacrifices, too.
When I graduate next year, my degree belongs to them. That diploma will signify so much for me– it will be weekends that Maren had to entertain herself so that I could study. Late nights when she had to cry a little bit longer because Mom was taking a timed quiz and couldn’t stop to go get her. Two days a week that she doesn’t see me at all because I’m in class across town. Outings that I can’t go on with her because I just have way to much work to do.
It will be time that Mitch took off work, so that I could attend class and study. A few months ago, Mitch decided to quit going to school himself so that I could go faster. It will be nights that I snapped at him because I was so tired. Nights that I came to bed way after he was sleeping. Two days a week that he doesn’t see his wife because I work 8-4 and then I’m in school 430-1030.
I’m not saying that this is the case for everyone, because I know it isn’t– but if I had graduated when I was 21, like I was supposed to, my diploma would have just been a piece of paper. It would have opened doors for me, and provided me with security and a greater income and a job that I would probably really like, but it wouldn’t have meant a thing. To quote Erin Brockovich, “Not PERSONAL? That’s my work–that’s my time away from my kids!”
Every parent wants to be someone that their kids will look up to. I really hope that Maren doesn’t really remember any of this part of her life, except the good stuff. I hope she doesn’t remember me being gone so much, or busy so often, or cranky….. all the time. But I hope that when she hears about this part of her life, she will be proud of the sacrifices that I made to make a better life for all of us, but also, I hope she’s proud of herself– proud enough that she will set some ground rules and make a plan. I hope that she will find something that she wants so badly that she will fight for it, and I hope she finds a partner that will support her so much that her dream becomes their’s. And I hope that she grabs on to her dream and snarls at people who try to rip it away from her because they did things the right way and at the right time.
Not to brag…. but I hope that what she takes from all this is that her mom is a BAMF, and her dad is a BAMF, and that she can be a BAMF, too. And whether or not she’s 15, 25, or 79, I will be so proud of her when her work pays off.
I wish that all the non-trads– who are putting their lives on hold to finish school, to make life better for their families– I wish that I could get a bunch of badges that say, “This here is one BAMF!” and put them on all our trapper keepers. I wish that I could walk them all to class and glare at the traditional students who think they are oh so awesome with their hackey sacks and their huge headphones– as if they are the FIRST PEOPLE EVER to have them. I’d kind of like to give an address at commencement, representing all the non-trads, and say something like, “You people looking at us and thinking, ‘oh isn’t that cute…. ‘ or ‘dude, finally’ or ‘what’s the big deal?’ I’d like you to look at my two-year-old daughter and tell her that my degree doesn’t mean as much as yours, because I’m older than you. I’d like you to tell her that the sacrifices that she made while I was in school are something that you can roll your eyes at, because you did things the right way.”
Roll with it, folks. There is no right way, anymore. There is just MY way. There is just YOUR way. And the sooner you accept that, the sooner you can be a BAMF, too.