The gift I’m giving myself

I’ve worked hard to get where I am today with a successful and happy career. I’ve had a few hurdles to get over during my early education, mainly my dyslexia, but I had parents that fought hard and in turn they got me a tutor that completely changed my life. I worked hard through the rest of high school (sometimes year around) while staying busy as an athlete. During my senior year I started to see all my hard work pay off. I was accepted into multiple colleges as a physical therapy major, which was highly competitive (30 out of hundreds of applicants). I was even lucky enough to get some sport scholarship money. Everything was working out brilliantly.

Once I got to the school I chose, Russell Sage, everything fell apart. The school was going through major turmoil, students were dropping out left and right, and deans and presidents leaving. At the same time I started to feel like I didn’t want to work on old lady knees for the rest of my life. I completely lost focus. I lasted four semesters before I dropped out. A couple of years later, with my tail between my legs, I wrapped up an AA degree at my local community college. It was a bit different that the initial plans I had, but it let me move to Texas with a better degree in mind.

I headed here to Texas with a clearer frame of mind for school. I wanted to get my degree in anthropology, a field I found I had great interest in while wrapping up my AA. Things progressed as planned at The University of Texas at Arlington (UTA). I was in classes I enjoyed, I had ideas of what I’d like to do, and I was pulling good grades. While in school I was starting to build my skill set in my current career, web development. About 2 semesters out from graduating I found that school was getting in the way of what I was going to do for a living. With only day research classes left, I had to step away from getting my BA and let my career grow. I promised myself (and my mom, if she knew it or not) that I’d finish. That was in 2003.

Life has changed a lot since then. Between getting married, having kids, having more demanding work, and adding more value to free time, I just started to think school was never going to happen. It didn’t matter that much. It could potentially get in my way for an upper management job, if they required a bachelor’s degree, but at the moment it wasn’t hurting me. It did drive me nuts every time I drove down Cooper Street and went under all the school foot bridges. It bothered me I never finished even though I said I would. I worked my ass off through high school to catch up so I could get my college degree. I wasn’t satisfied with what I felt like was a wimpy little AA from home.

One day at work I was talking to one of our interns that was about to become a full-time employee. Smart kid that was close to finishing his schooling. I stopped him in the hall and asked what his plan was. When I asked him about school I must have sounded like his mom. It certainly had to of had the “please don’t drop out of school when you are this close” tone. He wasn’t dropped out, just taking it slower. A smart choice and I reminded him to just finish now while it’s easy. I note it was impossible to start back up when you have a family and a job and still want some time for a little extra life too. I think it was a valid argument, but it pissed me off later. Why was I letting normal life “stuff” get in the way of doing something that felt like such a monkey on my back. I didn’t need it, I wanted it. I wanted it. If I want something else, I buy it, I earn it, or I learn it. Why was I selling myself short?

I went to UTA a few days later to find an advisor to show me how I could finish. It’d take a year and a half of online 8 week classes, one after another, to get in the credits I needed to graduate. Goal set, tuition paid, time made, and classes started.

I hated giving up my weekends and time with our son and with Mandy, but the sacrifice was minimal in the long run. I kicked, screamed, and frankly cried through a couple of classes, but today my final paper is submitted. I finished. It does nothing for my career right now, but I’m unbelievably proud I finished. I’m no longer boxed in a corner with a 3/4 of a college career finished, I proudly drive under the foot bridges on Cooper Street, and I can’t wait to walk across that stage Friday morning to get that piece of paper.

I bought a Stole of Gratitude for my ceremony on Friday. It’s supposed to be worn during the graduation and then given to one person that made it all possible. While I know a couple that deserve it, it’s mine!

I’m psyched. I’m proud. I’m ready to have free weekends again!

Kim

2 thoughts on “The gift I’m giving myself

  1. Congratulations! I too finished my degree after years of foot-dragging and life. It’s hard work and even though you may not immediately see the financial or career advantages (I haven’t) the self-satisfaction is tremendous.

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