Today, in my cap and gown, wearing honors cords, I received a Bachelor of Science in Management/Marketing. Knowing my friends and family were there to support me and watch me as I received my degree, it was truly one of the most special moments ever. And it wasn’t any less special than when I received my first undergraduate degree 3 years ago.
That’s right – I have two bachelor’s degrees.
My educational journey started the fall after my divorce was final. I was scared. REALLY scared. I was 26 years old. I lived 6 hours away from my parents. How was I going to support a 7-year-old with just a high school education?
Now, don’t get me wrong. I had a great job. Financially, I was doing OK. But what if there were layoffs one day? What if, down the road, they required a college degree in order to keep my job? I always wanted to go back to school (when I was 18, I didn’t take college very seriously and just wasted a lot of my parent’s money) but I didn’t know if, or how, I could. How was I going to afford it? When would I have the time? 4 years seemed like a LONG time to go to school. I mean, I couldn’t make it during my first attempt, so how was I going to make it now? Well, thanks to an amazingly wonderful boss (and friend and mentor) she encouraged me to register for school. I spent an entire workday figuring out what I needed and applying for financial aid. By the next day, I was accepted into Park University for their online curriculum.
After I got my first semester under my belt, I felt a little better about going back to school. I was getting the swing of things. I was actually enjoying it.
I took 2 classes a semester (which is the max you could take). Since each semester was only 8 weeks, there were 5 semesters a year. So naturally, I went to school year-round with only a week or two of a break between semesters. I worked full time and traveled frequently for my job. All the while, I was balancing being a single mom and going to school. It was hard. I had many late nights of writing papers, doing discussion boards and taking exams. I would take my textbooks everywhere to read whenever I could. There were many baseball practices where Landon would be out on the field and I had a nose in a book on the side lines. I had to plan outings around school and when we went on vacation, I had to make sure the hotel had free wifi. When I traveled for work, I looked forward to long layovers. I would sit on the ground with my laptop in a chair and do as much homework as I could. My carryon bag for all those work trips always consisted of my laptop and books.
I remember one day when I was sitting on the couch writing a paper, Landon sat down next to me and said, “I want to go to college like you so I can stay home.” It crushed my heart. I looked at him and said, “Landon, no you don’t. You want to get good grades in school and get accepted to a good college where you can actually enjoy college life and not have to juggle work, school and family like I am. I’m missing out on a lot. And I don’t want that for you.”
When I walked across the stage the first time, Landon was in the audience. In fact, he had math end-of-grade testing that day and I reached out to his teacher and said he would be at my graduation and was hoping he could have a make-up day. She said, “Absolutely! Seeing you graduate is important.”
I received my first bachelor’s degree at 32 years old in Social Psychology with a concentration in culture, industry and organization. I achieved what I never thought I would. I was finally done!
Or so I thought.
A little over a year later I registered to go back to school. I missed it. I was so used to having a routine that involved schoolwork that I didn’t know what to do without it. And plus, I loved learning. So, in the fall of 2017 I was back in school full-time. And loving every minute of it. That is, until I ran out of financial aid and had to start paying for classes out of pocket. That hurt! I could have taken out personal student loans, but I didn’t want to add to my debt. Thank goodness I only had to do it for a few semesters for a total of $7,000.
I wouldn’t change anything about how long my education journey took me. I was able to show Landon the importance of an education at any age. And that right there is priceless. I want to go and get my masters (I love school and learning) but unfortunately, I have to pay back the $65,000 in student loan debt I have, and I have a kid going to college in a few years. It would be selfish for me to take away from him. Maybe one day I will be able to go for my masters. But then again, maybe one day I will pay off my student loans. But I’m thinking at this point, I may die before I actually pay that in full. Either way, I will be paying off student loans for the rest of my life. And it is depressing to think about. Seriously, some days I cry because I think to myself: Was it worth it? Is it worth having to live poor just to pay for two degrees? And when I look over to where I proudly display my diplomas I’m reminded that I am the first person in my immediate family to have earned a bachelor’s degree. And I don’t have just one. I now have two. Then I smile and say to myself – “Damn right it was. It is worth every penny.”
This blog is not meant to be boastful. Rather, it’s meant to show you that even though there are plenty of obstacles thrown in your way on this journey of life, you can still overcome, achieve and accomplish what you put our mind to. For the single parents out there, you can do it! For those who don’t have a support system for encouragement, I’ll be your cheerleader! Whatever the reason, whatever the obstacle, I am here for you.
Simply put: If I can do it, so can you!