When I was in eighth grade, my best friend and I would spend our lunch in the guidance counselor’s office browsing through large books that listed colleges and universities world wide. We would jot down the names and addresses of schools that were appealing and send off for their catalog and information. At that time I wanted to be a psychologist.
I would meet the man I was to marry in 1991 and shortly after I graduated high school in 1993 we would wed. I couldn’t have been happier. He was in the Army and thus we were soon stationed overseas. I was too busy enjoying the awe of life to worry about my future and thus I put my dreams of school on hold in order to be educated by the world.
I started college in the spring of 1997 at Bluefield State College. I was insecure, scared, and certain I was “too old” to be going to school. I was 23. I would only go a year because that same year I would learn that I was expecting our first child. I didn’t want to the be the “pregnant girl at school” and thus I dropped out the following year. I realize now that I put way too much power in other people’s opinions.
For the next ten years I would become submersed in starting my little family. We would welcome two girls and a boy, move to a bigger home, and acquire a few animals along the way. As the youngest one started their journey into the school system I decided that perhaps it was time to continue with my education as well.
In the fall of 2008 I enrolled in Concord University. Unsure if I could handle school and children, I would only go part-time for the next few years, easing into the system and getting my mommy brain into gear. I would change my major from psychology to English along the way. I no longer felt “too old,” instead I was excited to be learning, pursuing my goal, and doing something for me. Unlike my previous college, the new one had a good amount of non-traditional students giving me peers that understood the struggle of trying to balance family and school.
I loved school. Always had. I was the kid crying on the last day of school because I didn’t want it to end. I would often joke that I would be a life time student, in a weird way that is exactly what I became. I liked everything about school – the socializing, the learning, even the homework ( to a certain degree)- and that passion extended into college. There were classes that touched on every aspect of my personality from art to history to literature. Learning never came easy to me, but that didn’t stop me from absorbing the information.
In the spring of 2009, however, my world would turn upside down. I would find myself in the middle of a heartbreaking divorce. I became a single mother of three, juggling a job while trying to cope with the emotional damage of a failed marriage all while still attending school. Something had to give.
The spring of 2012 I would withdrawal from all my classes. October of that same year, just a day after my thirty-eighth birthday, I was hospitalized for attempting suicide. I had hit rock bottom. But as they say, when you hit the bottom you have nowhere to go but up.
With renewed determination and an acceptance of my changed life, I focused on being the best mom I could be and building a career at Wal~Mart. I put my dreams of college behind me once and for all.
Over the next few years I would settle into a new way of life. The drama of the divorce started to die down, I was making plans for a future in my retail job, and my kids were quickly growing up. Life, however, is not a smooth sailing journey though, and soon there were signs at work that indicated that my job was no longer secure. As I worried over my future employment I came to the realization that the only jobs I was qualified for were retail and burger joints – neither of which would provide for my family or grant the future I desired.
My oldest daughter would graduate high school in 2016 and with her approval, and the encouragement of all three kids, we would start Concord University together that fall. If I thought I felt old way back in ‘97 it was nothing compared to going as a forty-two year old.
The next three years would test me physically and mentally as I layered on as many classes as possible in order to graduate. I juggled homework, a job, and family like an amateur circus act. To add to the already challenging situation, we would learn that my oldest daughter had a problem with one of her kidneys that would require surgery. That semester was riddled with doctors’ appointments, hospital trips, and a good deal of emotional stress, but we weathered through it and both of us would continue our college journey uninterrupted.
This May I will be graduating from Concord University with a Bachelor of Arts in English – creative and professional writing with a minor in literature and journalism. I have moved my oldest girl to a school out of state, patched things up with my ex-husband, earned my national certification as a pharmacy technician, seen my youngest child turn sixteen, and will be celebrating my other daughter’s graduation from high school. I have cried, gone without sleep, and eaten far too much junk food, but with the support of family, friends, professors, and co-workers I did it.
I’m not sure what I will do with this piece of paper, but what I do know is that somewhere inside me a young, idealistic, little girl is giddy with accomplishing a dream.