Luckily, I had a stepfather that gave me some priceless advice after the fifth grade about succeeding in school as a means of escaping the cycle of dependence to which all the females in my family had prescribed before me, actually, he just asked me if I wanted to end up like my mother...with a man because she needed him and not necessarily because she loved him. He said I could have the things a man could provide all on my own, if I went to school and got good grades...and went to college and got good grades...and got a good job and made my own money so I could marry a man because I loved him and not because I "needed" him financially. He changed my life albeit in a bit of a heartless fashion for a 5th grad girl. I'd taken his message to heart and started getting good grades the following school year. Straight A's in fact. Apparently, all I really ever needed was someone to tell me that it was important and that they believed I could do it. Odd how the encouragement of elders can impact a young mind...never underestimate that.
Although I never applied for any scholarship or expected any type of assistance, I paid for my Associate Degree and Bachelor Degree myself or via my employer's benefit packages and continued to take classes and consistently made the Dean's List.
I got married while completing my Associate Degree. Shortly thereafter, after my son was born, things became a bit more complicated. He was seriously disabled, and spend the first year and a half in the NICU. I worked full time to support my family as the primary breadwinner. We eventually brought my son home, requiring full time nursing home-care. I managed 18 nurses in my home, medications, hospitalizations, medical supply inventories, out-patient therapies, home schooling, nurse home-care scheduling. training, and managing as well as sharing uncovered nursing shifts to care for my son.
Somehow through all of that, I never gave up my goal of completing a Bachelor Degree. Call me determined...or insane.
Over the years, things have changed "a bit" for me. I've realized that I was a bit unhealthy in way of personal relationships, primarily because I'd been raised in them and somehow thought they were normal. During a light-bulb moment back in 2003, I realized it actually was unhealthy, the way I was living. I affectionately refer to that portion of my life as my "living with the enemy" phase. I kept taking classes during that time amazingly enough. Of course my son's frequent hospitalizations required me to withdraw from classes on occasion. Still I remained on the honor roll. Even through my abuse laden divorce I continued to take classes when I could.
After everything, I've discovered this wonderful place in my life, where I've found a partner that loves me for me, who loves his life, makes a living doing what he'd do for free because he's so passionate about it, and who totally supports me in finding the same for myself. It took about 5 years of soul searching (with his tutelage) before I came to a point where I allowed the same for myself. That's when I found my "passion drummer". After which, oddly enough, I found that homework toward a degree that wasn't remotely close to relevant to my passions in life of writing and self-expression was less than fulfilling and more closely equivalent to a root canal on a tooth.
But we both agreed that it was silly for me not to complete a degree where merely two classes remained between me and a graduation ceremony. These last two classes have been very educational for me. First, I learned how much I detested taking courses on topics that I held no passion for. Second, I learned how little I really needed to expend in terms of time and effort to attain an "A" in these classes. I really shouldn't admit how little I needed to learn to complete these final courses with grades of A's. On one hand I was upset because I could have done this with ALL my classes instead of my typically over-achiever style in which I alienated myself from all other students in my class. On the other hand, I now was upset that I'd invested so much time on classes that really didn't mean a thing to me in terms of relevance to my passions and yet only provided me with a grade I might have easily achieved with my new "slacker-make-due" persona when it came to the maintenance tasks of life.
Well, no worse for the wear, I've completed those last two classes and I can gladly await my graduation ceremony in the spring (after things defrost up there). I'll be the first in my family to have made such an accomplishment. Yes, a bit anti-climatic being over 40. But still.
It's more than just checking something off my list, even in my new passion-is-king world. It's about following through even when it's painful because it makes "sense" irregardless of any passion status. I'll unlikely make this sort of "mistake" again any time soon. Yet, after all these years, I don't think I can say that I regret either the investment, nor the gratification that I have at this moment, as I drink from a glass of bubbly that's been sitting bottled on my wine rack for quite some time now awaiting this day.