Thursday, May 26

The long road to graduation

I did it! I finally graduated on May 21, 2011. It only took some thirty odd years! :D

I didn't go to college when I graduated high school in 1973. I was under the impression my parents couldn't afford to help me out and I didn't qualify for financial aid nor did I win any scholarships. I decided I would work and save up the money to go. We all know how that goes. ;)

Almost two years later, I was going to a church for the Deaf and the pastor there took an interest in me, deciding I really should be in college. There was a big crisis between my parents and I left home. I rented myself an apartment in the city but was only there a few months when the pastor decided I should move in with him, his wife and mother.

The pastor wanted me to go to school so I reapplied for financial aid and to the local university. This time, I got the aid and it was enough to pay for my tuition and books. It was a new, intimidating and totally confusing experience for me to go down and try to make a schedule. When I was done, though, I felt great.

About a month into this, the pastor was accused of misappropriating funds. He plotted a counterattack against the treasure, making up a bunch of lies to spread around. I happened to overhear and was horrified. The pastor tried justifying it all to me and I just kept saying, "But it's not true!" I felt totally betrayed--this was a man of God trying to destroy the reputation of another based on lies. The pastor called me a Judas and I knew I had to get out of there.

I probably could have rented myself a room and continued on but I spiralled into this depression, hurt, angry, disillusioned and sad. I just stopped going to classes. First I lived with a roommate in Baltimore City and went to work. I was offered a better job in Washington D.C. My parents were living nearby and asked me to join them so I could save more money for college. I agreed but that was a mistake.

By 1978, I'd saved enough money to take a couple of classes and reapplied to the same university (different campus). I enjoyed the classes so much! I was into the second year when my mom went on a drunken rampage and chased me from the apartment with an ice pick. That was in the middle of a semester and instead of renting a room somewhere and muddling through, I just sort of collapsed and became depressed again.

Then I started again in 1994. By then, I was married to a wonderful man and had my three beautiful children. Rich encouraged me to try again and so I did. I almost finished, too. I was stymied by geometry and an unexpected move to New York. Once we got to New York, I figured I could finish up somewhere...but Rich died. The early bouts with depression was a tap dance compared to the way I felt then. I've learned that fibromyalgia can develop from trauma and I am sure that's when my symptoms started.

Fast forward to 2010. I never thought I would ever find love again but a miracle occurred and I met and married TB. When I started talking about finishing my degree, he was completely supportive and has been there for me throughout. I had another bout of depression this spring and he is one of the reasons I didn't give up and drop out again.

So on May 21, I graduated with an AA in education, with "highest honors"--a GPA of 3.9 overall in all those classes over the years. It feels good to be able to say "I did it!"

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