Flashback to June, 1975. I had been 18 for three weeks, and married for two. Then, there I was standing on the football field, wearing my blue cap and gown with the blue and white tassel. I had finally made it! The culmination of 12 years of hard work to reach this point in time. As I crossed the stage with my new diploma in hand, all I could think was “I am free.” graduation picture
I was free of getting up at 6:30 in the morning to stand in the freezing cold to catch an equally cold bus. Free of boring classes that I would probably never use (I hated math and science), of sitting in boiling classrooms (the Board of Education decided that carpet was a more practical expense than air conditioning in Georgia), and free of endless hours of homework.
I was standing on the precipice of my new life of being a wife and mother. I couldn’t wait to get it started! I had no desire to go to college, and in 1975, it wasn’t necessary. Out of the 300 students in my graduating class, less than 10% went to college and another 10% went into the military. The rest of us married and/or went to work. Any time I worked during my marriage I was always able to find a job in the accounting field. You can imagine how much I liked that since I didn’t enjoy my math classes. But, I didn’t need a degree and I was gaining experience with every job. Besides, they were were just jobs during the times my husband and I needed extra money.
Spring ahead 21 years. My marriage had ended and I had to support myself. I still hated accounting, but I was good at it. I was never without a job for long. Then I found out that Mercer University had opened a satellite campus in Lithia Springs since I went to church with the Director of Admissions there. After talking to her, I decided to apply and was accepted. Even with the Pell Grant and a small Baptist Scholarship, Mercer was an expensive school. When my financial aid fell through after my second year, my pocketbook couldn’t handle the expense. I was politely asked to leave. I enjoyed my time there, but I still wasn’t ready to give my full attention to my classes.
As the next 18 years pass by, I saw the job market shift significantly. I was overqualified for entry level positions, but since I didn’t have a degree, I didn’t have the credentials to get jobs I was qualified for. Not to mention the fact that with each passing year, I was being aged out of the job market. At the age of 58, after the financial bubble burst, I found myself out of work for the first time in years. It isn’t easy to support yourself on unemployment.
My nephew called out of the blue. He spent about an hour convincing me to go back to school. He talked about the benefit of returning and the opportunities it could afford. I took the next few days to do some soul searching. I decided I was ready to devote myself to the commitment that it would take. I was ready to take on a new adventure. I wanted to see if I could take my life in a new direction, and actually do something I enjoy instead of working in a field I hated. So, I applied to Kennesaw State and was accepted.
I have spent the last four years un-freeing myself from school life, with a few tweaks. I don’t have to get up at 6:30 to catch a cold bus, I drive myself to classes. The classrooms are both heated and air-conditioned. I can make my own schedule and take the classes I want. But, I do still have hours of homework. Only now, it doesn’t seem so daunting and I actually enjoy doing most of it.
In December of this year, I am scheduled to stand in another football field, this time wearing a cap and gown of black and gold. But, like last time, I will be once again standing on the precipice of a new life. Only this time, I will be a little bit smarter and a whole lot wiser.