October 03, 2011

Higher Learning

In my opinion, life is a giant game of Shoots and Ladders. We move through the game one space (stage) at a time with the ultimate goal of winning (being successful). Sometimes we get to climb the ladder and get the extra cookie. Other times we land on hard times and slide back a few spaces. All in all, the point is to keep playing. To keep fighting for the ultimate goal. Parts of life can be fun and easygoing. Other times things happen that we just need to “get over”.  This brings me to my next shameless post: #24 Share a struggle you have yet to “just get over.” 

When I graduated high school in 2002 I had every intention of going to college. I applied to our local community college and was enrolled for the fall semester. I was climbing the ladder. In 2004, I landed on a wrong space and my life was soon in full slide mode and I dropped out of school. My car wouldn’t start, I was unemployed, broke and depressed. I pretty much lost the desire to do anything but sleep and watch TV. Some of you are probably thinking I was just being really lazy. That could be. It may have been a  factor. All I know is that at the time my life was falling apart and I had no idea what to do.  

Fast forward to 2006. I’d moved to NJ and was living with my then boyfriend. Since I never finished school I attempted to take online courses to finish my degree. This was a fail of epic proportions. About a year later I decided to try again. I enrolled with Kaplan University, another online school. This didn’t work out either. (To clarify, the online schooling was not unsuccessful due to anything on my part. UoP couldn’t straighten out my financial aid and Kaplan registered me for more courses than my aid allowed and then billed me for it.) At this point, I’m so irritated and frustrated that I start to wonder if school just isn’t for me. Although deep down I know this is bullshit.

2008 rolls around and according to the State of NJ I’m officially an “independent” student. This status was key as I no longer needed my parents tax information to fill out financial aid forms. I hadn’t lived with them since 2003 and they never contributed a dime to my schooling so why I needed their tax info was beyond me. At this point the mental abuse I’d been subjecting myself to was just insane. There would be days I’d cry to my best friend about not finishing school. I was constantly beating myself up for it.  Unfortunately, I still do this. 

I need to get over the fact that I didn’t graduate from college in 2006 when I should have. Wow. That right there? That’s my problem. Even as I type this I still berate myself. "When I should have". Since when is there a strict time line for attending school? Some people don’t finish school until they’re in their 40s or 50s and it is perfectly acceptable. Why isn’t that ok for me? I've been holding this over my head since 2004. It's funny how much this single piece of paper means to me. And yet it makes perfect sense. I truly have no fears. Heights, needles, snakes, etc. None of it bothers me. But failure, it's almost crippling. Not to say that I won't try something new for fear of failing, but the idea of not succeeding in life, to not win the game, it terrifies me. And so, in a sense, by not graduating by the "standard 4 year plan" I feel I've failed.

It's time to let it go and forgive myself for good. Not just momentarily. I need to just get over it. I need to focus on the fact that even though the previous 3 attempts didn’t work out I didn't give up. I kept climbing the ladder and finally it paid off. I'm back in school and will have my Associate's degree next May. After that I'll be doing another 2 years to get my Bachelor's degree. It may have taken me longer than most, but the fact of the matter is I kept climbing.


  1. Good for you, both for seeing the bigger picture (there is no 'longer than most" anymore really) and for giving yourself permission to let it go. There are more "non traditional" students now than those that do a 4 year straight out of HS anyways.

    Most kids that go right after HS go out of obligation more so than because they know what they want to be when the grow up and end up dropping out or going 5 years or changing their minds. I passed on a 4 year full ride to go work in a bar and party for a year. Why? Because if I had gone right after HS, I would have partied and dropped out.

    When I did go back, it was because I wanted to and it was on my own dime and I worked that much harder to do it well. It took me a while but I have a Masters now and I know that my path, although not traditional, is just as valid as anyone else's. Live your own, darling!

  2. If your heart isn't in it, that degree means nothing. You're there now because you definitely want to be. You're committed. And so like Random Girl said, there is no "longer than most." There's just the right amount of time for YOU-- and that's all that matters.