Friday, November 15, 2013

EDITORIAL >> Graduation never too late

Dec. 6 will be a big day for me.

That day, I will don a cap and gown, walk onto a stage and a man I’ve never met will shake my hand and present me with a piece of paper declaring that I am a college graduate. My daughter, Teagan, will be there in the audience.

I originally entered college straight out of high school, but after three semesters – paid for by scholarship – of working full-time, going to school full-time and enjoying my newly found adult freedoms, I decided I would rather work and fund my fun times than go to school. I know that you’re reading this and thinking, “What a mistake she made, leaving college when it was paid for!” Believe me, I got the speeches that go along with that line of thinking.

Do I wish I had finished college then?


Do I regret dropping out?

Not one bit.

Leaving college with all but the 19 hours I needed to earn an associate’s degree was not a smart choice. I was lucky and found a good job in the field I had intended to earn a degree in. I learned far more on the job than I would have in the classroom. I enjoyed my youth. I had a child. I’ve gotten to do some really neat things that the average person doesn’t.

But the one thing I didn’t do, was earn a degree. I’ve started the process to go back to college many times over the years, but never followed through until about a year and a half ago. I decided it was now or never and started classes. I took two classes each semester and two over the summer to earn my associate degree as quickly as possible.

It has easily been one of the hardest periods in my life. During that time, I have worked full-time while taking classes part time, been diagnosed with hypothyroidism and battled its symptoms, had a round with the flu, cut social life to nearly nonexistent and twisted my ankle to the point a tendon snapped and a bone broke.

And my daughter has witnessed it all. She has seen me go to bed at 8 p.m. or earlier more than once because I was too exhausted to stay awake. She has seen my disappointment with a not-up-to-par grade. She has endured many meals of hot dogs and macaroni and cheese or spaghetti or grilled cheese or pizza. She has seen me cry and fuss over frustration and fear and stress and sheer exhaustion. She has watched me wince in pain while healing from a broken ankle accompanied by a broken spirit.

She has seen how hard it is to juggle a family, a job and college at the same time. Hopefully, she’ll take the hint.

I get a lot of “I’m so proud of you for doing this,” or “what a great example you’re setting for your daughter.” Words and phrases I greatly appreciate, but really, the “example” I’m setting for her is just a bonus to what’s really going on.

The truth is, I’m doing this for me. To reach this goal of earning a degree, even though it’s an associate’s of liberal arts and not a bachelor’s or master’s or doctorate in a specific field, it’s a personal achievement.

It’s an achievement, after a series of nearly reached, yet failed goals, that sets up my future. I can stop my education here, and I’ll still have a degree. I can carry on my education and become a teacher, a scientist or advance my knowledge in journalism and graphic design. A new world of opportunities has been opened to me. That’s a good feeling.

I’ve also earned enough points to level up in the parenting department, setting an example of how hard work pays off.

– Christy Hendricks