David McMahon over at authorblog asks, in his Weekend Wandering question, "What was the best decision you ever made?"
At the risk of sounding repetitive, as I think I've blogged about this before, the best decision (by far) that I've ever made was to go back to school. I graduated with my first Bachelors degree on May 12, 2007 after five years of going to school and just a week before I turned 45 years old. I wasn't the only oldie-but-goodie at the commencement ceremony. We had people of all ages, which was so refreshing. University of Maryland University College is one of the first (and arguably the best) school for non-traditional student. Many of our military members attend college while they are deployed all over the world, and students like me can attend school while working and can do so without having to set foot on campus (except when finals come around). Though I would have loved to go to the campus for classes, with my (then) commute to the office every day, my typical household chores when I got home, and just life in general, the online campus was right for me.
I can assure you that it was a challenging curriculum. Several of my friends have also gotten their degree through UMUC, and though they are very smart people, their performance in the courses was average. Me? Always the overachiever, I worked my hardest and graduated with a 3.969 GPA (out of 4.0). That represented exactly one "B" out of an entire degree program. That was due to one botched upload of the wrong version of a term paper. I sent the one without the citations! And the professor was strict enough that she didn't give me any "do-overs."
School was so exciting to me that I couldn't decide what exactly I wanted to study. Eventually, though, I settled on Communications, since I had steered my career in that direction. I was fortunate enough to have been able to have a very good career without the degree; that wasn't why I went back to school. I went to school to improve myself. I had always wanted to go to college, but life was tough in the early days. I spent several years as a stay at home mom and then traded places with my husband and took a traveling job to advance my career and my earning power. It worked. We began to move upward, eventually landing in the DC Metro area.
After a lifetime of not feeling good enough, of thinking other people were smarter because they had a degree and I did not, I began to get my self-esteem on track again. Graduating from college was one of the proudest moments of my life, and the only thing that would have made it better is if my mother had lived to know about it. She always encouraged me to study hard and get good grades. I know that she felt if she had had that opportunity, she wouldn't have wasted it. For the record, she made it as far as 9th grade before having to drop out due to illness (asthma, for which they had almost no treatment in the the early 40s), but she told me that she had always wanted to be a nurse. She respected what they did for people. My father was taken out of school in the 3rd grade--imagine!--to work on the farm. His father had died when he was 5, and there were 10 children altogether. The girls weren't sent to school, and the boys were needed to help run the farm. Later, though, he was given vocational training by the Army after WWII. He learned carpentry and eventually learned the contracting/construction business. At one time, his company was a huge competitor in Houston; he could bid a job in such a way that he was still profitable but was able to undercut many of the big guys. He worked long hours every day to support his family of 7 (5 children). I think I got my grit and determination from him. Nothing stopped him.
And so, while encouraging my own children to be good students and to prepare for college, I started preparing for college, too. When my daughter turned 18, I signed up for classes. I finally felt that I had time for me.
So it is that I am the first in my family (except for my niece) to graduate from college. It was hard, but it was so worth it. The way I feel about myself has changed. The way I feel about the future has changed. My earning power changed. And I finally feel proud and confident when I give my resume to someone. It no longer just has my job experience. It also has "B.A. Technical Communications, UMUC 2007."
Peace - D
authorblog: Weekend Wandering