I know it’s not cool to boast, but every once in a while it’s ok to be proud of ourselves. Today, I’m feeling like I finally accomplished a dream of mine.
When I was a kid, I was a straight A student. I was a band and debate team nerd. I dreamed of going to college and having an incredible career. My step-dad used to joke that I was going to be a professional student because I excelled in school. I think he imagined me getting degree after degree until I had myself a PhD.
I even thought about going Ivy League. I had the grades. But I didn’t have the money I needed and if I’m being brutally honest with myself, I didn’t have the determination to make my dreams a reality.
The 19 year old me was burned out. I was so tired of trying to be the perfect student and the perfect daughter and the perfect sister and the perfect friend that I beat myself up way too much anytime I made a mistake.
Then one day, in the Walmart parking lot, life took a different turn. I met a boy. And no doubt in my mind, he was the one for me. We did the whole white dress, three layer cake, ’til death do us part ceremony and we started a family and I was happy. But there was always this little tinge of disappointment in myself nagging at me.
When my first son was little, I tried to go to night school. I lost all the credits I’d earned at the University of Houston because I didn’t have the $9,000 I still owed them, so I started from scratch. I took a few classes here, and a few more there, but I struggled to be away from my babies and I always found reasons why I couldn’t do it.
It was never that I wasn’t smart enough. I think I just didn’t believe I deserved it. And I was consumed with fear that if I didn’t surround my children 24/7, something bad would happen to them. Every time some daycare tragedy headlined the evening news, my fears were validated. Lucky for me, my husband worked really hard to take care of everything so I could stay at home and micro-manage my kids.
Then, about nine years ago, life took another crazy turn and we adopted four more children. It wasn’t the plan, but they needed us. And I believe God put us on this journey.
It’s one thing to support a wife and three kids by yourself, but a wife and seven kids? That’s a monumental challenge, no matter how frugal you are. So, I knew I had to buckle down and finish school and contribute more.
Sometimes I think of my husband as a mighty ship powering through the ocean. I know I’ve piled a lot on that ship, and somehow he’s always held us above water. It didn’t matter if I added ballet lessons or baseball or more kids or remodeling projects. He’s kept us afloat. But I’m not 23 anymore. The reality that we’ll need to retire one day made me realize that I can’t live from check to check forever. And one man can’t steer this ship on his own.
So I took my night school credits and starting looking for another way. I found a school that offered a teaching degree online. Amazingly, I could attend for $3,000 a semester, all books included. I could do three classes or ten, and the rate wouldn’t change. It was definitely the place for me. (If you wanna know more, let me know and I’ll send you a referral that will waive the application fee.)
I didn’t need gas money and my schedule could be worked around football practice and therapy sessions and PTO meetings. I wouldn’t have to trust anyone else to watch my kiddos. And that part is really huge for me.
Honestly, I thought I’d have it all done in two or three years. But life never slows down just because you put a little more on your plate.
I think it’s fair to say my plate’s been pretty full for the past decade. I’ve taken on a lot. My husband and I tallied it up, and in the past 22 years, 18 kids have lived with us at some point. Seven of them are ours, but the rest just needed a soft place to fall for a moment. My husband jokes that he can’t get me a bigger house because I’d get more kids and he’s probably right. There’s something so fulfilling about helping a kid.
Ironically, I love to help other people, but I never really try to help myself. And it took a lot of years to realize that I still have dreams, and I’m not too old to follow them. I’m passionate about photography and writing. I dream of publishing a book, and I’m going to keep chasing those aspirations, but I always wanted a degree in my hand.
Tonight, I got notification that I passed my final class.
I wanna shout from the rooftops. This degree took a decade on and off. But I finally earned it.
I’m wondering, am I too old for a graduation party?