Commencement is about to Commence!

 

My final semester as an undergraduate is coming to a close, much more swiftly than I thought it would at the beginning of the semester. As commencement is only a few short weeks away, and all signs seem to say I will indeed make it, I thought I’d make a post about some of the things this last semester has taught me.

Six years caught up with me overnight:

When I finished writing the essay for my capstone, I felt a huge wave of relief, not because the assignment was too hard, but because I had built up so much tension around the idea that somehow I might not pass. This had nothing to do with the faculty or my fellow students, it was just all of those old insecurities rearing their heads one last time to let me know they were still alive and kicking. The worst part is that I hadn’t realized how bad it had been until it was all gone. Over the next two weeks, I entered a sort of recovery phase. Every time I felt myself getting tense, I would breathe deep, stretch, or find something to help me loosen up, like music.

Yesterday morning I realized that all of that tension and stress was simply gone. I’d still have to do the presentation but that was, comparatively, simple. With the majority of the grunt-work done, I would be able to handle Spanish, Computer Applications, and Media Planning and Buying. I was going to make it. It was like the first real spring day after a long, cold winter. My neck and back popped in several places I didn’t know were even bound up. I lost five pounds in two weeks. I started to take care of myself again. With the cap and gown and the graduation pictures, I had hoped I was going to make it. Now it seemed likely. It was time to stop thinking like a student and start acting like a graduate.

Today, it seems even surer.

I realized what lay ahead:

With the approach of commencement, I have been able to start looking forward to a time when school is not necessarily all there is. Don’t get me wrong, I love it. Everything about going to college has built me up and expanded me. Still, I have a lot to accomplish, and while I still have the MFA ahead of me, in two and a half years, it is done, and I can work while I do the MFA. It’s time to start the rest of my life.

It’s time to do the writing.

I feel like a butterfly emerging from a cocoon of intense change. In doing the reflection for the capstone I was able to look back on my college career and see the distance I have gone. I was able to see some of the specific ways in which I was changed and to compare my outlook now to the one I had then. I’m not done, but I have come a long way, baby. In the end, I feel like I can pretty much adapt to whatever life throws at me. The voice is still there (the one that says yeah, right…) but I can tell it to shut up and go lay down now, and it must obey.

I have the most wonderful Hubby and Daddy a gal could have:

Seriously they have been so supportive. There were patches where I wasn’t very clear about what I needed, and even during those times, Tom would seem to sense what I needed and adapt accordingly. It still hasn’t always been easy. There were things we had to deal with, like a string of deaths in the family and his cancer treatments, that affected both of us more than we’ll either likely admit, but we came through them because we love each other so deeply and work so well together. 

Dad has been super supportive as well, as much as he is able. I moved in to stay with him two years ago after my stepmom died, and Tom came to stay when he started his treatments. Things have worked out remarkably well, and Tom is able to be here for Daddy when I must be at school. Even with the low residency for the upcoming MFA, I would be very worried if I had to leave Dad alone for two weeks. He’s doing okay for the most part. Better than two summers ago, but he gets quiet on the birthdays and anniversaries of those we lost. Today would have been Pat’s birthday. He’s been in bed a lot the last couple of days, and I’m sure it’s mainly because he misses her so much. As long as one of us is able to be here for him, I don’t worry too much, but I know it’s hard on him.

I will be almost 50 when I get my MFA. If I can do it, almost anyone can:

I made fair grades in school, but I wasn’t a straight-A student. I’m still not. I work hard for my B’s and C’s. I get plenty of A’s, it just never seems to be all of them. It may come as a shock, but I’m not a genius.  The bigger shock is that in the end, it doesn’t matter. What matters is maximum effort and the will to improve and get the job done right. At the beginning of my college career, I quailed at B’s, and C’s were toeing the line between life and death. When I failed (I struggled seriously with Algebra and Spanish,) I thought I was doomed, damned to a future of no purpose beyond cooking and cleaning. I like cooking, and I don’t mind cleaning, but the idea of that being my life’s sole purpose is horrifying to me. I require stimulation and self-expression. I need it like air. Literature and art give me those things in abundance, and I feel fulfilled when I’m creating something. If you’re forty and this sounds like you, then get yourself back in school. It may not be for everybody, but hear this– I wasn’t sure it was for me when I started either. I was terrified. I got over it. You can too. I would encourage anyone who is floundering to just sign up for a semester of classes. Get the financial aid if you need it, and go find your passion. Remember: It’s not a dream, it’s a plan.