After the First Commencement

At the beginning of this month, my entire life was changed forever.  Perhaps it is a small thing, and perhaps not so small in some ways.  On May 8, I went from GED’d high school dropout to having a college degree.  Granted, it’s an associate’s degree, but it is a degree none the less.  Now, I won’t lie, I am forty-four years old.  It’s been a long road.  I’ve got three grown sons and an extended family that the younger me would have scratched my eyes out for.  But I didn’t do it alone.  Let me tell you what loving support really means.

When my husband and I got married, he knew I was “creative”, and he knew I really wanted a career, but we never really talked about going to college.  To be honest I never really thought it would be possible.  Now, we also haven’t always had what you would call a traditional relationship, either.  To me, it’s always seemed a little lopsided.  Not only had he helped me through my boys’ turbulent (and believe me, they were) teenage years, he helped me through the whole empty nest thing.  He married me after ten years of living together, and took a job as a lake caretaker thinking to get us back to nature.  Of course, as things go completely their own way, he wound up working incredibly long hours, and I had some trouble adjusting.  I really didn’t know how to be relaxed around people the way he was.

I’d always thought, and I know he did too, that we would run the little shop together someday.  The reality was different.  I found myself growing afraid of going down to the shop for fear I would be stuck there, and not know how to deal with things.  Not know the policies.  And it was true.  I didn’t know what to do and not do, and it seemed I was always doing something wrong.  But it wasn’t because there were too many rules, it was because there weren’t enough.  There was no boundary between him and his customers like I had grown accustomed to working retail and food service.  Hubby was eternally patient with me, but I withdrew.

He thought I was unhappy, but really I was just struggling to find where I fit in our new lifestyle.  So I helped with the taxes, the websites and documents, while he did the shop keeping and most of the paperwork.  It still felt uneven, and honestly I had guilt for not automatically falling in love with it.  He worried that I was really hating it.  I was still working at the school as a lunch lady, and the feet were still an issue.  I knew I couldn’t do this kind of work forever.  I needed something that I could do an be good at.  Hubs and I would one day get to where a regular job would be impossible.  I needed to be able to care for him when the time came, and I needed to be able to support myself as well.

One weekend I had all day to myself, and I just sat and thought.  Like all day.  I had always written, why not try to do it for a living?  Well, because I sucked.  I had no education, no training, and while the ideas were there, I spun my wheels more often than not, starting things that never got finished.  I didn’t know anything about the world of publication, or the world of writing for that matter.  What would it take to succeed?

I read lots of stuff online over the next two or three weeks.  I mentioned going to school for writing at dinner, and his only question was, “Can we afford it?” I did some more digging and came to the conclusion we might.  There was some more discussion, and we decided that after the end of the school year, I would enroll in Community College to get a degree in English.  Long (longer than this) story short, he has put up with a lot.

He runs a business, so he works full-time plus.  He’s come home to a dirty house more often than not, dealt with cold or late dinners, eaten out A LOT, made dinner a lot, and generally been a great cheerleader.  If I struggled with a subject, he would be talking to somebody about how I could improve, and if they knew anyone who could tutor if needed. If I needed help getting up for school, he made sure to give me a call.  Taking care of the car, fielding my crazy “Honey I’m lost in Tulsa!” phone calls when he had other things to do.  Taking off early on graduation night so he could be there for me.

Then there’s the kids.  His daughter, son in law and granddaughter and my middle son.  They have been there at every turn of the page for us.  They were there when we met, they were there when we were engaged, and they were there when we were married.  They were there at graduation.  They surrounded me in love, and I didn’t drown.  They kept me afloat.

Even now, I feel like my heart’s going to explode.  This is what they mean when they talk about loving support.  It is what makes a family.  They have been there for me, and by all the gods, I will do whatever I can to be there for them.  They make the success of all this important.  They make me want to be the best writer I can be.  Income is important, sure, but only as a means of supporting them and the writing.  Building a legacy they can be proud of.

Now, after the Commencement, is not the time to rest on an accomplishment.  The relish must be brief, for there is much left to be done.  The next leg of the journey lies ahead.  Knowing I have a lifeline makes all the difference.  Knowing these amazing people are behind me–no, standing with me–sometimes holding me upright–makes all the difference.  It wouldn’t happen without them.

Now, this says nothing of the other people who have encouraged this venture, and there are many.  My parents, teachers, professors, friends and the rest of the family, readers known and unknown… every single one of you matters.  Sure, I’m socially awkward beyond most human understanding, but I will promise to work on it and to keep working on it until I feel as comfortable with you all as my husband does with the folks out here.  Many of his customers have grown to be more like family.  They are working on me too.  I don’t expect to ever be done, but I will keep working, out of gratitude.

I will never feel like I have done enough to feel worthy of the love that has been given me.

Thank you, all of you, for taking this journey with me.  I truly do love you all.

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Now, enough of the mushy stuff!  I got scary movies to watch and gobs of gothic and horror to read.  Two week crash course in gothic lit is half over already!  Whew, getting in on the next degree early.  Got to write a 8-10 page research paper for this one too.  Good news–that’s all I have to do except for journal entries. #gettinschooledincreepy