My goal in life was never to be, what I refer to myself as, “A Professional Student”. It just sort of happened (over the last 19 years). It’s not that I haven’t wanted to get my degree in these last two decades, it’s just that life happened…over…and…over…and over and when I did make it back to school for a semester or two, I usually had a new major on my transcript. Recently, I wrote all of those majors down. I counted 5, but there may be more. I listed them below:
- Health Science – This was my first major. I was actually still in high school and took a class that I received college credit for. I wasn’t even sure what a degree in Health Science was, but I had to put something down on the form, so I picked what sounded the coolest. Though, it was quickly replaced by a new major when I enrolled in college in the fall.
- Mass Communication – I was about 18 when I changed my major to this based only on the fact that it sounded “business-like”. I wasn’t particularly interested in it, but I had to pick a major that was related to business because the company I worked for offered tuition reimbursement IF you took classes related to business (which meant Under-Water Basket Weaving was out). I had an aunt that graduated with a degree in Mass Communication, so I picked it based on those two factors. I still don’t know what people “mass communicate” about.
- Nursing – When I was giving birth to Luna. I loved the nurses I had in labor and delivery so much that I decided I also wanted to help hysterical and drugged-up women as they discovered the joys of childbirth, too. I even took a CNA class while on maternity leave and planned on quitting my job and going back to school to get a nursing degree. It took 3 years, but I went back and took a year of pre-requisites before I decided I just couldn’t deal with poop and puke, so I changed my mind.
- Social Work – Several years later, I went back to school for the 4th time when I was separated from my ex-husband for the first time. This time, I decided to major in social work with hopes of becoming a therapist (Yes, it’s true! There are areas of social work where you don’t have to split up families).
After a semester int he program, I realized that I was probably more suited for work on the macro level instead of clinical work when I fell in love with social policy. While my classmates loathed the class and complained in the hall about how boring it was, I felt the complete opposite and looked forward to it every week, completely fascinated by policies with acronyms like PRWORA, AFDC, and TANF. However, I could barely make it through our mental health class, a class that they all enjoyed as future therapists.
(side note: It is in your best interest to never say “welfare” or “Obamacare” around me, unless you enjoy being lectured for the next half an hour about why those two terms are inaccurate and misleading.)
Anyway, I made it through 3 semesters of classes before I became horribly depressed and burned out, so I had to take the following semester off. I went back again, but only made it one more semester before burning out for the second time. Still not ready to give up completely, I went back for a 3rd time about a year later and was able to white-knuckle it to graduation (which I didn’t even go to because of my anxiety).
In total, it took me 4 years just to get my associates degree, and that’s only if you count the social work major. If you count back to when I started school in 1998, it actually took 17 fucking years!
After I got my associates degree, I took some time to decide if I really wanted to continue with social work. My internship had raised some serious doubts about a career in social work. I wanted to get to analyze and create policies, I didn’t want to just follow them. I also didn’t want to go to school for another 5 years, just so I could make $14.oo an hour with no hope of ever paying my student loans off. If I were 21, it wouldn’t be a big deal, but I’m close to 40 now and would like to retire before the age of 90!
Nevertheless, I decided to apply to the University that fall and planned on picking my major later. When it came to registration, however, I panicked at the thought of the huge campus, let my anxiety and lack of self-confidence get the better of me, and chickened out at the last minute. “I’ll just start in the spring.”, I told myself. But, Spring came and went and the semester started without me again. The following fall, I was determined that I was going to go back. I even paid the enrollment fees, but before I could register for classes, I chickened out, once again. At that point, I had paid application fees 3 times without ever stepping foot on campus.
For some reason, I was letting my anxiety and the overwhelming fear of failure make my decision for me, even though I longed to go back. It didn’t help that most of the friends I’d made in social work were now in the master’s program and others were well into the bachelor’s program. I felt like such a loser.
“What’s the point?”, I heard my inner voice ask for the 90th time, before saying, “You know, you’ll just drop out again. Why continue to embarrass yourself? It’s time to accept that you’re never going to have a degree.”
(my inner voice is a bitch)
This summer, however, for reasons unknown, I was finally able to shove a gluten-free cupcake into the mouth of my inner voice and shut her up long enough to apply and finally registered for classes. After considering Political Science, Sociology, Psychology, Writing and Rhetoric and Peace and Conflict Studies (yes, those last two are real degrees), I found one that caught my eye: Health, Society, and Policy, a degree that perfectly embodied the passion that I have for policy, social justice and issues related to public health and access to health care.
Plus, it had a really long impressive sounding title.
As of now, I am exactly 3 semesters, including this one, away from graduating and am actually optimistic that I might even finish this time. I’m even tentatively planning on applying for a program that offers a joint master’s degree in Public Policy and Public Health in February of next year.
That being said, I am terrified that this optimism won’t last and that I will fail, once again.
Two steps forward, two steps back.
Nevertheless, I don’t think I will ever stop dreaming of the day when I get to move a stupid little tassle to the other side of a dorky square hat after I hear my last name being mispronounced.
Even if that means that I end up being the cutest little 82 year old at the graduation ceremony.
Because the truth is, that even though it can be very painful (and expensive!) to continually fail at something that you want so badly, it is far more painful to live with regret.
Okay, time to stop putting homework off and start writing my policy abstract…
(Aren’t you proud of me for writing two entire blog posts within a week, though?)