Friday, May 13, 2011, I graduated from the University of Tennessee with my Bachelor's in History, Environmental Studies minor. It was a proud, yet surreal moment for me - a moment that I never thought I'd see. Yes, I persevered through a host of trials (my dad's death, divorce, Spanish) and emerged victorious, but it was still a long road.
There was one time where I seriously thought about packing it all in and giving up. I had gone to see Dr. Sacco, my history prof that semester, about my failure to meet the requirements of the History Senior Thesis class. She gave me the dressing down of my life! I walked out of her office and thought, "Maybe I'm not supposed to be here. Maybe I really don't have what it takes to be a good student and pursue my degree. Maybe there is just too much going on right now." But I really wanted my degree, so I stuck it out and kept going. There were several people along the way who counseled me to delay my education, especially in the midst of the marital difficulties I was facing. To be honest, the most stable thing in my life at that point was school. I knew I could count on the routine of daily classes, exams and papers. I think being a student saved my sanity!
As I look back on my nontrad tenure, there are several things that stand out:
1. Just do it!! Grit your teeth, forge ahead and don't look back!
2. Silence the naysayers. Even though I had lots of positive support, there were still a few negative voices. They were the ones who were my inspiration to continue. "Oh, ya? I'll show you!!"
3. Anything is possible. Don't let life stand in the way of achieving your dreams.
4. Find support. Being an older nontrad can sometimes be a difficult place to be. Build a good support group of family, friends and other nontrads.
5. Have faith in yourself. You can achieve things you never thought possible when you make up your mind to just do it!
My children, especially my daughter, have been greatest cheerleaders. We've walked this road together so many times (studying for exams, writing papers, etc.). I think being a nontrad has served to further cement my relationships with my college-aged children.
Are there things I would have changed? Yes. I would have studied more, read more and tried to be better student in the face of personal crisis. That may sound like I am being hard on myself and I guess I am. However, I do have a chance to be a better student as I will be taking one class a semester to keep myself "sharp" and possibly work toward a Master's degree. There are other things I would not change - getting to know some of my profs, making friends with my younger classmates and working in the EECS department.
All in all, it's been a great ride, but I'm glad its over. I will still blog about being a nontrad because I will still be a nontrad. I love being a student! Stay tuned . . .