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I am old y’all. I am not the typical young adult you see in your classes.
I may not ever see most of you as my classes are all online. I don’t carry a backpack, or bother with a student ID.
On my left hand, you will find a modest diamond engagement ring, a solid wedding band and a recently added 5-year anniversary band.
My right hand not only holds a tiny rubber band for my daughter’s pigtails, but now a highlighter and pen. The pen is used for grocery lists, contacts and note taking. The highlighter serves as a bright crayon in a coloring book and now is used to try and remember key points for quizzes and tests. My life is busy, but I have made the decision to go to college and that decision is not without its challenges.
The story of those hands and that decision starts in the spring of 2000 when I graduated from high school and spent the next 18 months working on my teaching degree one elective at a time. Then our family suffered the tragic loss of my maternal grandmother.
My world was turned upside down and I stopped showing up. No one was there to check attendance or call my mom if I didn’t show up. I stopped showing up to school, to work and to life in general. We all grieved for what felt like years. I lucked in to a job in property management that paid well without a degree and didn’t look back.
That is until 2010 when I decided to go back to school and I wasn’t going to let my fear get in my way. I was never any good at math and I knew I needed to conquer college algebra no matter what degree plan I chose. Two developmental math classes later, I decided I was ready to try. Then life happened. I worked two or three jobs at a time and no longer had time for school.
After creating a fulfilling career, finding an amazing husband, founding a nonprofit and having a darling daughter over the next nearly decade, I found myself in a deep conversation with my inspirational aunt during a family vacation.
She began college after having a family in her 50s and got her doctorate and she has little grace for excuses. Once I revealed that not finishing school was the only regret I had in life, she convinced me the time was now.
Even after reminding her that you need time and money to attend school, she enlightened me that I could keep letting life live me and wake up in five years in the same spot, or I could start moving toward repairing my regret. One class at a time. Semester by semester. Then in five years I would wake up closer to my goal at the very least.
Kick in the gut much?
If I had just kept going either time I started before. I can’t stand to think about where I would be now.
But that wasn’t my story, that wasn’t my path.
So here I sit in my third semester of college, for the third time in my life, determined to finish what I started nearly two decades ago. Not to further my career or to make more money, but to make myself a more well-rounded woman. Not to make my family proud but to prove to myself that I can do it. Not to defy the odds but to encourage others to never give up.
Every trial or setback in our lives gives us a choice to make an excuse or excel. We can think of every reason why we can’t do things, or we can face each challenge from a point of creating a legacy of excellence.
Those 36-year-old hands have always held my future but now they must juggle a few other things too. That hand with the diamonds, now holds note cards and study guides while the other pats a sleeping princess who just won’t leave mommy’s side.
My computer is not only used to write papers and discussion boards but to help manage operational excellence on several multi-million-dollar assets across the globe.
Among being called wife, mom, daughter, sister and friend, I am determined to be called the first college graduate in my maternal family tree.
I may be a nontraditional student, but I am still a student.
My tuition may have to be paid in installments because we must pay a mortgage and I do not qualify for financial aid, but it gets paid with joy.
My classroom may be my side of the bed late at night, but it is still a space of knowledge transfer.
My answers to discussion boards may be longer than most, but they are filled with life experiences and it may take me five years to get a two-year degree, but I would rather excel than make excuses.
Just watch me.
— Sarah Ivy is a communications major and contributor