Ready, set, GO!!!

On Saturday, June 15, 2013 I celebrated two important milestones on my life journey.  Firstly, I have now officially graduated from university with a bilingual B.A. in Psychology.  The high flaming spirit of that day has now cooled down to red embers, and there is a lull too.  It's the moment when you look up at the sky, sigh deeply and almost say aloud to the universe; now what?  

The second "event" is easier to embrace in its totality; I have not smoked a cigarette in 6 months as of Saturday.  This is after nearly 20 years of smoking.  I am very pleased with myself and with my resolve.  This is in fact the longest stretch of time that I have had without smoking, other than when I quit while I was pregnant with each of my sons.  I am on a mission: I need to be smoke free for at least a year, then I will feel like I have truly accomplished my goal of quitting.  

These two events are important and significant in my life because, contrary to what I have often done in the past (and especially in the case of graduating), this time I finished what I started.  That may be a no-brainer for many people, but for me, it's actually been very hard to do just that, at times.  I'm going to give the honest, though abbreviated, run-down of what I went through to complete this degree.  

I started university in 2005 while I was pregnant with (surprise, surprise) my second son!  That made starting school even scarier than it already seemed.  I took an 80% course load that year and I wrote three of four final exams (my mom had him for one of them) with the baby in the stroller right next to me.  Exams were in April and I had my boy at the end of February, so there was no way I was leaving my month-and-a-half-old baby with a sitter.  

I passed everything that first year and I completely "failed to gain academic standing" the following year.  So I had to do my entire second year of university over.  Naturally that was very discouraging, but I rallied and came back and completed that year well.  Afterwhich, I started to have a personal illness and found it impossible to deal with my children, school, my flagging health and the management of my home, so I voluntarily withdrew from university, to focus on my life and the lives of my children.  It took a year-and-a-half, but I got better and came back more determined than ever to complete what I'd started. 

From this point forward, I only attempted a 60% course load and started really talking to all of my professors and course directors to let them know that I was a single parent and that I might call on them to be understanding, because I have kids and they each have their own issues separate from mine which might require me to be absent from class.  

With serious ground to cover, I started back at school again.  I worked hard and diligently and I successfully completed the Summer 2010 session up to the Fall 2011 session. In Winter of the 2012 school year I developed pneumonia and was out of school for the entire month of February.  

One prof told me that if I wanted to drop the course and reapply she would allow the late withdrawal.  I thought about the prospect of having to come back again to do something at school and I knew that it would not work for me, so I made a plan.  A plan to complete all of my course work for that term in about a-month-and-a-half.  Without advocating what anyone else should or should not do with regards to their education; what I found worked best for me was to literally stop going to classes and throw myself into each task as a separate thing to do.    

For example, I did tons of research for the 17 page paper and in two weeks went from nothing to a finished product. Immediately upon completion of that task, I started research for the second, thankfully shorter 12 page paper for a separate class, while simultaneously studying for the first of five upcoming exams in yet another class.  Upon completion of the12-page paper, I threw myself into my studying for exam #1, then #2, and #'s 3, 4 and 5 in rapid-fire succession.  I don't know if flat words on a page can possibly convey the speed at which I was working, but have no doubt, I WAS WORKING MY BUTT OFF! 
  
In six weeks I wrote three midterms, two major essays between 10 and 17 pages in length and two final exams (I had another paper that I wrote as my final exam in one course, but that was after this period of time).  I fed my children and washed their clothes and that was it for those weeks.  

After pneumonia, everything changed for me.  I had less hang-ups, less insecurity, and more relaxed freedom inside myself.  I knew for the first time in my life that if I really knuckled down, I could do just about anything.  I didn't fail anymore years.  I passed them all and in January of this year, I wrote my last two exams to get my bachelor degree. 

And so, with clearing lungs, a new belief in the value of my own intrinsic worth and the near perpetual desire to improve myself, I look at where I am now from where I started out seven years ago and although it took me longer than most, I can only be proud of myself.

Now what?

The future is an open road, and though I don't expect anything to be easy, I know that whatever is coming I will face it, fix it, get under it or over it, but I will not give up on it, and I will never quit!

What now?  Anything and everything: I am ready.