My life mantra has always been “it’s never too late”, but If you would have told me two years ago that I would be graduating with an Associate’s degree at the age of 48, I would have laughed my ample behind off. Yet, two years later here I am, having contemplated speaking at the commencement ceremony, and graduating with highest distinction.
The sacrifices have been great, and many. But standing backstage hearing the swell of Pomp and Circumstance, my husband’s insane battle cry of “Go Sharon!”, while fighting back tears of joy as I strode into the arena made it all worth it. I was a warrior, and probably beat some odds (certainly my own) For the village it took to get me here I hold nothing but gratitude.
But I am getting ahead of myself a little.
Like I said, if you would have told me two years ago that I would smiling ear-to-ear, taking pictures with my newly acquired diploma holder, and wearing a lovely purple cap and gown, I would have scoffed at you.
Before I decided to enroll, my career had turned into low paying, soul sucking series of eight hour shifts, with only a few moments of light in the darkness known as freelance gigs. I just kept shuffling from one disappointing position to another.
During this roller coaster ride of more valleys than peaks, I sent out over two hundred resumes with a depressing return of five interviews. Why only five you say? It was simple. The jobs I wanted valued more education, and the jobs that didn’t care about my lack of education also didn’t care about their employees.
Something had to change.
It started on a dark and stormy night…not really just a down-and-out kind of evening with my daughter’s hockey team. I was sitting alone at the team barbeque as the girls were celebrating the end of another season, when one of the other moms noticed my melancholy refusal to eat cake. Back then I almost never refused cake! She had just finished her nursing degree, and I had wistfully observed her during practices doing homework, reading, and typing furiously on her doll-sized laptop. I regaled her with my not-so-hilarious tale of sending out two hundred resumes and receiving only 5 dismal interviews during one of which the interviewer berated me for my lack of education. It was then she uttered the suggestion that I had only allowed myself to dream about, “Why don’t you go back to school?” When I told her that I had never been she had blurted “But you are so smart!” Thanks?
That very short interaction got me thinking. Why don’t I? I had thought about it years before, but being a single mother with no other means of support other than my income, it seemed impossible. However, my circumstances had changed a bit. While I may have been a failure in the career department, I had struck gold in the love arena by meeting my new husband four years prior. To my surprise the suggestion was met with rousing approval on his end, and we set about devising a financial plan that could survive me only working part-time while pursuing my education full-time.
By the way, I opted out of auditioning to speak, because I wanted to enjoy graduation, not be bitten by stage fright for nearly three quarters of it. Also, I wanted the students to hear from someone who was standing in their shoes, not mine.
But one of the best parts to come out of the ceremony was the 50-something woman who stopped me to say how inspirational my decorated “It’s never too late” graduation was. It seems that she too, had been contemplating going back to school to complete her degree. I looked her square in the eye, and told her that I did not regret a thing, and that she should definitely do it. And I really hope she does.
For me this journey has not ended. I am attending Arizona State University to go for the next brass ring, a Bachelor’s degree. After that? A Master’s I am sure, and who knows maybe I get to realize my dream of becoming of a doctor.
This time I am not laughing my behind off (ample or not), because stranger things have happened.