I am itchy with excitement. It’s hard to sit at my desk and do the work. I’m beginning my last quarter as a student on Monday, and I’m so excited. I’m excited because I am *that girl* who yes, loves school. But I’m excited that after 20 something years of school I’m finally going to be done. For the first time in my life that I can remember, I won’t be studying for a test, or working on a paper, programming a project, and waiting on bated breath for final grades. I’ll be free to just, be, at the end of the day.
But part of me is sad. To say goodbye to something that has held me up like a rock over the past 4 years.
I originally started going to school, because I couldn’t find a job. I was fresh out of my undergraduate and wide-eyed, ready for a great career since I thought, “hey, I deserve it! I worked hard, I had a major that doesn’t usually have difficulty finding jobs, and plus, I’m young and awesome“. Typical. Looking back, when I see people with this attitude now, I roll my eyes and think, “you just wait”. Oh so cynical and jaded. I should work on that, probably.
I applied to graduate school when it finally hit me. A job is not a guaranteed thing in life. It’s a hard reality, but it’s true for so many people, including me at the time. So I swallowed my pride and decided I would go back to school. Make myself, an even better version of myself. So I took the GREs, dusted off my old version of Microsoft Word to write entrance essays, and I applied and was accepted to the Savannah College of Art and Design. At a time when rejection was happening left and right with jobs, it felt so good to be accepted.
I was also accepted to a couple of other schools. Luckily, I had no issues with entrance to SCAD. I was accepted to another great school, with the caveat that I take English as a second language. How’s that for a confession? English is my first language, and I was so paralyzingly nervous during my GRE, I flunked at a level that someone who does not speak English would flunk at. How embarrassing. Talk about being knocked from your high horse, huh? It’s ok, go ahead and crack up! Because I did. I also cried a little bit. And then laughed again.
Soon after I accepted my new future as a student at SCAD, I got a job. Something inside me said, “Do both“. “Ugh, really?”, I thought. But I knew it was the right choice. Move forward. Keep pushing. Keep making yourself better.
3 years later, I was laid off. Company cutbacks. The cliché answer was all I had when people asked me. It was embarrassing. It was sad. But I still had school. School was becoming a constant.
Freelance became a four letter word. I did it because I had to, not because I wanted to. I knew I needed to grow my portfolio as I went through school. I went on countless, countless interviews, where people consistently asked me, “so, you’re in school? how will that work with a full-time job?” and I patiently responded that I do my work in the evening, just as I had over the past 3 years. They would give me that look. That look. The one where you just know, I’m not going to get this job. I’m going to go home, take two Tylenol, lay on the floor and pray that this all goes away, that everything magically goes back to the way it was before everything exploded.
But I still had school, the constant. It made me feel like, with all of the things that made me feel so small, I was still so capable. Strong. Hard-working. Learning.
I still worked and worked, and it gave me a reason to move forward, to continue making myself a better version of myself.
And I truly believe that the very thing that held me up has made me a stronger person. It’s reminded me what I’m strong enough to accomplish in my life. And slowly as time as trudged forward, I realize that whatever job I’m doing, whether it’s conventional or non-conventional, challenging, or maybe a little boring, I’m ready to take that, smile at it, and use my talents to accomplish it.
I encourage you, maybe you’re a student. Maybe you’re thinking about going back. Maybe you’re thinking “I never got that degree I always wanted”. Maybe you want your GED, your Associate’s, your Bachelors, Masters, Doctoral, degree. Maybe you’re just finishing high school. Give it a try. Give it a chance, and maybe let it be the thing that turns you into a better version of yourself.