I resisted going back to school for a long time. I didn’t have a life plan that included utilizing a degree, and I really disliked the online course experience. Over time my life plans changed, and finishing my degree became much more appealing. As TH started his second year of his MBA program and we had a clearer understanding of what the next year would be like, I realized that I had the perfect window to return to BYU and finish my degree in-person, instead of online. That Husband would move in with my parents and work for my dad to fund this little adventure of mine, and my parents would get to spend time like never before with their favorite grandchild.
Once we had that lined up I started into the process of figuring out what classes I would need to take in order to finish, and how the process worked. I stumbled around a lot, but got in touch with the advisors for the English majors and emailed back and forth with her several times to make sure I understood exactly what I would need to do. The process was a bit complicated because I needed to do a few petitions, including getting special permission from the English department to substitute a Statistics course instead of finding an equivalent for Italian 202 (I had worked through several Italian semesters before I got married, but couldn’t find an affordable option that met the requirements in Chicago), but it all worked out in the end.
Once I had in writing from the advisor “Everything looks correct”, meaning “Yes, the detailed plan you wrote out for me means you will graduate in August” I dove right in! My plan was to take British Literature and Statistics online between November and May, and then start courses at BYU in June. We found a babysitter for T1 and I trudged through Statistics (accompanied by lots of tears, as my math-related skills were poor when I graduated from high school and had eroded considerably in the almost-a-decade since graduating) and my Brit Lit class, finishing just in time to take one last final when I arrived on BYU’s campus. Everything was going exactly as I’d hoped!
And then I walked into the advisor’s office to check up on my graduation plans and was told that I was short a course if I wanted to walk. At BYU the max course load (without special permission) for a semester is 18 credits, and since this was a term that was half the length the max course load was 9 credits. I had already signed up for 9 credits, preferring to do as many courses in a real classroom as possible. The idea of adding on yet another class (so 12 credits total, or the equivalent of a 24 credit semester) was exhausting, but I knew I was having a baby and that this might be my last chance to finish in the way I wanted. I was very, very lucky because the last class I needed was an elective course, so even during Summer Term I had a few options. The next day I went from classroom to classroom trying to find a professor who would take me on knowing that I was signing up for a heavy course load (the first professor turned down my request for his signature immediately), but my pleas of “I’m pregnant and moving to California and this is my last chance to graduate” won over the professor for Short Story and so I made one last trip to the bookstore to buy yet another backpack full of novels and textbooks in order to graduate. I was determined to make this graduation happen, no matter what. LESSON LEARNED: Double, triple, and quadruple check your plans when making important life decisions. No one else cares about your future as much as you do.
A few days into the term, I got really sick. My first trimester with T1 was relatively easy, but this time around I was exhausted, weak, and shaking all day every day. (Oh yeah, and I ran a half-marathon during all of this. Let’s call this the summer of “I put in months of work to prepare for this and nothing is going to hold me back from achieving what I’ve been training/working toward”.) My life revolved around making it through my shower, through my breakfast, through the walk uphill to campus, through my classes, through my homework, all so I could crawl back into bed and be kept up half the night with pregnancy-induced insomnia and half-dozen trips to the bathroom each night. I can’t remember anything more miserable than those 6 weeks.
But you know what? That walk across the stage is worth it. It’s worth any and all amount of work and sacrifice. I think the only other time I’ve ever felt this proud of myself was when I birthed a baby. Months after graduation I would wake up in the morning and my first thought would be “I have a bachelors degree. I actually graduated from college!”
Since then I’d been ducking my head a bit when people congratulated me for finishing (I feel like I’m surrounded by people with master’s degrees and doctorate degrees so a bachelor’s degree felt silly), and then I saw on Wikipedia that only 30% of people in the United States have a Bachelor’s Degree. What!?!? Go me! And go everyone else who has one too. Maybe someday I’ll try to join the 8% in the US who have Master’s degrees.
Thanks to my family for coming down to support me! Shay when you graduate I promise my whole family will be there cheering you on as well!
That feels good! And now both of our children, no matter the gender, will know that graduating from college is not optional in That Household.
The following photos were taken by Aubrey of Every Little Moment Photography. She emailed me asking if I’d be interested in a photography swap and I was so excited to be able to get some family photos when all of us were together in Utah! I went to her studio and did pictures of her family, and several weeks later she showed up after I walked across the stage and did family photos for me. Outside of my family she and her assistant were one of the first people to know about my pregnancy. Thanks Aubrey!
My new favorite family picture.
You’ll see I have my hand under my belly in almost every picture. I felt like I looked huge! I wanted to make sure there was no mistaking that I was pregnant and not just a bit tubby from too many visits to the vending machines during class breaks.
This brings our total degrees in the family to four: two bachelor’s degrees and two master’s degrees. Too bad I only hold one of them :).
While we finished up pictures, T1 led Nana around and let us know how how “over this” he was.
The stock photo that they take right before you walk cross the stage is soooo cheesy. I’m really glad Aubrey was there to take these.
This last one is cheesy, I know, but it does a great job describing how graduation made me feel. Even though I don’t have any immediate plans to get a job or further my education, finishing this step opens up a whole new world of possibilities that I didn’t previously have at my disposal.
Some thanks are in order.
First, to my dear husband. He encouraged me every step of the way, but gave me the space to come to this decision on my own. It means a lot to me that despite the messages embeddedMormon culture, he believes that education for women is just as important as it is for men. This is one of the many ways you’ve changed me for the better.
Second, to those of you who gently and respectfully encouraged me to consider finishing. Erin, in particular, comes to mind. And thanks to all those on Twitter who helped keep me entertained during Short Story this summer, AKA Worst-Class-Ever. Couldn’t have survived those 2.5 hour mind-numbing lectures without you.
And most importantly, to my parents. Thank you. Thank you for funding my education, for your patience as I bounced form major to major (and failed a few classes in the process), for agreeing to take on the responsibility of caring for my child so I could focus on my degree, and for driving down to Utah to cheer me across the stage as I celebrated this major accomplishment. I love you guys so much.