(If anyone knows where this quote is from, you are my BFF.)
I started this journey in 2004 with a letter from a brand-new charter school, St. Petersburg Collegiate High School, telling all about their school and the opportunity to graduate with my A.A. degree and my high school diploma at the same time. I applied, not sure I would be accepted, and I was. For my last two years of high school, I spent at a new school located on the campus of a college. I met some of my best friends at that school and felt so lucky to be able to receive five semesters of college for free.
I graduated in May 2004 and was headed to the University of South Florida in August to work on my Bachelor’s degree in elementary education. I quickly learned that dorm life wasn’t for me so I came back home after a year and became a commuter student. I loved everything about the education classes, but hated everything about the internships. It didn’t help that I had some real lemons for assisting teachers and when I failed my final internship, I decided to switch my major. I had been two months away from graduation at this point, but I knew I didn’t want to become a teacher.
So in December 2008, I became a journalism major. I found out that I had taken all the credits allowed to receive financial aid so that would be taken away from me, as well as my loans, and scholarship (that paid for 75% of my tuition). I took two classes during my first semester as a journalism student, since that’s all I could afford. And then I received fabulous news that my scholarship changed its requirements and I would start getting help in that area. It helped so much. Every semester, I ended up paying about $400-$600 for my classes (this doesn’t include textbooks) which was a lot more manageable, and meant I could take more classes. (The only problem being that it doesn’t pay for summer classes so those I had to pay full price for.)
It took me two and a half years to finish the journalism program. In that time, I realized I wanted absolutely nothing to do with journalism and news writing. I am a creative writer by nature and having to get interviews and sources and turn off my creative voice to write articles made me despise it. I had a blast designing my own magazine, working on a professional website, and interning for a theater company, which made the whole process so much more worthwhile. There were a few very crazy semesters where all I seemed to do was work, go to school, and complete projects. But I got through it. And I completed everything that was asked of me.
On Sunday, I graduated with my Bachelor’s degree in Journalism and Media Studies. It felt surreal. It felt amazing. It felt accomplished. Earning a degree is a big feat and to finally be able to say I have a Bachelor’s degree is a great feeling. I put so much work into this degree (into two degrees!) that to sit there in that theater with my cap and gown, surrounded by those I have come to know as friends, just felt amazing. There are no other words to describe it. To walk across the stage and know I am putting this era of my life behind me gave me a feeling of empowerment.
I am so ready to move on with my life and begin a new stage. I’m ready to seek out more opportunities to assert myself and become more independent. These past 7 years have been filled with a rollercoaster of emotions. I never imagined it would take me so long to earn a degree, never imagined I would switch majors a few months away from graduation. But everything happens for a reason and I know I’m in the right place at the right time.
I did it. I graduated. It took me a long time and there were billions of moments where I didn’t believe I would ever walk across that stage. There were so many odds stacked up against me, but I pushed through them all. And I know I couldn’t have done any of it without the love and support of my mother, who worked two jobs for 4 years to help support me, and who was always there to be my shoulder to cry on when the stress got too much and my biggest cheerleader whenever I needed it.
And now the future is mine. I’m applying to jobs like a madwoman, but also trying to enjoy this time in my life. I still have a job and I’m back to working 30+ hours a week, while having my afternoons free to do whatever I want. I’m trying not to get discouraged by the lack of responses to my resume but I worry every day that I will be stuck at my part-time job for a very long time.
May 8th, 2011. That date will forever be etched in my memory as the day I finally finished the biggest goal I have ever set for myself.
My giveaway for a set of 30 address labels ends tonight at 8:00 pm. You have a ton of ways to enter so go for it!