The Graduate

BIG NEWS: I graduated from college!

It took 10 years, an exactly perfect decade from August 2007 to August 2017.

I’m exhausted.

But also so relieved.

I have always loved the idea of college. My childhood best friend and I were nerdy little birds who used our free time outside of school to play “school.” I routinely asked teachers if I could stay in school over summer break. I lost my tiny mind when I learned there was such a thing as boarding school where you actually got to live at school. My brain exploded when I learned about college. I always knew it was going to be special and wonderful and I would love it.

I worked really hard in high school. I went to one of those super-college-prep Catholic schools and was in the top tier academically of my class. I took over extracurricular activities with the precision of a Roman general, and racked up an uber impressive resume. College, I’m so close to you.

Unfortunately, I was also racking up an uber impressive medical record and high number of events of unconsciousness. Health breakdown, I’m even closer to you.

I got in everywhere I applied, and I got in Early. That means I had filled out my applications over summer vacation and knew where I was going before my friends had sent away their first Common App. I got the sweatshirt. I lived in the sweatshirt. The sweatshirt was falling apart by Thanksgiving break.

I still have my acceptance letters. 2007 was pretty much the last year they sent them, and boy do I feel bad for those of you who get them in email form now because, wow, my acceptance to George Washington University was the prettiest piece of mail I ever received. You know in the movie Bridesmaids when Kristin Wiig opens the wedding shower invitation and butterflies fly out and it sings music? GWU acceptance letters were like that, albeit with no live animals.

I thought I could want College into existence for myself. I thought I could ignore Chronic-ness into extinction.

I am not being melodramatic when I say that the level of devastation I felt when I didn’t get to go- when I absolutely could not go, was the most epic emotion I have ever felt. I cried so much and for so long, I felt like my guts had been scooped out.

It didn’t seem fair, and really it just wasn’t, that my college dreams weren’t going to come true the way I planned and worked so hard for.

I was supposed to take a year off and be sick. But I wouldn’t let myself. I went to the local community college and signed up for this new thing they were trying, teaching classes online. They wouldn’t tell anyone they were online and they would be transferrable.

I continued to be sick, and I continued to go to school. (Full disclosure/Truth time: I would have absolutely still been sick even if I had not gone to school. Continuing to go did not keep the sick from going away.)

I transferred to the University of Maryland to go to school in person.

I transferred back to the community college online classes.

I finished my Associate’s Degree online.

I transferred to Franklin and Marshall College in Lancaster, and was all set to go and move in when they told me they weren’t going to count a single class I’d taken- 60 credits gone. I tried to go anyway. I didn’t make it past move-in day.

I transferred back to the University of Maryland.

I went, I had to stop, I went, I had to stop.

Finally, I just stopped.

My college dream felt broken. It felt far away and so unlike itself. I had changed my major approximately 6 times, even though I had always planned on being one thing. I was supposed to be a broadcast journalist. I was also supposed to be Maryland’s Junior Miss, then America’s Junior Miss. You know, so I could just be Diane Sawyer. (I literally took part in the Junior Miss pageant my senior year of high school for this exact reason. I came in 5th…out of 6 girls, because they really should have spent more time teaching us the dance routine and I really shouldn’t have audibly said, “Oh shit!” when I messed up halfway through. #TRUESTORY)

   

I was not Diane Sawyer.

Instead, I felt like someone Diane Sawyer would do a Special Report on. Here, we have the sad, sick, Chronic, who is stuck in a spinning hamster wheel going no where.

I took time off, became a Medical Transcriptionist. I worked for a little bit. I wanted it to be good for me.

But College kept looking for me, and I kept looking for it.

I finally decided to look into schools that would let me finish totally online. In person was not going to happen.

I found Arizona State University.

I figured we were meant for each other because their mascot is the Sun Devil and I also agree that the Sun is the Devil.

They took all my credits. They let me do everything entirely online.

And so it is that I became a Mass Communications and Media Studies graduate of the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism, which was a bit of karmic wish fulfillment because if not Diane Sawyer, ol’ Walt will do just fine.

You know, in a pinch.

It wasn’t what I planned. It wasn’t what I hoped for. But strangely, after 10 years, if you squint real hard at it, it was pretty close to what I wanted.

I’m exhausted, but I think I just might be kind of happy.

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