Well, I get to wear a loose-fitting black student robe for the first time. Graduation is Saturday! I will be a college graduate. It took me 12 years. I had started to think it would never happen.
Only 26 % of Americans over age 25 have “completed a Bachelor’s degree or more” according to the Census Bureau. I am one of those educated elite, now. As it happens, though, there is a higher percentage of young females that complete a bachelor’s degree or mare than any other group. Go girlfriends!
It did take me a long time to finish. You are “Supposed to” go to college straight out of high school and go through to finish, right? In some ways, I feel very odd about this circuitious route I took to the graduation ceremony. Like, maybe I took a wrong turn and had to backtrack to get to the place I should have been at age 22. Like I went three and a half years down a path, figured out I was mistaken and then had to walk three and a half years to get back to where I was supposed to have gone.
And yet…Those seven years were not erased. HUGE portions, seminal experiences we might call them in one of my lit classes, occurred during those times. I am a much better student for what I learned as a corporate consultant. I have a wealth of experience, and even some distance from that experience, to draw upon as I interpret the stories I love so much. I have a lot of…I don’t know if I would call it self-confidence…I guess I know myself enough to know that I must do what needs to be done, because no one else will do it, and no one is asking if I can, it simply must be done. I therefore do it. Whatever it is.
Some of my little early 20’s classmates are looking around nervously, asking what they are going to do with their lives now. “What kind of job will I be able to get? What should I do?” It is a scary question. I at least know that I will be okay. These poor little ones don’t trust that yet. I’ve been through the bad times, and I know I can handle it. I also know that there are many things worth more than security, although I have to remind myself of that a lot when I am low on security.
I want to tell these young English majors, “If you wanted security and money, you should have studied something else.” Maybe they didn’t know what that meant when they chose their major.
I at least knew it.
There is a new professor in the department. He went straight through, the way you are “supposed to”. He has his shiny PhD and all the awards. He was a fabulous student, 4.0 all the way. He is now about to be the head of the Shakespeare department. He’s the same age as me. And yet…I watch him, and often I want to take him aside and give him advice. He knows more than I will ever know about Shakespeare and literature of that period; his expertise is unquestionable. But sometimes, I really think I could help him by telling him a few things. Life is way more than what you can read in books.
I learned a few things sitting silently at corporate staff meetings, then sitting more vocally at meetings. Life skills are often like riding a bike; you can’t explain it, you just have to do it.
So I have learned to do a few things in my starting-out life. But I know that it’s not as much as I am going to need to know, not nearly as much. I have a lot to learn. And I’m excited to get going.
Now that I’m done with my BA, I feel like I will finally have the free time to study the authors and the periods that I really want to learn. I am anxious to get going.
There is just no way I’m going to get done.