Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Pride goeth before the fall

Stephen from The Chubby Chatterbox (one of my favorite bloggers) wrote about finally receiving a copy of his college diploma from UCLA - he graduated in 1974, but never actually received the "piece of paper" denoting his accomplishment. While reading his humorous account, I was reminded of my own foray into higher academia a few years back and the drama surrounding getting that piece of paper.

I coveted college for years as a young student.  I took all those boring honors classes, waded through four years of Spanish and every science and math class offered in the hopes of someday going to college. My "dream" was never shared by my middle income parents who had met in high school and married before the war. They couldn't afford to send me to a four year university, and it never occurred to me to actually get a job and put myself through. I did what other young country girls did...I got married and had kids.

I spent years in a state of envy of people who "got to" go to college. I dabbled here and there, taking classes at junior colleges, and at one point I was able to enroll at the university here in my home town.  I quit in my junior year as my marriage collapsed and I had two mouths to feed. To make a long story short(er), my own kids didn't want to go to college, so I decided to go back myself and finish the dream.

I chose Economics as they had the most classes available at night, as I already had worked my way up in a demanding career in the corporate finance arena.  As an working adult in the "real world", it was a struggle to listen to the blowhard career professors espousing all manner of theory on how corporate America works, without having ever had a job in their field. I'm thinking "what are they teaching these young kids?? That's NOT how it works, big guy." but I kept my mouth shut and my nose to the grind stone. Just give me the piece of paper.

Almost three years of night classes brought me to my last Econ class.  I am one final test away from that diploma that I had coveted for years.  I had studied, but the Professor was a rather miserly fellow with his grading and I went into the final with a lowly C+.  We were all graduating Seniors, and he had written our current grades on a piece of paper which he handed to us as we walked into the class to take the final.

"You can keep the grade you see on that paper or you can take the Final", he says in his best deadpan voice.

I look at the C+. Dang! What a crappy grade. I can't have a will lower my grade point average. Like anybody cares what your GPA is 10 years later.  My own boss at work had said "what for?" when I told him I was going back to college to get my degree.

But I have my pride. "I'll take the test," I hear myself say.  He snickers to himself as he hands me the five page poison from the mouth of Satan. Oh, sweet Jesus. It is the hardest test I had ever taken and I froze. I could not seem to conjure up even the simplest of theories.  I wrote blindly through my stinging salty eyes.  I made stuff up.  I BS'd. It was horrible.

For one miserable, gut wrenching week I sweated...I cried and cried, thinking how stupid I had been to not take the C+.  My boss had already promoted me into a top financial position, chiding me.."you better get that piece of paper". Graduation ceremonies were scheduled, I had picked up my cap and gown, Dave had my grad party all planned, people were going to watch me walk up and claim my college diploma...and you have failed your last stupid bozo.

The rest of the story, of course, is that I got my grade in the mail the morning of the ceremony. I prayed like no body's business as I opened the envelope, as if God was going to supernaturally change the F into a passing grade - at that point, that's all I wanted.

"B+". I cried. And cried. And cried again. I walked into the massive arena that evening, cap and gown adorned.  I couldn't see my family in the upper decks from the floor and the mob of people, but it didn't matter.  I was a college graduate at the tender age of 47. 

And like Stephen, my diploma is framed and hangs over my sewing machine.  Nobody ever really sees it, much less comments on it. (People don't read diplomas unless they belong to your doctor) But I will glance at mine every once in a while and be reminded, not of my accomplishment, but of the pride that almost swallowed it whole.

Laurel. Live your dream.


  1. Congratulations on living through the nightmare to get to the dream! You are my hero. At 52 I have 3/4 of an art degree and my own photography business. That last little bit is always sitting there saying - "not finished".

  2. I am impressed! I've never had the urge (now I'm in my 50's) to go back to learning, but I admire all those that do.

    Well done!

  3. I like your story more than mine. Congratulations on something hard earned and well deserved.

  4. That is commendable! Wish everyone had your will power!

  5. Congrats on your accomplishment!It's good to know you finished what you started.


Thanks for visiting my blog. I appreciate all those who share and leave their comments very much. Laurel

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