Hindsight is 20/20: A Story About My College Education

Saturday is the day I virtually graduate…eight months after I was technically a college graduate. It sure does not feel like it’s almost been a year since I finished my senior project, but I guess it has.

I’ve been thinking about my education journey lately and I wanted to share a bit about it.

I graduated high school at 17 because I have a fall birthday and kids were allowed to start kindergarten at age 4 back in my day. Anyway, I had applied to the University of Kansas and the University of Oklahoma. I got into both and think I actually put the deposit down to attend KU because I was waiting to hear back from OU at the time, which was actually my #1, but didn’t want to miss my shot to go away to school. Turns out I had filled out the application and hadn’t submitted it so I think I was waitlisted until I realized my error. Whoops! Well, it didn’t really matter.

The deal with college in my household was that if my brother or I wanted to go, we could but it was on our dime. Either of us would be first generation college students and I know I sure as heck didn’t know how to go about applying to college or for scholarships and I have this frustrating quality where I really don’t like asking for help. Anyway, financial aid was filled out, but of course I had to put my parents’ information since I wasn’t 24 yet, the age when you can choose to not include them. Fortunately for my upbringing but unfortunately in this situation, my dad who brings home the bacon for our family, has a good job. Thus, I don’t recall qualifying for financial aid assistance. Looking back, maybe I didn’t know how to log in and find out if I got anything. Who knows. But the thing was, any debt accrued from college was going to have to be mine. Yet, my parents weren’t willing to cosign on any student loan of mine. (Note: just googled and turns out you can get a student loan in your name at any age unless it’s a private loan). You see how unaware and out of the loop I was and still am with all of this?

Now I’m realizing the sob story I’ve been telling and retelling over the years with the tiny violin playing in the background was maybe not as sad and helpless as I thought. Can we blame it on being a hormonal angry teenager who wanted things to come easily and when they didn’t chose to play the victim? Cool. Thanks!

Anyhoo, back to the story. I decided to attend a local junior college. Getting a core class (English, math, science, history, etc) was difficult and after a year of taking a few nonsensical classes, I decided to not go back. I didn’t know what I wanted to go to college for and didn’t see the point in spending my money towards something that wasn’t a clear goal. I had applied to both KU and OU as a journalism major, but that interest waned. So for the next two and a half years I told myself I was going to go back…next semester. Meanwhile, I still hoped to go away to college and get away from my family. Just speaking the truth. But out-of-state tuition ain’t cheap and I couldn’t justify spending, I think it was about $40k a year or more, for a degree I wasn’t set on. Once again, I could’ve looked into scholarships, but I sure as heck didn’t. Please don’t point out holes in my sob story.

Alright. So we’re at the point in the story where it’s been almost 4 years since I graduated from high school and I’ve decided to go to a different local junior college. Past classmates are gearing up to graduate with their bachelors degrees and I am feeling behind. Like a blue whale’s behind. Something that feels really back there and far way. I was dabbling in classes and still very unsure of a direction. I should probably warn you that there isn’t going to be a future ‘Aha’ moment in this tale where I figure out my direction. Sorry about that. I wish it had happened too. And if you started singing “Take on Me” after I said “Aha”, let’s be friends. Sidetracked again. So I dabble and I dabble some more and I long for a major I’m passionate about and driven to reach goals in and I’m insecure about not having the “typical” college experience and am seriously envious of anyone who has.

But I still explore classes. Yoga and artificial insemination. Nutrition and geology. Sign language and psychology for effective living. Child development and small engine repair. Horticulture and history of jazz. A pupu platter of classes, if you will. I stuck my arm up a cow’s rear, went to Yosemite for a geology field trip, played volleyball with the beautiful Sierras in the background, went camping, kayaked for the first time, bonded with a scared horse, became the class demo girl for yoga, went to a jazz club, met an older gentleman named Kenny who cranked his old John Deere tractor for me at a lawn and garden convention, went to deaf meet-ups for ASL (an absolute blast, by the way), got hugs from kids whose class I had to observe for child development, learned I could climb a rope, and rebuilt a lawnmower engine. I went on field trips, laughed with classmates, got some hands on experience, and felt like I was missing out on whatever those who went away to college got.

Fast forward a bit and I successfully transferred to a private university to pursue a degree in kinesiology. I had originally applied for educational studies to become a teacher and then I freaked out last minute, changed my major, and switched up my classes for the coming semester. I’m really great at sticking with things. Can’t you tell? Well, actually, I did stick with that degree and it’s what I graduated with a bachelor of science with in 2020ish. Let me tell you something though, my experiences at the university are a snooze fest compared to those at the community college. Maybe it was because I didn’t live on campus. (It wasn’t an option in the program I was in for working adults who are 25 and older. Which, by the way, provided me cheaper tuition, that my job helped pay for a portion of, and allows some majors to be fast tracked. My original major fell in that category, but my final one did not). Maybe it was the fact that all of the classes were for my major and there wasn’t variety to spice things up. Maybe it was a lack of hands on classes. Maybe it was that I didn’t really talk to many classmates. Whatever it was, it got me thinking…

I was so stuck on wanting this vision I had of the “typical” or “real” college experience and feeling behind while I was going to the community college that I didn’t realize I was doing some cool shit. Maybe I wasn’t living in a dorm or tailgating before the big game, but I really was having the time of my life. I see that now looking back. I did not see it at the time. The whole angry teenager thing apparently carried through to my early 20s. I think I’m coming out of now, though. Possibly. However, I’m thankful that I was able to be present enough to have fond memories to look back on. Yes, I was envious, upset, insecure, and all things not so great, but I also had some classes that I really enjoyed. And plenty I bitched a lot about during, but was thankful for after. Also, if you’re wondering how taxing it is to be someone in my inner circle of close confidants, ask them and please don’t tell me what they say.

Here’s my point in all of this, we can always wish for what we don’t have or what’s not ours. We can long for something else – a new house, a partner who picks up their dirty socks, a life of travel, the typical college experience – but what beauty are we failing to see in our current situation? What perks have come due to things not going as planned or hoped for? What people have we met as a result? Aspirations are great, but what are we missing in the present if we’re obsessing over a different reality? (Hi, Leader of the Obsessors here and reporting for duty.)

I’m not sure there’s a realistic way to remedy the disappointments and desires that come with the daily ups and downs of life. Sure, we could learn to live in the moment but unless we’re ready for a full on spiritual awakening, that’s probably going to be fairly difficult to achieve regularly. Maybe all it takes is a moment to acknowledge that there may be current blessings in disguise working in our life that will make the things we’re wishing for or feeling like we’re missing out on at the moment look minuscule in hindsight.

If interested, I share a bit more about my experiences and fond memories of community college in my past post Comfort Zone.

“I wish there was a way to know you’re in the good old days before you’ve actually left them”

-Andy Bernard (Cornell Grad), The Office

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