April 23, 2012

The (Almost) Final Stretch

My second year of college
Today is Monday.  On Friday I will take my last final, and after a week of calm decompressing and general tying of loose ends... I graduate from college.

I won't technically be *done*, I still have that summer class.  But THAT is IT.

I started going to college when I was 15.  It was my mom's idea.  My high school had a new dean who had changed a lot of policies... policies that were why I was there in the first place.  Suddenly, I wasn't learning.  And I wasn't challenged (very related).  And I stopped going.

For the first time in my life, I brought home a report card filled with negative comments, bad grades, and truancy.  And when I told my mother why, she said, "Just drop out.  We'll tell the state we're home schooling you, and you can go to community college instead."

And that is just what I did.  I enrolled for two classes my first semester.  I loved them.  The next semester I enrolled full time.  I didn't know that I wasn't allowed to do that- apparently, you can't enroll full time in college unless you've graduated from high school.  But... nobody noticed that I was young, nobody noticed that I was actually a high school student hanging around the community college... and so I did.  And I loved it.

Each semester I got more ambitious.  Not about what I was going to do after college.  I don't think I ever spared a moment's thought to that.  I got ambitious about what I could learn right then.  I took every class that appealed to me.  I switched majors.  Twice.  I became a regular fixture in the advising center to get permission to take more than the normally allowed 18 credits.  I took summer classes.  For the heck of it.

Me as Magenta in the Rocky Horror Picture Show
The fall of what would have been my senior year of high school, I registered for 28 credits.  I also performed in a local production of "La Casa Bernarda Alba," "The Rocky Horror Picture Show," helped build the costumes and set for Rocky, did my first featured art show, and began visiting university campuses and applying to transfer to different schools.

I only slept for two hours a night, most nights.  During "Mash," from 5-7am.  I finished the semesters with seven 'A's and a 'C.'

Then I transferred, with a scholarship, to the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.  And starting on the day of orientation, I began to think about the future.  About what the hell I was going to do once I was done being in college.  I was an eighteen year old junior.  I took a few master's level writing classes.  I got in fights with my professors about the "correct" size for a collage.

I left art school and joined AmeriCorps as a VISTA, and I spent most of a year working in the Chicago slums.

After AmeriCorps I went to fashion design school, on a scholarship.

I left fashion design school and went back to community college, only this time in Chicago- majoring in philosophy.

Prepping a mural on Chicago's south side
I left community college and went back to AmeriCorps for a second year, with City Year Chicago.  It was my job to advocate for what the volunteers did, to organize events, to basically lobby our cause with local politicians.  I met Barak Obama (who I asked point blank to run for president) and Bobby Rush (who seemed harmless and detatched) and John Edwards (who struck me as the biggest turd I had ever encountered).  I loved it- everything except the organization.  I decided that maybe- just maybe- public service was what I wanted to do with my life.

While I was in City Year, I learned about a brand new undergrad program- starting the next fall- in Urban Policy and Public Administration.

And I got into that.

I was a twenty three year old junior.

My fiance was diagnosed with brain cancer.  I got married.  I got pregnant.  I had twins.  I got pregnant again.

And now, five years after I started, after watching every single student to ever be in that program graduate, I am finishing.

These things kept me from finishing... for a while
I have never graduated from anything.  Not from high school, not from college.  I've never put on a cap and gown.  I've never been congratulated and called a "graduate."  I've felt indignant and misunderstood every time I've checked a box that described my education as "some college," because I had enough credits for more than an ABD Ph.D.  I could have had a doctorate in learning fascinating things and acquiring useful skills at a college and post collegiate level, but they don't hand out diplomas for that.

I am actually going to graduate from something.  I think.  Probably.  Unless some sort of epic disaster strikes.

I'll still have one class to do, but I can do it.  I can do one more class.

One more class.  And a new baby.

The end is in sight.


  1. Mazel tov! And enjoy your graduation. You deserve it.

  2. Congratulations!You are amazing, really and you have much to celebrate.My 10 yr old has already told me she will be attending fashion design school and I love it!



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