The Payoff

Last year, I wrote a blog post revealing that I had enrolled in college at Western Governors University (WGU) and was recommitting to finally achieving my dream of earning a Bachelor’s degree. I had wanted it for so long, and I was hopeful that I had found a college with a program that would work with my busy schedule and that I could do it this time. And now, that dream has finally come true – I submitted my application for graduation on Monday, after submitting and receiving a passing grade on my final project.

It hasn’t really sunk in yet that I’ve done it. I’ve been told by colleagues that have recently graduated that it may not fully sink in until I attend commencement next spring, that for them at least it was walking across the stage and receiving their degree that cemented the accomplishment for them. I can definitely see how that would be the case!

I did everything out of order, getting a job and dropping out of college after one semester, and working through my twenties while my friends attended universities, graduated, and began their own careers. Now, at 34, I have an established career and I finally have the degree to go with it. Being able to check that last box will afford me opportunities that I may not have been considered for without it, and I am so very glad that I did it and so very proud of myself. Earning a degree later in life is no less an accomplishment than it would have been if I’d done it directly out of high school; in some ways, I think it’s more of an accomplishment, because I had to work harder to do it. I’m also relieved to graduate without having to worry about a pile of student loans, because I was able to take advantage of tuition assistance programs at work that paid the majority of my way through school.

I don’t think I could’ve done this without the support and love I received from my husband along the way. He knew how important finishing college was to me and he was very encouraging when I enrolled in school. He always made sure that I had time to study, and was more than happy to take on much more than his share of laundry and other household chores so that I could focus. Each time I had to take a test, he kissed me good luck and then celebrated with me when I passed. When I cried tears of frustration over hard classes, he comforted me and assured me that I was smart and that I could do it. He believed in me every step of the way, even when I doubted myself.

Now I am left with a sense of accomplishment and a whole lot more free time than I’ve had over the last year. I’m excited to read books for fun again, instead of using all my reading time for studying. I’m excited to get back to writing blog posts now that I no longer need to write papers. I’ve been promoted at work and am excited to start my new job on Monday, knowing that I can focus completely on what I’m learning at the office and that I don’t have any homework waiting for me at the end of the work day. I’ve worked so hard to get where I am, and now all that hard work is paying off and I’m enjoying every second of the life I have because of it.

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