4 Years. 30 Credits. 1 Degree.

Saturday, May 10, 2014

About this time four years ago, I had just made the decision to apply to graduate school. I had moved back to my hometown about seven months prior and had not been able to find a full-time career-type job. I was working at Macy's to make money, but I decided that I needed to do something to propel my life forward. I talked to my parents and decided to apply for graduate school at Marshall University to pursue a Master of Arts in Journalism. As my mom said, "You're going to be 30 in four years whether you pursue this degree or not." Great point.

One evening I submitted my online application and signed up to take the GRE, in hopes of an August 2010 start date. The very next morning (and I mean THE VERY NEXT) I heard from the Huntington Museum of Art (where my friend Margaret Mary is the director) inviting me to come in to interview for a position, and I began working at HMA two weeks later. 

I decided to also continue to pursue graduate school because I HAD PAID $40 TO APPLY GOSH DARN IT and also paid for the GRE. :) Anna Lafferre is not trying to waste $40, just saying. :) I knew that I couldn't work full-time (and teach ballet) and go to school full-time also, so I decided I'd go part-time. I was able to sign up for six credits, or two classes, that first semester because one of them was online. I walked into my classroom at Marshall University one Monday night in August, after my sister Erin had had to tell me where to find my building and where to park. (What can I say? Shepherd was a smaller campus!) I hadn't been to school in four years. I had no idea what to expect, and, honestly, I was pretty much in tears walking out that first night because I didn't think I could do it. But, I kept going because, well, you know, $40. 

After that first semester of six credits, I took three credits the following spring, then three that summer. The subsequent years I took three credits - or one class - in the fall and in the spring. Slowly but surely, all of the people I knew graduated and moved on because it is a two-year, 30-credit program. But I kept going. One class at a time. History, Theory, Research Methods, PR Campaigns, Magazine Writing. One class a semester. 

For four years. Four years for 30 credits. 

My graduating class! Me, Laura, Lee and Cindy. Also, I'm just now noticing it looks like I'm giving a thumbs up. I'm not. I was holding my phone and name tag in my hand.
And today was my graduation day. 

After four years of working full-time (and for the past two years, two full-time jobs) and going to school I was finally able to walk across the stage and accept my diploma (well, the representative of my diploma, no idea when the real one is coming) while my mom and dad watched. I actually hadn't been planning to walk at graduation since my family has been to a LOT of graduations over the years, but on Monday night when I found out I passed my comprehensive exam and would be graduating, I decided I really wanted to. Even though I had missed the deadline, my parents encouraged me to find out if it might still be possible for me to walk at commencement, and I found out they would let me. 

Laura, me and Cindy after we officially graduated! 
I got my cap and gown and hood (most expensive outfit I ever purchased!) on Monday at lunchtime, and today was the big day. My sisters live out of town, one of my brothers was out of town and my other brother had to work (he's a paramedic), so it ended up being only my parents were able to come. I was very glad to have them there, although it was odd to look up and see only two Lafferres and not six! 

After the event, we took a few photos (sadly, the ones of my dad and me and my mom and me are on my dad's phone and currently not in my possession) and then we wandered around an antique shop for a few minutes before we had dinner at a super nice restaurant, Savannah's, with my friend Sarah. I received my promised gnocchi and bread pudding, and it was wonderful.

Me and my professor, Dr. Rabe.

What a great day!

I honestly still can't believe it's over. 

I suppose the life lesson here is ... you can do it. As cliche as it sounds, if you have a dream and wanting to go back to school is part of that, you can do it. It might take you longer than everyone else, and you might be older than everyone else, but you can do it.

As I said on Facebook the other day, this incredibly generous gift from Sarah just dethroned whatever it was that was my nicest possession until this time. 

Also, like my dear friends told me, it's okay to be proud of yourself. It's okay to want to celebrate your accomplishment because you worked hard. 

Especially if that thing was #56 on your list of things to do before you die. And you finally -- finally -- got to cross it off. 

I have so many people to thank that helped me so much, but more than anyone I need to thank my mom and dad. Without them, I couldn't have paid for school or even thought that I'd be able to do it, especially when I was exhausted and still had a 15 page paper to write or really thought I had failed my comprehensive exams. They also rearranged their weekends with about five days notice to sit through (yet another) graduation and took pictures and took me to the world's nicest dinner. They even bought me a bottle of champagne to celebrate. Because they are the world's best parents. 

I really love this card.

And, finally, a shout out to God, to whom I said many, many, many, many prayers and also to the Venerable Fulton J. Sheen and St. Joseph of Cupertino, both of whom I asked for prayers of intercession.

This post is one in a series on Turning Thirty. 

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