Changes, Part 1 (Graduation)

Jun. 30, 2003 * 3:54 p.m.

First I must apologize for my long absence. I have been too busy living my life to write about it. There are many changes, so I will do my best to cover the big installments, of course.

* * *

It took me fifteen years.

When I left college at the age of 23 with seven (yes, seven) incompletes to my name, to live with my husband in Chicago, I never looked back. Or so I would have had you believe.

What do I need a piece of paper for? I said regularly. I'm ready to live my life now, I told those who asked. It has never stood in the way of my getting a job or anything else, I explained to family members, friends, lovers and all who expressed concern that I left my degree unfinished. And to a certain degree (no pun intended), those things were all true. I didn't want (nor could I afford) to stay on and trudge my way through as a student. I was a student of life. I had things to do. A husband. A future.

When I divorced my husband and moved in with a woman in Ohio, I briefly researched what I would have to do to complete my degree. I even visited Boston, and met with my former advisor and teacher. The only thing I really took with me from that meeting was our conversation about her being a lesbian (which I hadn't known).

Eventually I moved back to Michigan and began a relationship with my boss, and she proposed marriage not long after. I had planned to return to Boston to finish my degree, but she expressed concern that I would forget her, find someone new. I proposed that we marry before I leave to put her mind at ease. As we made plans and we dealt with her divorce and the custody arrangements for the children (shared w/her ex-husband), I realized that I couldn't go, now that I was a co-parent of two children ages 2 and 4. A year away would be too long, and I needed at least that. I tried taking classes at a local college, but the program in Boston was too specialized for credits to transfer. I resigned myself to the fact that I would never graduate.

When my wife said she wanted to split up, I was devastated with grief, especially over losing the children. But as always, I picked up the pieces and decided that it was high time to get some closure on the only thing in my life that loomed over me, that remained unfinished. And so I moved to Boston.

Of course, I couldn't afford to take the classes I needed to (most of the incompletes were long expired and I had to retake several classes), so I got a job at the university so I could get tuition remission. I spent two years working full time and taking a class here, a class there. I never thought I would finish. I hate homework with a passion. But I found I was a much better student now than ten, fifteen years ago. And I chipped away, slowly. Painfully.

And then, this January, a miraculous thing happened. I finished. I completed everything I needed to do and got my degree. I even graduated with honors. I was so stunned I could hardly react, but one thing I felt deeply was the weight of this unfinished business lift off my shoulders and it made me want to weep. I was so used to this nagging presence in the background that it was almost surreal to have it gone. Like the death of an unloved family member, the relief had to share space inside me with the processing of a loss. At 34, I went through a rite of passage that is normally meant for young people, and it was distinctly different; weightier, more meaningful. And because it took me so long, my sense of accomplishment and pride is profound. I felt suddenly free to truly get on with my life.


Annie Lennox, "Diva"
Bought me flowers
Lavender tank top, red underwear

yesterday ><((((> tomorrow