Writing an End

While withholding my breath, I placed the mouse over the “submit” button, closed my eyes, and clicked it. I paused in this place for a moment with my eyes closed, my breath held, and then opened my eyes and sighed to see the screen read “your submission has been successful.”

It was that simple. A click of a button and my graduate school career was complete. For 3.5 years I worked on my graduate degree, term by term working towards my master’s which was something I knew as soon as I had my bachelor’s in hand I wanted to achieve. In those early years just out of school, I felt continuously brought down by this dream that was seemingly impossible. The economy crashed, I was struggling to get any job I could and then struggling more to make ends meet. I recall how successful I felt when I was able to get two part time jobs with my wage of $8.50 and 9 per hour. I was making real money then, I told myself.

And my hopes of my master’s lingered but were turning gray and dusty. I met an advisor at a college to see how I could get a degree to become a teacher–something I convinced myself I wanted to do although I had no interest but was desperate enough for any type of a secure job–and discovered I would have to essentially get another bachelor’s degree in the process. I was so buried in this loss of option, that I could not have an instant fix, that I failed to see the greater picture around me. Schools in my area were closing, class sizes were doubling as teachers were being laid off, and I certainly wouldn’t have found as much of an easy fix as I assumed I would have.

I turned my sights to the rest of the world. International education, getting an MA in another country, preferably the UK, seemed like a truly decent option. It would be a shorter period of study but I would also claim my dream of going overseas. But that, too, was too expensive. Canada as well. I couldn’t seem to find an out and I tossed my dreams of a master’s degree into the dark corner of my mind to collect dust.

When I settled in the DC area and began work on a certification course I found I missed class more than I had realized. After gaining my certification, my mind turned toward grad school. Getting my certification had been easy but if I could do that, perhaps I could get that MA I gave up on years before. I searched online and found courses that were entirely online, something that worked all the better for my life as I wasn’t sure if I would continue to live in the area. I applied to the first school I looked at, got in, and began three and a half years of coursework. 

It was hard, all the harder to do with full time work. All the harder to do when my mother needed a valve transplant in her heart, when my grandmother’s health began to decline, when she died, and an aunt died, and Bruce’s grandmother died. It was hard through the funerals, through moving out of one house and into another, through sick pets and car accident, and oral surgery. It was hard during the good things too, but in a different way, where you don’t want to pull yourself away from the good moments but you must so you can keep up with school work. Doing as much work as I possibly could ahead of time so I could go on a long-planned trip with friends, doing school work in a hotel room before attending a wedding, and having school work close at hand when I was proposed to, when I planned my wedding, when I got engaged and went on our honeymoon. 

It was most hard to complete the thesis. By this point, I was exhausted, burned out from all the work I had done and overwhelmed by the remaining work I had yet to do. There was another reason I was so tired–I was pregnant. I found out two weeks before my thesis classwork began. I experienced horrendous morning sickness into my second trimester and then the separation of my pubic bone that sent radiating pain into my back, hips, and pubic area that left me unable to move. Friends and family suggested that perhaps it would be worth putting the thesis classes off. Enjoy the pregnancy, give birth, recover, and then do the thesis. But I knew it wouldn’t happen, I knew I’d never finish it if I took such a giant pause.

So I worked and wrote and came away with a thesis. On a chilly Sunday evening, just as the sun was setting long before dinner time as the sun is wont to do in the winter, I closed my eyes and held my breath and thought of how hard it had been to get through all the various classes and all the life changing events that happened during the course of my career… and I hit send.

When it was done, when class was finished, when my work was sent in, I stared at the screen and felt a whirlwind of emotions. I cried a little, but not out of sadness. It was relief and surprise. After all that had happened, it was done, my work complete. But thinking of how much of my life had happened during the coursework.

It’s easy to focus on the degree and the classwork completed, but there was so much of real life accomplished during it all and it will forever be tied to that degree. In some ways, it makes it all the more special.

And now, three days after having submitted that final paper I am still recovering. Still trying to catch up on the sleep that was lost during the school work and still catching up on my thoughts and feelings.

After submitting the paper I turned to my husband with tears in my eyes and asked, “What do I do now?” And he laughed before saying, “Become a parent.”

Much like the end of a chapter, there always seems to be the start of a new one. My graduate degree is complete and my younger self that was so disgruntled and impatient is quiet. The scholar that I am is pleased and eager to turn my attention to new things. And then there’s this movement in my stomach, this stretching and rolling of my son, who is the constant reminder that my newest chapter is about to begin and I’ll still be learning, I’ll still be growing, and that parenthood is as much of a dream as getting a graduate degree was. How grateful I am to achieve these dreams.

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