It has been brought to my attention that some people close to me think its funny to make fun of me and refer to me as a “professional student” – implying that I am happily content with being 27 years old and still in an undergraduate program. My dad laughed and reminded me that women in their 30s and 40s go back to school – and I told him I know that is the truth because we have women in their 30’s and 40’s in my program. My best friend reminded me that she, too, had people in their 30’s and 40’s in her program and that’s not uncommon anymore!
My mom feels a bit differently. Last night she reminded me that it was a silly decision to go to college in Massachusetts when I could have stayed in California. Most importantly, I could have gone to Delta – the community college in one of the most ghetto cities in the entire country!
Man, I sure wish I would have turned down my admission into the University of Massachusetts in Amherst, Massachusetts, one of the most educated and enlightening little cities in the country.
I now have my BACHELORS DEGREE from the University of Massachusetts Amherst. But again, that doesn’t matter. All that matters is that I am 27 years old and still in school.
For those of you who are ever so curious as to what has lit my fire this morning, let me back up.
Growing up I was a dreamer. I was also a complete home body. Throughout high school I really wasn’t the social butterfly. I just wasn’t too interested – I was always thinking ahead, planning ahead, looking for and dreaming of my ticket out of Manteca. I had always wanted to attend college in New York….well, since I knew what college was and learned that New York was on the east coast. I had never even been to New York but I knew it sounded like a great place to go. But, I was a home body and home bodies don’t move away from their family to go to college.
When it was time to learn about colleges during my junior and senior years of high school my mom wasn’t supportive of my decision to go straight to a 4 year college. But, she also wasn’t footing the bill which meant that since I was going to pay for my school – I was going to do it the way I wanted.
But, I was a homebody so I had to stay close to home! So after my dad went with me during my senior year to look at Sonoma State University (2 hours from my tiny, hick, hometown of Manteca) in the heart of wine country California – I knew I had to go! I was admitted, and I started school at Sonoma in the fall of 2004.
My boyfriend at the time (who I ended up dating for nearly 7 years) was making his dreams come true in New York. He was attending the US military academy and thank God for him, for my high paying Nanny job and for my dad taking me to the airport in the early mornings because I was able to fly back to New York a few times to finally see what it was all about back on the east coast.
There was something liberating about being 18 years old and flying to New York, taking the airport shuttle to Grand Central Station and taking the train from New York City to tiny little Garrison train station, across the Hudson river from West Point, to see my boyfriend.
It took 6 months of Sonoma State for me to realize that I was destined for something else and it took 6 months for me to stop being a homebody. I applied to two colleges on the east coast. I got accepted into the University of Massachusetts and University of Rhode Island. I chose UMASS after falling in love with everything Massachusetts when I visited in April of 2005 – I will never, ever forget how much I loved Massachusetts during that time. In September of 2005 I packed my life in 5 suitcases and flew to the east coast by myself to start a new life.
Side note: a few days later I met my best friend, who is still my best friend and is mentioned above (Shout out to K.Hunt).
My first year at UMASS was great! Except for the fact that my major, pre-nursing, CLOSED! The closing automatically set me back a year and a half because I had to take a bunch of pre-reqs and be admitted directly into the nursing major. 4.5 more years at UMASS and absolutely no chance to study abroad (which I wanted to do)? At that time, in that situation, I didn’t want to stick out the 4.5 more years. So I decided to change my major to Psychology.
I had really been wanting to make another dream of mine come true…. I wanted to travel abroad. A friend of mine applied to Semester at Sea and all I could think of, at 20 years old, was how I just wanted to get out of the country and see the world. Nobody in my family had ever done that, aside from my brother who was in the Army and got to live in Germany and see so much of Europe! I wanted to see the world, too.
So, I did. I applied for Semester at Sea and in the fall of 2006 I left America and sailed around the world for 4 months while taking a full semesters worth of classes.
When I returned, I got yelled at for charging $4,000 to a credit card. (side note: I paid the whole thing off on my own and then closed it) Who knew it’s expensive to spend 4 months of college on a ship that travels the world?
After Semester at Sea my remaining years in my undergrad flew by. I worked several jobs, survived on my own across the country from my family, got Copper (the one constant in my life other than God) and in May of 2008 I graduated from UMASS with a degree in Psychology.
After college I moved to San Diego and got a great job as a Nanny because sadly it was at the brink of the economic collapse and nobody was hiring a psych major for more than $11 an hour.
I spent a year and a half in San Diego. My relationship mentioned above fell apart and I realized I didn’t want to live in California anymore. So, I moved to Colorado to better myself and focus on going to nursing school. Because yes, even though I majored in Psychology, I still wanted to become a nurse.
Ahhhhhhhhhh, Colorado. Beautiful, snowy, life-changing and challenging Colorado. Last night I reminded my mom that had I never left little ol’ hick town Manteca, I probably wouldn’t have become a Christian because let’s face it, no matter how many Sundays your parents wake you up at the butt crack off dawn and drag you to church, the decision to ultimately believe in and worship Jesus is YOUR OWN. NOT YOUR PARENTS. IT IS YOUR OWN.
Moving to Colorado brought me a lot of things — peace, happiness, stability and closer to Jesus. I started my own bible study for downtown Denver residents in January of 2010 that still meets every Tuesday. I found an amazing church. I realized that Whoa- life is really better when you have a relationship with Jesus!
But, apparently, Colorado wasn’t the right choice for me because I’m 27 and still in school. I should stop being so selfish and should have stayed in Manteca and worked and became a nurse, through Delta College.
From the years 2009-2011 I worked as Nanny for a wealthy family who has been amazingly good to me over the past few years. I still see them occasionally. Being a nanny taught me many things – most importantly, how I want to be as a wife and eventually, a parent. You learn a lot when you’re spending 50 hours a week in someone else’ house with someone else’ children. Talk about a learning and growing experience.
In 2012 I was admitted into and began nursing school. I got accepted into an Accelerated Bachelors Program. It’s for students who ALREADY HAVE A DEGREE and want to get ANOTHER DEGREE – in Nursing. It’s for those of us – the misfits – who aren’t satisfied with the path our lives are on and actually want to do something about it by getting a degree in a field that will always guarantee one amazing thing that most other fields can’t – a job.
And now here we are. In two months I graduate and in less than 5 months I will be completely done with my second bachelors degree program. I’ll have two degrees! And one of them will be in Nursing, which ever-so-amazingly complements my first degree – Psychology.
Professional Student, you say?
We can spend our whole lives thinking and planning out exactly how we think our life should go, or our kid’s life should go – but when it all comes down to it, shit happens and we are going to figure out how to get through life the best we know how.
I’m now 27 years old. Financially, I have a lot of student loan debt (but! news flash! the career path I chose combined with two BACHELORS degrees from two school means l have a higher starting salary than many other jobs!). I even struggle to pay for school now (getting a 2nd degree in 15 months can be pretty expensive) – which is what brought this entire stupid blog post to life last night anyways. But, at 27 years old, I have done more and seen more than most people do in their whole lives. I am not married (oh- that is probably another issue of concern because in this day and age, GOD FORBID a woman learn to embrace her independence and forge her own path without a man), I don’t have one or several children like almost every single person I graduated high school with.
And most importantly for me – I am not stuck in a tiny, hick town in California just because that is where my family is.
I took my life, in my own hands, and made MY dreams come true. I am fully aware of all the financial burdens I will have when I say goodbye to Wyoming in July. I’m fully aware that I took the long way around. And if that led to me becoming a professional student, then fine, so be it – professional student, it is.
When I look back 8 years ago I think that hey, maybe I could have stayed in Sonoma & been content. So many of my friends went on to enjoy all four years of Sonoma State and graduate with great degrees from a great school. It was an incredible school and I loved every moment of my freshman year of college (some more than others, definitely). But is it so bad that it just wasn’t for me?
UMASS was a true learning experience that allowed me to grow into the woman I am today. I look back on my time in Amherst with such pride and sense of accomplishment and I will not let someone take those feelings away from me by disagreeing with me taking out student loans for an out-of-state college.
And lastly – to close this because contrary to what updating apparently blog signifies – I do have a million things to do and study- but sometimes, taking two hours for yourself is OKAY, even when you’re busy — I’d like to say that if you are participating in the “professional student” talk – stop comparing me to other people. Stop comparing me to a brother, or a cousin, or an aunt, or a mother, or anyone else. I am ME. And I’m doing a damn good job at it. We ALL struggle. We ALL need help at times. But, I think I have done a pretty fabulous job at becoming the woman I am today, mostly on my own, professional student at 27 years old and all.