Many people tell me I am crazy for continuously keeping myself enrolled in school since I am a mom. I earned an AS degree in 2012 from a community college and it took me more than 4 years to complete the requirements. I have promised myself that I will earn a BA or BS degree, and I will continue to work on that. I have a decent job in a good company, so why do I want more? Why doing it knowing it will take me another 4-6 years to complete it?
For starters, let me tell you about my experience earning the AS. When I moved to the US I had no clue how the school system worked. I was used to a school year that started in January and ended in October. I had no idea how to apply for a college or university. I had no idea your income plays a factor in financial aid or how to fill out a FAFSA. An amazing friend at Macy’s kept telling me I was too young and smart to settle as the dresses specialist and needed to get myself an education. She was a very smart woman who worked for NASA and had a part time job at Macy’s not for need but for fun and distraction, go figure! So, with her advice, I got the nerve to find the closest community college and I did the online enrollment. I submitted the required paperwork and in no time, I was able to enroll in classes. Yay! I thought it would be very simple from that moment on. But when I tried to enroll in a class through their online system, I had no idea what classes to take to earn a degree, any degree really. So, I made an appointment with a counselor and got probably the worst advice of my life.
He asked me about my career goals. I explained I had planned to become an architect back home, but I was in a new country and at that point I just wanted an education. He said that since I didn’t had a specific major in mind I should focus on GEs.
- I said: “sure thing, which class first?”
- He said: “it doesn’t matter, just take any classes you want from the list”.
He handed me a list that anyone who has attended college or a university might be familiar with, but to me it was a bunch of letters and numbers that made no sense. You know, those classes code and section numbers? I mistakenly thought I could take ANY classes from the list without knowing each group has a required amount of credits or to consider which ones were good towards a specific degree. What a shame! Would I have known better, I would have earned a degree much sooner and possibly transfer to a 4-year university. It would had been much easier then without kids to do all of that. But I had to take the long way, so I went with taking any classes advice.
I enrolled in two classes and came to an agreement with my manager at Macy’s that I needed to take Tuesdays and Thursdays off to go to college. And that first semester was great! My schedule worked out, we had gotten a car by then so I didn’t have to take the bus to college. I was learning and enjoying it, and finished the semester with good grades. The following semester I enrolled in more classes but I quickly had to change that as I changed jobs in January and with my new schedule I could only take some night classes. Again, finished the semester great, learned a bunch and was ready to continue my path. But this was the moment when my life changed. I moved to a different city, started living on my own, got a new job, and as you can imagine all these new components didn’t add up quite nicely to the challenge.
I enrolled in a few classes at the closest community college in my new city. My worked schedule was all over the place due to low seniority at the hotel so I couldn’t attend classes on campus because hours started conflicting with work. I imagined the following semester would be better once I was more settled and my schedule had gotten a bit more regular but that didn’t happen. I kept enrolling in classes I couldn’t finish because a manager would agree to give me certain days off so I could attend on campus classes but weeks into the semester that no longer could happen because someone was taking a vacation or bump my shifts so I just couldn’t stick with it. I eventually figured out that online classes were a better choice so I started doing that. I was so sick of having to work an early shift one day, a swing shift the following, a graveyard the next one, having one day off and it would repeat in a similar pattern. I considered taking accounting classes because it seemed that the ladies in the accounting department had a Monday – Friday, 9am-5pm job and I wanted that. I consider myself good with numbers but it wasn’t something I felt passionate about so that idea went away quickly. Then I considered and administrative job which would give me some similar hours so I started taking the classes to earn an Administrative Assistant AS degree. The best part was that every class required was available online! The bad part was that I still had some GEs to earn which didn’t have online options such as math so I worked graveyard for a few months so I could take a math class during the day.
Now all of these sounds tiring to me! Add to that two adorable kids that had come into my life to the equation. I was busy and tired, but most importantly I was decided to change things for better and I knew I needed to compromise for a little while before I could reach some of the goals I had. A gazillion years later, I earned my AS, yay! At that point even though a BA/BS was still the goal, it had been pushed to the back burner as I had finally gotten a job at the hotel with a regular schedule and banker hours, yay! Since then I have taken several classes of things that interest me: film photography class, health related classes, and just recently I took a graphic design class where I learned about the use of typography for digital imagery. As I mentioned at the beginning, I am working with a very respected company and if I chose to, I can have a great future here as an administrative professional. That is good news, but while I am not trying to diminish my own role, I don’t think it will be enough to satisfy my urge of challenge and continuous learning.
My current plan includes taking additional classes to become a personal trainer. My husband swears there is no future there but this is a passion of mine. I would enjoy very much helping others reach their fitness goals and become healthier. Also this is something I can do on the side. I will take more graphic design classes. Graphic design freelancer anyone? I enjoy very much creating invitations for my kid’s parties and not only I want to get better at that but also learn more about digital arts. And when my little ones are a bit older, I will enroll in a university, kick ass in class, and earn my next degree. Boom!
I find the idea to limit ourselves to one profession sad. Sure, you might be happy with what you do and I am sure you are really good at it too, but why not learn new things? Our brains are so amazingly capable of it and many people chose not to use that power. Educating ourselves in different topics is good because you don’t want to blindly believe, trust, or do what the others are doing without having your own opinion. I think educated people can easily mingle with anyone from any society level or background and find a topic that interests both. Let me be clear that you don’t want to do this to be a smart ass and think you are better than others. Do it because knowledge is power. Power to make informed decisions, informed comments, and even help others with your gift. You might be an amazing cake decorator but you don’t know that yet because you haven’t bothered to give it a try. You might have an artistic side that you haven’t explored and it deserves the opportunity to be shared with the world. I think the more you know, the more you bring into the world, the luckier we are to have you!