Saturday, November 17, 2012

Saying Goodbye to Guilt

I just watched this fantastic little documentary called I'm Fine, Thanks. It's basically the story of a man who has it all according to our "keeping up with the Jones-es" mentality but still isn't happy. He has two young boys that he is raising to "follow their dreams" but realizes he's put his own on hold. So, he decides to set out to find others that have felt this way and either have changed it or want to change it. There's much discussion about what other people thought of their choices, or why their own thoughts kept them from doing these things for so long. And, not surprisingly one story about September 11th ends up being that one thing that really makes you think.

This movie came at a very interesting time. I am lucky in that I do not hate my job. I like it in fact. It suits me, so I don't wake up each day filled with dread about going to work. But there are other parts of my life that I don't like, and I've been doing them out of guilt. Currently, the biggest source of stress and guilt in my life is my college degree.

If you want to tell your kids how not to earn a degree, look no further than myself. I graduated high school in the summer of 1997 because I didn't want to be there anymore. So, when everyone in my class was starting their senior year, I was a freshman in college. First mistake. I wasn't ready. I'm not sure a graduating senior is ready...but I wasn't. I was lucky that my grandfather had saved some money for me to use for college and if I'd used it at a different school it probably would have paid for all four years. But I didn't. I went to the most expensive school around here and it only paid for two and a half years. Then when the money ran out I was newly married and decided to take a break. I had two kids during that break, and then eventually found myself divorced. Enter a mishmash of whatever community college courses I could take online to hopefully apply to my degree. Then another long break, and finally into an adult degree program where I currently find myself. I borrowed WAY too much money along the way, partly to just survive and now here I am.

I'm only a handfull of classes away from my English literature by the way, and my student loan debts are my only debts (aside from some small amounts I owe to individuals). But I hate it now. I hate every single bit of my classes even though they are in subjects I love. I want nothing to do with any of it and honestly at this point I don't care if I ever get the degree. And I no longer feel guilty about that. For the longest time I've been taking classes because I felt like I had to. I felt like I was letting my grandfather down, my mother who has always wanted to go back to school, everyone who has said "Well you don't want to spend all that money and have nothing to show for it", and for being so close and still not finished.

But I officially don't care anymore. Some day, I do want that piece of paper with my name on it. But, I've been at this off and on since 1997, I'm not sure another decade will hurt anything. They say that the value of a degree is going down. Well the current value of my almost degree isn't worth what I've put into it. I'm tired, I'm grouchy, I'm not doing well in the classes I am taking, and I have no time for my kids who will never be these ages again. I'm over feeling like I have to do this for anyone but myself when I'm ready to do it.

So, I quit.

I'm going to eek out the best grades I can manage this semester, and I'm not re-enrolling. I'm going to fill out the paperwork for income based repayment and work on getting the loans paid off. When that finally happens and I can perhaps pay for a course in cash, I will start again.

We only take this ride once and all of my classes have taught me things, things that no one can take away from me. Someday before I die I hope to graduate. But I'm not going to let it kill me now.

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