Last month, I had the awesome privilege of attending my own commencement. It was amazing, rewarding, and adequately laden with pomp and circumstance. But let me set the stage of how I even got to that point. My career for the past 16 years has been stay-at-home-mom, a role of which I am very proud. It has and continues to be an honor to serve my family and be available for cleaning, meal planning, field trips, sick days and vacations. I suppose since my time at home has been sprinkled with countless fun volunteer hours and valued time with family, I have never regretted the decision. In fact, I often think about how fortunate I am that my husband literally kills it at being a software sales director which provides me the opportunity to dabble in things like room mom leader, school board member, at home sales, helping out friends with their kids, and home projects. When I first started this blog, we were in the sweet spot of homeschooling our two kids. Let me just say: It. Was. Awesome. We loved it. We took our own field trips, traveled when we wanted to, and did pretty much whatever sounded fun, after schooling was complete, of course. However, there came a time with high school approaching when we realized that private Christian school was going to a better option. So with the kiddos gone all day, I suddenly had a little more time on my hands (not much, but a little). One thing that was kindled during our homeschool stint was my desire to learn. Teaching requires learning first. And that I did: I learned about American history, how to diagram sentences, the phases of the moon, and I even brushed up on my Algebra. All of this reminded me that I really do love the art of learning. So, in the summer of 2014 I decided to go back to school. I had completed all but approximately 50 credit hours of a bachelor’s degree in business so I thought with two years of hard work, I could actually get that diploma. I applied to Liberty University’s Online Program and before I knew it, I was enrolled in my first class, Statistics (yikes). After a warm up of only two classes that fall, I chose an aggressive route and took four classes during spring semester. The classes were somewhat staggered but still, it was a full-time schedule. The whole family was geared up for mom’s new scheduled like I was about the run a marathon. Comments like, “We can help with things around the house mom!” and “Honey, I can help get the kids to/from school when I’m here,” were signs held on the side of the race route cheering me on through the grueling run. Summer came and I was on a roll. I took another full-time load even through three weeks of vacation and one week of a youth event that we attended, for which I graciously accepted planning the group travel portion. Nonetheless, I was determined at this point because I realized if I keep this up, I’ll finish before Christmas. Crock-pot creations were my family’s source of sustenance and the gym provided me with an acceptable level of sanity as I forged ahead through discussion board posts and peer-reviewed articles. October came and I was now starting the last eight weeks of my degree completion program. It was like the last mile of the race and I was nervously excited. I got my second wind and the last thing I needed was a bum knee or a steep hill to discourage me. Wouldn’t you know, one of the two remaining classes was the pebble in my shoe. A challenging and persnickety professor, a few tears resulting from a computer glitch, and group work with folks that weren’t as zealous as I was about finishing almost halted my stride. More about the professor later. The last assignment about sucked the life out of me but I was able to complete it, albeit exhausted and ready to throw income statements and APA format out the window. I pressed the submit button one last time, played my theme song (Michael Jackson’s “Don’t Stop ‘Til You Get Enough”) on my bluetooth speaker in the kitchen and my whole family was dancing with me. It was over…I crossed the finish line with my arms high in the air!
Fast forward to Spring, 2016. Liberty only has one commencement ceremony a year: in May. I almost didn’t attend but potential future regret of not going was my motivation to be there. So, my family and I packed up and spent the weekend in Lynchburg, Virginia. We even took our daughter’s sweet friend who will be a student at Liberty in the fall. It was quite an experience. Liberty should be commended on their attention to detail. There was never a point in time that I didn’t know where I was supposed to go and what the next event was. Every graduate was treated with a congratulatory gesture wherever we went. Interestingly, I had the chance to meet that tough professor (who was actually a really nice person) and mentioned to him that I considered his class as the most challenging of my workload. He congratulated me for hanging in there and getting an A (He actually remembered me?). I also met a fellow mom who followed a similar path and was celebrating with her family as well. But the highlight hands down was the processional.
My family got savvy (see how I threw that in?) and sat in the unpopular visitor’s side of the stadium. Just a little secret: they were the best seats in the house. One, they faced away from the sun and two, they were right up front. I could almost high-five them as I strolled by. I spent my high school years as a band member who played “Pomp and Circumstance” every year at graduation. But hearing it being played as I entered the stadium was a feeling like no other. My cheeks were hurting from smiling. I felt like a kid at Disney World wondering if it was real or just a dream. We had great speakers that included Willie Robertson, Mel Gibson and Vince Vaughn (I know, right?). Rashad Jennings was our keynote and he nailed it by delivering a powerful and compelling message. In the end, hearing my name called among the thousands was the epitome of accomplishment. It took me 27 years after graduating high school to reach this milestone. This moment made it all worth it.
I find it interesting that a graduation ceremony is called commencement despite the fact that the celebration is a result of the end of something. The end of campus living for traditional college students. The end of countless hours of research. The end of writing papers. The end of four years of homework, tests and life lessons. Yet, it really isn’t the end. It is only the beginning. It is the commencement of something greater. It could be a new career or possibly more education for some. Either way, it is definitely not the end. Similarly, this sleeping blog’s awakening is the commencement of something more. More travel, more adventures, more life! Thank you for your patience while I took a detour. I’m glad to be back and excited that you are here to take this journey with me!