A look back at 2011

This year has been an interesting one for our family.  It’s been a year of a lot of changes and I feel like I have accomplished a lot this year.  Let’s start from the beginning.

Last January, I wanted to run a 5K race.  I began training with the Couch to 5K training routine and was determined to meet this goal on Mother’s Day.  A Mother’s Day race is held every year in Portland, Maine and I wanted to participate with my sister-in-law and brother-in-law.  My goal was to finish in under 40 minutes and I did it.  My time was 39 minutes and some odd seconds, but I met the goal.  Sadly, I realized that running really aggravates my lower back and hips and I stopped running over the summer.  I wish I could start up again, but since I went back to school, my back has been bothering me a lot and I think some of it has been the walking I do on campus, and my mattress, as well as the bag I was carrying.  It’s gotten better since I switched to a backpack, but I still experience back pain.  So no running for me right now.  I really need to start doing yoga again to help these issues.  Still, I accomplished a goal that was on my radar for about four years and that felt awesome!  I still love looking at the pictures from the race!

In the spring, right before this race, I realized I needed to do something besides be a stay-at-home mom.  Should I go back to work?  Should I go to school for Medical Assisting?  What should I do?  I remember the day my husband and I talked about this and I said, “What if I went back to college full time for my bachelor’s degree?”  It seemed crazy.  How would we pay for it?  Would I be able to get loans?  What about childcare when the kids are not in school and I am home?  How would we make this work?  Would the school even accept me with my grades from 17 years ago?

I remember the day I went for a meeting with an Admissions Counselor.  I hadn’t even formally applied yet, but I brought my transcripts and wanted the truth.  It was a painful meeting and it was embarrassing.  My overall GPA was pitiful and I had many classes that were not able to be transferred, but she said my GPA was acceptable, plus I had some classes from a local community college that helped my GPA immensely because I did well in them.  She told me on the spot that I would be accepted and to go home and celebrate with a glass of wine that night!

I got my financial aid in order and mentally prepared myself for the changes ahead.  I enjoyed the summer with my children and looked ahead to new challenges.

It has been an adjustment, but I have a new sense of personal satisfaction in my life that hadn’t been present for a while.  I am working on a case study competition with my Public Relations group and the planning of it all is my cup of tea.  It’s a lot of work, but it’s something I love to do.  I also realize that the love of writing I had as a teenager is still there.  I love to write and be creative in that way.

Realizing that I can do things that seem like a reach has been very satisfying this year.  I ran a 5K. I went back to school.  I earned a 3.575 GPA in my first semester back to school.  I am busier than I have ever been, yet I am accomplishing more than I could have imagined.

My goal for 2012 is to keep challenging myself in new ways (and lose a few pounds, exercise more, be more organized…..the usual).  If I keep pushing myself to be a better mother, wife, and student, I will be a better overall me!

Happy New Year to all!

"I’d like to thank the academy….."

OK, not really, but I would like to thank my friends and family for their support in this endeavor this semester.

I am officially done with my first semester back to college.  I took my last exam today and while I know I have a long way to go in getting my degree, the first semester is done and I know I can do this.  It was not easy.  I had to give up some of my perfectionism when it comes to my home and cleaning and laundry and such.  I have had to learn to forgive myself when I mess up-especially when my little guy came home from his piano school holiday party last week and said I forgot to send him with a gift for the Yankee Swap.  Oops.

Things will not be perfect on this journey and it’s not going to be easy.  Next semester involves five classes, as opposed to this semester’s four, and I am working on a national public relations competition, but I’m doing what I love.

I have work to do for the PR campaign while I am on break, but I am looking forward to getting some things in order around the house and enjoying some time to read books that aren’t textbooks and maybe watch some TV.  I hope I can have lunch with some old friends and some of the new friends I made at school–lunch that isn’t in a dining hall would be fabulous!

Before I can do all of that, though, I need to catch up on the laundry that I’ve slacked on and write my to-do list for the week so I can be ready for Christmas.  I will, however, be going out to pick up a novel of some sort to read tonight when I take my son to his appointment.  I usually wait in the waiting room and do homework.  Tonight I can relax while I am there, and after I get home, I will enjoy a glass of wine and relax some more.

Progress….

Making progress when trying to achieve a goal that has always seemed elusive feels so great. Getting my college degree was always that elusive goal, but then last spring I surprised myself and my husband by boldly declaring it was time to just go back and get it.

Next Monday, my first semester will be finished.  I have taken a final in one class and turned in a final project in another.  On Thursday, I have an exam and on Monday I have my last exam of the semester.  To be so close to the end of this first step is wonderful.  I can’t believe how much I have accomplished and how much I have grown, as a student, as a mother and as a wife.  It hasn’t been easy, and with the way my Google calendar is looking for the next week, it’s not going to be easy to finish this semester out, but it will get done.

This semester has also been rewarding.  I am a part of a Public Relations group at my school. This semester the meetings have been every other week.  I find myself rejuvenated after attending one.  I am also working on a special PR campaign/competition with the group and I love learning first hand about what I am studying.  I am thrilled that meetings for the group will take place weekly next semester because I am hoping that helps me carry the excitement I have felt this semester after attending the meetings.

It’s not all sunshine and rainbows, as evidenced by my last blog post.  It’s hard sometimes.  I can’t always be the positive person I strive to be.  It’s tough around the holidays to balance everything and try to explain to people why I can’t do things that they want and expect me to do.  Sometimes my sanity and my studying have to come first and I just have to say no.  I hope to make progress with myself so that I can learn that sometimes that’s OK and I don’t need to always explain myself.

If she could see me now…..

As I was walking through campus today, I was thinking of how this college experience is truly different than my previous experience.  I recalled being about 19-20 years old.  My grades were awful and because I had decided to stop being a French major (a major that was eventually dropped at the school),  I was given a generic advisor in the Academic Achievement Center.

While she wasn’t a horrible woman, she had a way of making me feel about two inches tall when I saw her.  Yes, my grades were lousy, but telling me to focus more on school did nothing to help the situation.  I always left advising sessions feeling worse than when I went in.  There were never any solutions or options offered to me. (Now I can think of so many services on campus that may have benefited me.)  I didn’t really know what my problem was and why I didn’t just magically get my shit together.  I think that’s what she expected from me.

I do remember feeling like I was fighting my GPA the whole time.  That’s what happens when you start out with a less than stellar GPA your first semester.  I was constantly fighting to bring it up and I felt like it was a losing battle.

This particular advisor said to me at one point, “You should consider transferring to a new school–one where your decent credits will transfer, but you can start fresh with a new GPA.”  That always stuck with me.  I always remembered that comment and hoped that some day I could do that.  But I still remember the look of complete disgust on her face as she said that to me.

Well, 15-16 years later, I did just that.  And if she could see that pathetic little girl now!  I am on track to get As and Bs this semester, and I’ve gotten involved in a Public Relations organization at the school.  I’m also trying to get involved in other activities at my school.

What a truly different experience this already is.

Not everyone is fortunate enough to know what they want to be “when they grow up” right out of high school.  Not every student has the will to get it all done in their late teens/early twenties. What I do hope is that those people in a position to influence younger college students realize that not every student with lousy grades is a failure.  There might be a smart person in there that needs to jump out, but also needs the faith in himself or herself to take that leap.