I went to Kent State University for the first time in 1998. My major was music education, which I only chose because I would get a $500 scholarship from my high school’s band boosters. Not a really fantastic way to choose your major, but before that I had absolutely no idea what I wanted to do with my life. To get into the Kent’s School of Music, I had to audition. I played flute well enough that they let me in on a probationary status, and I went on to take courses designed to help me be a better flutist, a.k.a. lessons. Really, really expensive lessons. By the end of my second semester, I would have to audition again to be allowed to be formally allowed into the School of Music, and I blew that one out of the water. The problem was that I was so freakin’ miserable that, rather than just take my place in the school, I turned it down, hoping to just take general courses until a new major sparked some interest for me.
Long story short, nothing did. In fact, the only thing that had any appeal to me was getting married, starting a family, and everything that came with that. Still, it was drilled into my head that I had to go to college and get a degree and work a career that made lots of money because you should make the money first and then worry about living your life, right? I went a second year to Kent, finishing up my last spring semester exam on a Friday before getting married the following Saturday. I started my third year that fall as Mrs. Thomas, and found out that December that we were going to become a family of 3.
I had a rough pregnancy, and with the things I cared about most in jeopardy, school became a bigger burden every day. I was still so unhappy at Kent, and my GPA reflected that. Eventually, I was put on probation and required to take a semester off. Those months showed me how important it was for my happiness to be at home with my family, yet I still returned once my probation was up, with a renewed sense of “You’re a junior, so hurry up and graduate so you can get the hell out of here.” I picked a new major–Interior Design–and sat down with an advisor to plot out the rest of my time in Kent. When I was told “Even with all of the classes you’ve already taken, you’ll be here for another four years, at least,” I threw in the towel. Seven years of college? Check, please.
I left the advisor’s office that day and never went back. I didn’t even bother dropping my classes, so my transcripts show that my last two semesters, I had straight Fs. I left Kent with a 1.5 grade point average.
Time passed and we had many adventures as a family. As our daughters got older, I was increasingly satisfied that I had done my job as a mother and I began to wonder what was next for me. After exploring some options, it became clear that I had one goal and one goal only: I wanted to write.
In 2016, took a not-for-credit Creative Writing course that lasted from January to mid-February and had such a great time that I started considering more classes. By March 14th, I was a student again, for the first time in 15 years, at Stark State College. I was so eager to jump in that I took “accelerated” courses, meaning an entire 16 week semester was doubled into 8 weeks. I was advised to take a class, maybe two, but I took five. And that summer, I took four more accelerated courses, and aced every one of them without breaking a sweat. For the first time in my grown-up life, I had a 4.0, and was an Honor’s student. I went on to be elected senator of the arts and sciences department, to serve on the committee to choose artwork for the new Akron campus, to join Phi Theta Kappa, the Honor’s Society, and scholarships were flying at me. I had a job created for me at the school to work alongside the Student Life Coordinator as a “Special Projects Assistant.” Heck, I directed a stinkin’ play! The student I was at Stark was no where near the student I was at Kent. Because I chose to do what was calling me when I was younger, I was more mature and focused to be a better student when I was older. Much, much older.
While I felt very successful and accomplished, my failure at Kent haunted me. I realized that, until I finally “slayed that dragon” I’d never feel like anything but a fraud. So, with a salute and a smile, I transferred out of Stark State, back to Kent, ready to go into battle.
My classes begin this week, and it was such a fight to make it to this point that I knew the Universe was asking me “Are you sure you want this?”
Heck yes, Universe, I want this! Every time I started to get scared, I’d do something to kick myself in the butt. Once, I went to the bookstore and bought myself a Kent State shirt. Most recently, when I was ready to bow out completely and just go about my life with no degree, I instead went on Amazon and rented my textbooks. You got your books, Nic. No sense in quitting now.
I’m so, so freakin’ excited, you guys. I’m, yet again, doing the thing everyone swore couldn’t be done. I’m pushing 40 and working to get my first degree. It took all of this time to finally realize what I wanted to be when I grew up, and now that I’ve lived my dream as a wife and a mother, I am ready to live my dream as a writer. While I will never again have that beautiful, hard-earned 4.0 GPA, I will get an incredible amount of gratification watching my 1.5 slowly creep back up.
Here we go.