I know I finished the last class that I needed to earn my associates degree in December, but I had been waiting to write a blog post about how I felt upon completion of that phase of my life until I actually had the degree in my hand. And now I do.
After calling the school in January and being told that I would receive a letter in February informing me what the next step would be, I finally received said letter Wednesday. It said to pick up my degree in the registrar's office by some date in June or else it would be mailed to me. I picked it up the next day. I even bought a frame and put it in already, even though I have to buy some nails in order to place it on my wall. It doesn't read any different than any other degree I'm sure, but it's my fucking degree, so I will type exactly what it says:
"City Colleges of Chicago Harold Washington College
The Board of Trustees of the City Colleges of Chicago, Community College District No. 508, County of Cook and State of Illinois, by virtue of the authority vested in the Board, and upon recommendation of the Faculty, confers on ANDRE JAVELL ROSS the degree of ASSOCIATE IN ARTS WITH HIGH HONORS
This award is issued in evidence thereof. GIVEN AT CHICAGO, ILLINOIS, ON DECEMBER 13, 2008"
Yes, I'm a little proud of my achievement. Although I would love to know why the date has to be printed as if I received the thing on that day, which is certainly not the case.
I didn't know exactly how I would feel when I put my hands on that degree, whether I would be proud, emotional, overwhelmed, nonchalant. As it happened, I was texting my fiancee while waiting for the worker at the registrar's office to bring it out. She was a little upset because, while sitting in a class to learn how to improve her skill set in order to find work (she was recently laid off), some guy was sitting in front of her clearly not interested in the proceedings. The moment they brought my degree out to me, I was texting her, "That guy, like all of us, will get out of life what he puts into it." How perfect was that? I was receiving the fruits of my labor right at that very moment. And it wasn't so much emotional as it was very, very gratifying. The emotional part came this morning when I put my degree in its frame and kind of looked at it for a second as if it wasn't real, like I was just having a dream. I said to myself, "Is this really mine?" I guess it had not hit me until that moment.
And so ends this part of my life when I decided that I shall either start doing things for me to try to improve my quality of life or I might as well just lay down in six feet of dirt and end it right there. It started, as you can read in my blog archives, in the spring and summer of 2004, when my personal life exploded like a Molotov cocktail, and I was left with glass shards all over my psyche. "Karen" wasn't giving me any answers concerning why she lied to me the entire six months we dated, "Sarah" cared for me, loved me, then dumped me, and there I was, all alone, coming off a week in a psych ward, and feeling like there was nothing left for me. In a split second, I decided to take my swollen toe, gout having set in due to the stress in my life and my bad diet, and go downtown to Harold Washington College. Two days of frenzied registration followed, and just like that, I was a college student, living for me, working for me, taking my life into my own hands instead of leaving it for cold-blooded whores to step all over. I actually had a long-term plan for myself. I actually had some goals that didn't involve which fat white chick I planned to move in with. And, five long years later, I achieved the goal of college graduate.
Now that I'm no longer living in the apartment or working in the same job or surfing the singles sites or chasing the tail that I was during the period leading up to the 2004 explosion, Harold Washington College was the last link that I had to those days, and that was only because those women indirectly pushed me into school as a last resort for me to stop ruminating about the things they had done to me. That's why it's the end of the beginning. Community college was the beginning of me seizing control of my destiny and making something of myself, and completing community college is the end of that beginning. But it's certainly not the end of my journey. By hook or by crook, by FAFSA or by scholarship or by student loan, I plan on being at Columbia College this fall, continuing my education, striving towards a bachelor's degree in broadcasting, and having fun along the way. But that's in the future. I just want to take a moment and thank Karen, Sarah, "Adrienne," "Torrie," "Laurie," The Co-Worker Who Shall Remain Nameless, "Jane," and a few others, all whom displayed some level of disrespect and betrayal to me in the months prior to and beginning months of my education. My family and friends and other co-workers had pressed me constantly to go back to school, but it's funny how certain motivational factors work better than others. You all combined to slam home the point to me that I had better start taking care of myself because no one else surely will give a rat's ass about me, no matter how much they may say otherwise in the heat of passion. You may not have meant to have that effect on me, but you did. I will forever be grateful.