As I go into my final week at IUP as an undergraduate, studying for finals and anticipating commencement next Saturday, I can’t help but be reminded how fulfilling and challenging the past four and a half years have been. Not only was I a mature-age, non-traditional, first generation college student….I was a previous high school drop-out, single mother, married and divorced twice, only child….I experienced numerous successes, failures and challenges throughout my life. I often struggled to understand how disappointments can sometimes be a blessing.
When I lost my job at Central Tax in Kittanning, I went through the entire grief process, alternating between despair, anger, and acceptance. When I lost my part time job as a telephone interviewer at TNS, I was both relieved and despondent. What could I, at 54 years old, do with my life? Where were the jobs? I was hardly trained for office work in the 21st century, and ill-suited for many other positions (by virtue of experience or age). So I decided to apply to IUP, never imagining I would be accepted. But the joke was on me! Accepted I was….and thus began a journey of discovery for the next 4+ years, facing challenges with “peers” much younger than myself, courses that I’d never attempted before, and self-disappointment when I failed to do my best. I guess I hold myself to a higher standard than others hold me or themselves. Yes, I can achieve things if I try hard enough….but I also know my capabilities and lack thereof.
I have survived college, in part by the support of my friends and my son, in part from the generosity and understanding of the many professors who have not only instructed me in a variety of subjects but also taught me to question and explore and investigate…and to have faith in myself.
I have been evolving for many years, but especially the last few years. Yes, I am more confident than I was as a child or adolescent or young adult….but there is still a major part of me that is frightened of the unknown. Where do I go from here? Many questions flood my mind – my brain often “stuck on the spin cycle” – and I know I have options.
To those friends who have encouraged and supported me in various ways – Marcia, Barbara, Lisa, Fiona, Nea, Leanne, Kim, Sara, Karlee, and others – I offer you my undying appreciation and gratitude. To my son, Nathan – you are the bright light in my life, always supporting me, sometimes challenging me, always believing in me; at times, I thought I’d done a mediocre job in parenting you – but nothing could be further from the truth! To my friends at St. Thomas More – Judi, Mary, Tom, Father Michael – thank you for your guidance and support in my journey of faith!
So commencement – and my 59th birthday – fall on Saturday, December 14, 2013. I’d also like to personally thank those professors who have been instrumental in shaping my college experience: Dr. Dana Hysock-Witham, Dr. Kathryn Bonach, Dr. Marjorie Zambrano-Paff, Dr. Cora Lou Sherburne, Dr. Laura Delbrugge, Dr. Mark Palumbo, Dr. Lisa Newell, Dr. Anson Long, Dr. Laura Knight, Dr. Tara Johnson, Dr. Todd Thompson, and many others. You all have made my college career an extremely enriching experience.