Finally….Degree Acquired!

Here we are, my college graduation. A day I’ve looked forward to my entire life. 

As a kid, I dreamed of a life spent in libraries and bookstores. I hoped to become a writer and a professor and a lawyer. That last one is thanks to John Grisham. I didn’t know the major detour my life would take:

Only applying to two schools because I was afraid I wouldn’t get in anywhere else. 

My parents convincing me to study architecture because “writers don’t make any money”.

Having to withdraw from the University of Kansas because I didn’t have enough money to pay tuition.

Moving across the country.

Meeting my guy only months after arriving in the new state.

Discovering Valencia College, and its cheaper tuition, and the direct connect program to the University of Central Florida.

Attending UCF and falling in love with the campus and enjoying my professors.

Having a baby with my guy.

Getting accepted at USF for graduate school to further my focus on creative nonfiction writing. 

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There are so many factors that go into the success of a goal. Short term goals can turn into long term goals overnight. My six year goal to graduate from university with my Masters in Architecture turned into a ten year goal to study English and Creative Writing.

A part of me laughs now. Thinking back to those nights I spent writing when I was supposed to be doing homework for architecture. How I would tell my on campus writing group how I wanted to become an author and they would say “why are you studying this, then?” How I told my story to a girl at a cafe and she said “omg, like…you could write a book about this”. 

I also think about the late nights. The hours spent writing essays while taking care of the baby, and making journals for my shop. The arguments about money; the tears about money. The imposter syndrome (which is a term I hate). The professors who sent me emails saying they believed in me. The day I gave birth to Naomi and took exams while still in the hospital (something I will always brag about). The ups and downs of Covid and virtual school. The people I’ve met and the connections I’ve made. 

So many things have happened since I began this journey, and my heart is full now. I have a long while to go before I finish my schooling. Three years in my masters program and possibly five to seven years with my PhD but I’m excited about it. When I was a kid, I often told people that I’d go to school forever if I could. That’s still true.

I’ve always loved school, loved learning new things, and loved reading. That has never gone away and I hope it never will. Most people are discouraging and somber when I tell them what I want to do after I finish but it’s alright. It’s not just about the end goal. It’s about the journal. Spending my entire life on scholarship and writing has always been my dream. My success is measured by a lifetime of progression. 

In other words, I am already successful. And isn’t that beautiful.

See ya,
Jade

CNF: Child Like Dreams

Title: Child-Like Dreams

I’ve always had big dreams. When I was a child, I knew exactly what I wanted to do. I often tell people that the years in between were lost years when I let others tell me what’s best and that I’m finally back on track. It’s true. I wrote my first story when I was seven years old and I knew I wanted to become an author. In high school, I let my parents convince me to change my mind. My mother always knew I loved to write but told me those were child-like dreams. Childish dreams. She said I needed to do something that made money and that “writer’s don’t make money, they struggle, and they can barely pay their bills” and with my soul beaten down, The Great Change happened: I went to school for architecture.

After steps taken backward, and some forward, I found myself 10 years later without a degree, in a new state, fortunately estranged from my family, and unsure of my future and the goals therein. I thought, “why not?” Then there I was, enrolling in school to pick up with the child in me left off: Back at University to become a writer.

Recently, I wrote a piece for an University magazine titled “10 Years Late to University: I don’t Belong Here But I Belong Here” about my experience with being a new mother as well as being a student again, after years in the workforce. It mostly covered my emotions after I enrolled, I had completely overlooked the rest of the story. The Beginning.

When I was seven years old I was already reading the classics, adult books, and fantasy chapter stories. They allowed me to escape the constant barrage of memories circling abuse, neglect, and abandonment dealt to me. I filled my soul with Melusine, The Westing Game, Summer of my German Soldier and The Golden Compass.

In these stories, I thought I had the answer to the rest of my life. I was overwhelmed with the idea of being a writer and wrote my first story. I’ll never forget the joy that filled me when my main characters came to life on the page. A cat and a dog, who were best friends, go on an adventure. It was the simplest plot. The dog died, having been injured, and the cat was unbelievably sad. She spent her days and nights moping over her dead friend, afraid to go on any future adventures. Then, the dog came back to life and the cat was rejuvenated.

As silly as this feels, it was a pivotal moment for me. I didn’t realize, until I became an adult, that this was my way to interpret my own feelings of loss after our family dog, Pepper, died horrifically. After watching my biological brother, and my adoptive nephew, jump the fence many times Pepper jumped while we were at church – not realizing that she still had the chained collar around her neck. A man who had been driving by spotted the dog, knocked on the door, and told my father what he had found. Although they tried to be secret, my brother and I were in hiding and watched as our dog was lifted from where she hung and buried in the backyard.

In this story, I was the cat who couldn’t deal with the loss of the only person who loved her unconditionally. The cat dealt with the same issues with abandonment that I struggled with, that I still struggle with, and wasn’t able to recover on her own. I knew that in the real world animals, and people, couldn’t come back to life but when it came to my writing anything could happen.

Anything. As an adult this felt like a way for me to be ok with the memories of someone after they’ve gone, whether unwilling through death or wiling through my growth. I didn’t realize that in an odd way, I was writing nonfiction.

Ironically, the person who crushed my dreams of becoming a writer, and made me change my mind about my prospective college major when I was in high school, was the same person who tried to crush my writing spirit. My adoptive mother. I let her read this five page story and she destroyed it. She told me animals couldn’t talk, that they didn’t go on adventures, that cats and dogs would never be best friends, and that – most importantly – no one, absolutely no one, ever came back to life.

I was angry and told her that I could write whatever I wanted because it was my book. My writing. I told her I never wanted her to read anything I wrote, ever again. I vowed, that day, to become a writer. I was more determined than ever to create worlds where impossible things could happen. I wanted to write books where the dead would rise, unlikely pairs would come together, and adventures would abound.

Over those years, I would daydream about becoming a professor with a messenger bag and a notebook filled with ideas and inspirations. I dreamed of having a cabin where I could escape the world, and its tragic intricacies, and write novels. I also wanted an apartment in the city where I could live when doing readings and signings at bookstores for all my bestselling works. Boy, wasn’t I ambitious.

Now, ten years after The Great Change, after the shit show that was my first time in college, after I let others push me down and trample my dreams, and destroy my spirit, I am back here. I enrolled at the University and now I’m close to graduation. I will be going to grad school next year. I will publish in both nonfiction and fiction. I will become a professor and I will finally fulfill my child-like dreams.