(Not) Without You

At the age of 50 I have finally graduated from University. I wasn’t “smart” enough to go when I graduated from High School. I was too busy having fun. Overall, I’m very glad that I was finally able to complete this milestone of my life. It has to be said that this achievement only came to me because of my wife. She carried me through this journey and if it wasn’t for her I wouldn’t have been able to accomplish as much as I did.

Going to college is hard enough at any age. Of course, the older one gets the more difficult it becomes to complete because life gets in the way. Work, wife, kids, holidays, family gatherings, and friends. It all piles up on us and before you know it you’re 50 years old and thinking about the AARP and retirement.

Three years ago my wife and I became Foster parents. I was attending school at the time and decided to drop out so that we could acclimate the little 7 month old girl into our home and our lives. I was registered for classes and went to the first few in January but I dropped before the first deadline so that I wouldn’t have to pay for the classes (roughly $2k for each class).

As I mentioned, I didn’t go to college after High School. It took me years before I would go. It was around the time the Trade Center was attacked. Just before actually that I had started. I would complete my Associates degree in Business Management around 2005. I took my credits over to University and accepted whatever they would acknowledge.

At that time I was single and working full-time so I paid cash for the classes I had already taken. I continued that way until my first semester at University was over. I couldn’t afford to do that anymore because the cost was more than double and my workplace wasn’t willing to help pay for school, so I dropped out (seems to be a lot of that in my school history).

Every few years I would try again, but the expense was too much. At that time I wasn’t willing to seek government help because I had heard so many horror stories about student loans and how people ended owing for years and years. So I took, pretty much, a decade off.

I was at my current job when my new G.M. asked me how much I had left to go and he wanted to know why I didn’t finish. At that time my college credits placed me as a Junior. I had 40+ credits I needed to fill to graduate. The G.M. offered to have the company help pay if I would go back. That was 2016. My wife and I had been married for seven years but we didn’t have any children (which is a whole other story). So my wife and I discussed my going back and we worked out how it would go down.

Obviously I would go after work one or two days a week. Then I would need time to study during the week and one day on the weekend. She picked up the slack at the house. Cleaning, washing clothes, cooking meals, and pretty much everything else that needed to be done. I spent most of my time studying because I wanted to get good grades and learn something. I figured that I was paying for it, I might as well take something away from all of it.

Before all of this talk about University even came about we had already been registered to become Foster Parents. Nothing had been happening with that in a few years so I figured that going back to school would only help our status. So I went back in 2016 and did pretty well for that whole year. In January of 2017 we finally heard that there might be a chance that we would receive our first Foster child, so as I mentioned, I stopped going.

In 2018, when I started back up I was told, by the University, that my degree was no longer valid and that I would have to, pretty much, start all over. They wanted to remove all but 40 of the 90 credits I had at that time and set me back to Sophomore status. I wanted to quit altogether but my wife wouldn’t let me. I checked into other colleges and universities but everyone said the same thing…I would have to start all over.

So I “fought” the system. I wrote a letter to the Dean of my college and copied a few other individuals on it. Basically I told them we had just become Foster Parents. I said that it appeared Fostering a child was the worst thing anyone could do for their academic career. I also mentioned, had I known the University would do this, I would have probably sent the little girl packing because apparently Fostering a child doesn’t fall in line with the Universities agenda. I don’t fully recall, but I think I alluded to the fact it might possibly be a good human interest story for local TV.

I received a letter and a phone call asking me to come in and see the Associate Dean of Admissions. The “problem” was quickly resolved and I was admitted, once again, with my full credit standing.

In 2018 I started back. The only issue was cost. The money the company I work for would pay me wouldn’t cover the full cost of this University, so I became a FASFA aficionado. Again, my wife and I discussed this. Being that we had so many more responsibilities with the kid, my going back would leave a VERY large burden on her. She wore the increased burden like a badge.

From 2018 through 2019 I spent an exuberant amount of time studying, writing, and memorizing (where necessary) and in December of 2019 I graduated with High Distinction (Summa Cum Laude) from the University of Michigan. I also received the Honor’s Scholar award, which is an award given to only one recipient in each college of the University for each degree.

If it wasn’t for my wife taking up my slack and encouraging me to do better and to complete what I started I would never have finished. If not for her, none of that would have been possible. When I was graduating I kept looking over at her and, in my head, “my” accomplishment was our accomplishment. I could not have done any of this without her.