Tuesday, December 16, 2008

No Regrets

Recently someone asked me, "So what did you do with that teaching degree anyway?"


Once upon a time I was in college. More specifically, from 1991-1996. That's FIVE years of higher learning (cough, cough). FIVE years of expanding my little world. FIVE years to get a degree that would benefit my future. FIVE years to "find myself."

Five very long years.

No degree. More specifically, no graduate degree - only a measly AA degree obtained quickly and effortlessly during the first 2 years spent at a junior college before transferring to the university.

And then I came undone.

It isn't that I lacked direction and drive. I knew I loved language, knew my heart was in the English field, somewhere. I knew I wanted to inspire others to use their voices. I knew I wanted to help them find their voices, however far buried under what is life, so that their voices could be heard and read and understood. I knew I wanted to write.

But there was an awful lot of life to learn about as well. I shed my identity by breaking up with my now-husband. I just wanted to be me.

Turns out, that wasn't such a great idea although I'm sure, in the long run, that experience helped shape who I am today, who we are together, and maybe we needed that. But without a clear sign from the universe that yes, that was the true course of our paths, we never knew at the time.

I was suspended from the university. Suspended from an education my family was paying for. During that time, I worked. I paid my rent. I bought my groceries and learned what it was like to heat the apartment I shared with my roommates on pennies I put in my own pocket.

I worked my ass off.

I got back into school, with much letter writing, conferencing, begging and pleading that I'd be a better student, that I'd find my inner geek and employ her to make the decisions regarding my education instead of my inner wild child who thought taking off on hikes in the hills and schlepping around old book stores pretending to enjoy the taste of black coffee was far more important. It was a struggle.

I mended my relationship with my now-husband, things were good. We were planning for our future after my graduation, we were hopeful. As the rest of my friends graduated and moved into their future careers, I stayed behind. That quarter of suspension had taken it's toll on my projected graduation timeline and I constantly defended my academic standing by citing the statistic "Only 4.8% of college graduates finish in four years." Constantly.

And again I worked my ass off.

Until I got pregnant.

The shift from one to two was unlike anything else I'd ever gone through. Suddenly, caring for this being growing inside me took precedence over everything else in my life. Everything. I found it hard to focus in my classes, even though I wanted to. I found it equally hard to complete my work, even though I wanted to. I was different from the other students now, not because I was in my 5th year, but because I had a ring on my finger and a bump under my flannel shirt.

And I gave up caring about finishing.

When my husband and my parents came to move me home in December of 1996, during one of the worst winters to date, I felt ready. I'd lived for three months, my belly growing rounder and more prominent each week (especially the week I drank all the orange juice and ate a box of Wheaties a day), apart from my new life and I wanted so desperately to shut the door on this old one and begin anew.

So that's what I did.

When my final grades came in the mail, I shamefully tucked them away. I didn't want to think about that last quarter of school. I wanted to read more about diapers and routines and breastfeeding vs. bottle feeding. I wanted to attend my birthing classes and count the kicks I was feeling each day. I wanted to put on an apron and have dinner waiting for my husband when he came home from work.

That is all I wanted.

Motherhood was coming, it was practically here, and the rest could wait.

We don't have an outside thermometer, but I knew it was cold when I opened up the front door and saw ice on the inside of the glass storm door. I slipped on a pair of shoes abandoned next to the shoe basket (this is a constant thing in our home, actually getting the shoes into the basket) and stepped out on the front porch.

When I inhaled the still air, the cold rushed to my lungs and filled them with what felt like thousands of tiny ice crystals. Yes, it was cold. I found one of the boys' carabeeners with a temperature gauge on it and placed it on our milk box. I closed the ice-covered door and waited before checking it a few minutes later.

Somewhere between ten and fifteen degrees, Fahrenheit, it read. That's cold.

Memories of that other cold winter instantly presented themselves. Digging my tiny Mazda out of 4 feet of snow in front of the ancient apartment building I lived in on 3rd street. Rubbing my hands together to avoid the numbness that would come if left still. Driving behind my parents on the highway, each vehicle heavily weighted with all my belongings. The swirling snow all the way from there to here . . . my baby.

I have never once regretted the path I've walked for the past twelve years, as a mother. Or the experiences I had during college - although I can't say that each and every one of those experiences were the best. I have always known this would be my life. Full, happy, comfortable.

The completeness of being a mother, to me, is not something I can easily describe without sounding all Jerry McGuire "You had me at hello." It just is. Nothing else has ever been so difficult, or felt so incredibly right. Nothing.


Ashley said...

Ain't that the truth. I also deferred my education a bit for motherhood. I might go back. Maybe. But if not, I've already accomplished enough to satisfy me.

Jen E @ mommablogsalot said...

GREAT post! I really enjoyed reading this and can relate, if only slightly. I got my degree but it hasn't really done me much good - the motherhood thing is way more rewarding. :)

Julienne said...

This post left me with tears - but in a wonderfully good way. I have a degree in Bio/Chem but while getting my Ph.D. I suddenly realized I just didn't want that life. I wanted to be married, and have kids and, most importantly, have TIME with my kids. I gave up the graduate fellowship and moved back to my home town to help care for aging grandparents. I'm married to the most wonderful man and we're planning for our future together. I'm getting my teaching credential online and have never been more satisfied or sure in my life.
I know that our Moms fought for the right for women to be in the workplace and obtain college educations, but sometimes we have to remember that they fought for the CHOICE for us to take on the world. Some of us are very happy with the hardest job of all - Mom.

Anonymous said...

Well, I guess that answers my question...I didn't know your "story". Ahhh...but motherhood is a beautiful thing. And, I was just ruminating about finishing my AA the last couple of days....but then I remember what a headached being too busy with kids can be, especially with a hubby who travels and has an incredibly demanding job...I am satisfied, for now!

Aimee Greeblemonkey said...

Loved this, Carrie.

Kellan said...

What a beautiful story of motherhood! I too have a path that is one I left in my past, but the one I followed ended up being the exact place I was supposed to end up. This was a great post, Carrie - as always!

Have a good week - Kellan

Liz said...

I can soooo relate. I graduated from HS in '94 & went straight to college that summer, only to quit at the end of the Fall '94 semester. I had gone to 2 semesters of college & had no idea what I was trying to get a degree in. I felt like I was wasting my parents' money & my time. So I quit. The plan was to work for a couple semesters & try to figure out what I wanted to do. I was already married (got married a few months out of HS). As it turns out, I worked for a little over a year before we had our first baby. I was just shy of 21 when she arrived in our lives (Aug. 96) and I've never looked back. I've never finished my college career & like another commenter said...maybe I will one day. But maybe not. I'm not sure. I've spent the last 12 years loving my life & have no regrets!

Jenn @ Juggling Life said...

We have much the same story, but mine started 10 years before yours. I graduate in May with a Liberal Studies degree and a Teaching Credential. Going to school in my early 40s has been amazing for me and great for my kids too. I didn't really think about going back until the youngest was in 5th grade and then I knew I wanted it, so I started. I have no regrets at all about the order in which I've done things and the years at home with my kids were irreplaceable.

flutter said...

sounds like a good use of an education, to me

wyliekat said...

Do you think having your education paid for made it harder to focus? I've often wondered about that - if your money isn't on the line, does it make it easier to abstract it?

I had student loans up the wazoo for my education, and even that sometimes seemed an abstraction. I'm trying to think of the best way to fund my girls educations, without this kind of thing. This is why I ask. Hope you don't mind. . .

Rachel said...

That's awesome, Carrie. So much like my own story, but more articulate. I, too, was in college for 5 years and quit (very happily, I might add, I never did have the drive or determination) to become a wife and mommy. I can't say I have any regrets, either. But I wonder. I wonder what might be different.

Little Miss Sunshine State said...

I loved this story for many reasons. I did the 2 year degree, all the time wishing I could just have babies and stay home to raise them.

It was the 1970's and all the "Liberated" college girls thought that was a lame thing to want.

8 years later, I chucked my career and stayed home to raise 2 kids. So much for the degree.

Kimmylyn said...

Your last paragraph is perfection!!!! Great way to end a wonderful post!

PS.. can you email me at kim@joggingincircles.com .i need to get your address to send out the gift card.. :)

Anonymous said...


I was not really going to comment.. but as you know, all of us have taken different paths to happiness & somehow it all sorts out.

I wouldn't give up the time I was able to spend with you & your little bro' for a minute; but I also was more than ready to use (or re-boot) my college education when the time came.

It was so funny, all of us doing homework of one fashion or another when I was in my 40's!! Being an older student was in itself a revelation---I definitely was NOT alone. ( Ask your dad, though.. he loved those student-priced football tickets).

So much is still ahead. And who, really, who knows?

Follow your instincts. They have worked amazingly well so far.


Mamacita Tina said...

Ah, yes. We plan our life, but then life takes over. It's the journey that matters, right? Not the destination. This is a great post, loved reading it.

Domestic Extraordinaire said...

what a wonderful post. You have me all misty eyed and that doesn't happen very often.

Christy said...

Wow...you are so right (only mooms can understand that, huh?) I have a very similar story...and as you, I am regretless (mostly.)

Lisa said...

What a beautiful post Carrie! (And an adoreable photo to accompany.)

Kristy said...

i have a degree in marketing, and have yet to put it to any use...i got married young,had a baby and didnt look back! great post!

Kritta22 said...

Wow! I totally get you!
We are in the same boat. You know those questions you ask your kids for their baby books, what do you wnat to be when you grow up...policeman, fireman,...other. My mom always had to check other and write in Mother. It's all I wanted to do. Yes I went to college and are still paying on said college. But I'd rather be here, raising my baby.

Sheila @ Dr Cason.org said...

What a wonderful post. I loved it.