Journaling (in envelope) Reads: I always took it for granted that everyone in my family would get a college degree. Our family is very committed to education. But as I am witnessing how hard it is for my cousins and brother to graduate and go to college, I am realizing that I should truly be proud of my accomplishment. I received my undergraduate degree, a Bachelor of Arts in Theological Studies, on May 12, 2007. It was a beautiful sunny day and once I arrived at my college gym for the graduation, I was very excited. (I did not want to get up that morning though.) It was nice to see all of the people that I had met four years earlier during my freshman year. There was a buzz surrounding everyone and everything that was happening. This was finally the end--a sad, but exciting, time in our lives. It seemed like it took FOREVER for them to get to my name (well, it is Walker, so I am almost at the end). When I was finally called up to get my diploma I felt a rush of adrenaline as I walked across the stage hearing my family and friends (and some strangers) cheering for me. Right before this picture was taken, there was a moment where I saw two professors that I had know for 4 and 3 years, Dr. Kent Sparks and Dr. Steve Boyer (head of my department), stand up and cheer for me as I walked off the stage, then this picture was taken. I do not remember a happier moment in my life. This was an awesome feeling. Aside from the actual graduation, a LOT of hard work went into getting my degree. There were several times when I actually thought I might not make it, but in the end I pulled through and finished strong. It was the middle times that were hard. I started off as a straight A student and was very successful in academics, but then I had to deal with some mental health problems at the end of my freshman year. I ended up being hospitalized in the Child and Adolescent Mental Health Unit in some hospital in New Jersey a couple of weeks after I finished my first year of school. It was odd being among children because even though I was only 17, I still was MUCH older (at least intellectually) than any of the other children on the ward. After I was hospitalized, I had a rather eventless summer with my parents watching me like a hawk and not being able to do ANYTHING on my own. I was so glad to return to school in the fall. But my second year was much different than my first. I started out doing really well in school, but it always seemed that by the time the end of the semester came around and all the final papers were starting to be due, I would crash. I followed the same pattern throughout the rest of my years of college: do well in the beginning, then crash and not finish (or barely finish) in the end. I am really afraid that the same thing might happen to me in graduate school and it is a terrifying prospect. The only thing that gives me hope is that I was able to finish really strong in the class that I loved: History of Ancient Israel. I made it through the 20 page paper that was due and finished strong with the highest grade on the final! So hopefully, since I am studying something that I love I will be motivated enough to keep going even when I do not want to press on. I am also going to make a strong effort not to procrastinate completing big assignments. I do so much better if a big assignment is not due at the end of a class. For some reason, I never seem to be able to complete all of the work due in the final week of the semester...Probably because I leave all of the final projects in my classes until the last minute. But that is what is meant when I say I am a procrastinator! However, because I am paying loads of money even though I have a scholarship, I have to really dedicate myself to these tasks. I took out loans and always had a job as an undergraduate, but I never had to pay any money towards my tuition expenses, so I never realized just how much money it was costing my parents for me to go to school. I took advantage of getting an education. I wish I had made more of the opportunity given to me. Despite my regrets and fears, I can look back now and say, I DID IT! I was the first (and possibly the last) of my generation of my close family to get a four year college degree. I do not want to sound snobby or superior when I say that. There are so many things that you can do without higher education or with less education that are fulfilling and very worthwhile, so I do not think that you need to have a college degree to do something meaningful with your life. But I am realizing that it is a big accomplishment. People act like everyone has a college degree nowadays, that they just hand out degrees to any person that wants one, but it really is hard work to earn a degree. Out of my brothers and sisters and cousins (all 14 of us), one (Chris, the dentist) has a professional graduate degree, two (Scott and Jamie) have four year college degrees, six (Amanda, Collin, Kevin, Stephanie, Sara and Emily) are not pursuing any type of higher education or dropped out, two (Ryan and Andrew) are just starting college but not really interested in academics, two (Heather and Kevin) are still youngins, and one (me) is heading off to graduate school to hopefully get a PhD. Only four of us are (well, now were) close together: Sara, Emily, Andrew, and I. And out of those four, I think it is safe to say that I am the only one getting a college degree. Sara dropped out, Emily moved to Montana and is working and living with her dead friends parents (a whole other twisted story), Andrew is going to college only because it means avoiding dealing with “real” life (like getting up on his own to go to work—my parents or grandparents still have to wake him!), and I have my first degree already. I single out the four of us, the grandkids on my father's side of the family, because that side was ALWAYS very intensely focused on education. Particularly because of my Aunt Cathy, who is a genius. All of us 4 are really smart too, we just have different levels of achievement. I am a high achiever and begrudgingly work hard for what I want. (I say begrudgingly because I am SUPER lazy too!) The others (all of whom are younger than me) are used to having everything they want given to them, so they do not understand that (hopefully) there will come a time when not everything is just handed to them on a silver platter. I say this with Andrew in mind because he has the worst entitlement issues—he thinks he is entitled to the world and is untouchable by anyone (including the police) and my mother and grandmother enable him so badly that they are simply ruining his future.
Okay, now that I have vented my feelings about our family's education, I can go back to thinking about what a great experience my graduation and college years were for me. I loved it, and in a way wish I could go back, but am excited to go on to new and better things and a chance to start over in a new place (which is really scary too, but that is another LO).