Thursday, March 27, 2014

My Graduate Message To You, Dear Reader

Almost one year ago I enrolled for the University of Texas at Tyler’s Masters Degree program so I could pursue my MA in English. I was enrolled under what is called “Provisional Acceptance,” this meaning that, while I had not graduated, I was within a few hours of my goal. The semester before had been genuinely awful: I had failed two courses, two courses I did not feel I was particularly good at, and I was also worried about re-taking these courses and doing Provisional Acceptance courses too. I was so worried about how I was going to succeed at these two undergrad courses. One of was Biology and I have never found the subject easy because of the tension the tests gave me. 

 I don’t recall a time that I ever studied harder, however I was also going through issues regarding having moved into once place and needing to move out (not because I did not love where I was but rather because I knew the sooner I aimed to make my own way the quicker I was going to behave responsibly) elsewhere. Tack onto this a particularly stressful meeting with a Professor regarding a missed paper and you’ve got the recipe for thinking “I am never going to make it. I am going to bomb this, I am going to flunk my Provisional courses,  I was going to going to NEVER graduate, I was going to be incapable of getting Financial Aid and I was going to flunk out at life because of a Biology test.”

In the end I studied. I made choices that required me to understand schedules and paydays and how the University worked.

EXAMPLE: I knew I was not eligible for Summer Financial Aid as an undergraduate, but I was eligible as a Graduate Student. I knew I could then receive the full FA amount in Summer because I had never received any of that money over the previous Spring and Fall. This mean that I needed to pass my Undergraduate courses. This meant I needed to focus everything on my Biology test(s) and completing a course I got an I in. I had to do this while working, finding/planning around a place to live, and I needed to make sure that I did not give up.

In the end I passed that Biology course with a C (which was, believe it or not, the sweetest grade I received in a non-Major course) and I turned in the work I needed to get my I changed. I know a lot of people will put emphasis on “get As” or things like that, but the reality is that (sometimes) just passing is a huge victory.

I made sure to do better with one of the Provisional courses I was having trouble with and to be sure and communicate with my Professor more than I had been previously. I might have been stressed beyond all measure but what that did not entitle me to was secrecy about my issues. Nobody can ever help you when you don’t share how you are doing.

It has been a year full of courses, both standard semester and summer semester, and, after this upcoming Summer, I should be able to graduate. Not just “on time” but rather “expediently” all things considered.
I am talking about all this because I am sure you are going through tough times. I am sure you are facing trials and you don’t want to make a scene. You fret and stress and plan and plan. I know. I’ve been in those shoes even if I cannot imagine the specific color or design.

Stress is stress. Feeling like you will be the one responsible for ruining/destroying your life at the time you are pursuing your dreams is a gut-wrenching feeling.

To you I need to say this – I believe in you.

If I could do this, a person who spent close to 10 years before (finally) getting an Undergraduate Degree, you need to know that you’ve got this.

You are strong and capable and while I know you internalize a lot, you also are so very, very capable.
Every accomplishment you have done, even the smallest ones like waking up to meet a deadline, is a huge victory because you are progressing towards something better. Maybe this is for yourself? Maybe this is for your family? 

The point is this – keep going. I am nobody special to those who do not know me and I expect, maybe, you feel the same. That isn’t true, however – you matter. You might lay awake at night seized by worry but just remember my story and the story of anybody who ever doubted.

No, words and stories won’t make everything better. What they will show you is that we made it. We, the people who to you are virtually imaginary and non-existent, have only our words to prove we existed. You might never meet me or anybody whose story inspired you … but you are real. You can clench your fists, buckle down, get what you need to do done, and you can make progress every – single – day.

I believe in you because I know, deep down, you believe in yourself. You have the spark of self-confidence inside you and it will blossom into a fireball of success if you keep at things.

Fight even when they are tough.

Fight even when they seem hopeless. 

Fight even when things defeat you.

In the end you will be the only one standing where you long to be and you’ll remember, like we do, that once the thrill of success was only a phantom whisper muttered in stories. Stories like these.

You will be the one to make your story a reality.

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