On Crossing Finish Lines…

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So, I crossed an important finish line last weekend. It was my college graduation:  I finally finished that degree that I began over 15 years ago. The one that I amassed way too many (250!) credits for at five different colleges. No, not the degree in Liberal Studies, Spanish, Intercultural Studies, or Exercise Physiology (yes, all majors I’ve had.)  The one in Social Sciences– because that’s the one that was available in a fully-online degree completion program. That one.

Icould tell you all the stories, about all the hang-ups, the bumps in the road. There were so many. It would be long and exhausting, though, so we’ll skip them. But after all of those problems and disappointments, it became this big thing for me– the impossible goal. Something that seemed so effortless for the average person had become unconquerable for me: a driven, intelligent person who is not afraid of working hard for what I want to accomplish. Why couldn’t I get it done?
There were absolutely ridiculous scenarios in the last couple of years, when I decided to finally finish my degree… Final exams taken in hotel lobbies, from a hospital bed, on the road as we were staying in dozens of different places… I was going to school full time as we were setting up our life in Germany, as Jeff lost his job and we were packing up our life, moving from place to place, and sleeping in over 20 beds before we came here. All of that and our final move to England threw me for such a loop that I took the year off. And then I didn’t want to start again, because I believed that I might actually have a curse on my educational goal, and I was afraid to start it again, lest something crazy happen to all of us. I’m completely serious here, people.  It had totally unnerved me. But it was killing me that I had invested so much over the years, and that I still hadn’t crossed that finish line. So I decided to start again, one last time, last fall.

And I finally finished. My graduation ceremony for those in my class was held last Saturday at Portland State University. I wished that I could have been there. In fact, this was one of those times that was hardest for me to be away from “home” for. I wanted to have a big party to celebrate, for the people who knew all of the struggles I had had in this endeavor to be able to witness that finish-line moment. I actually spent a lot of the week leading up to that day pretty weepy, as I was still processing the fact that is was done and also mourning the absence of community to support me as I closed that chapter.

There was another difficult aspect, too. I actually felt kind of embarrassed that I hadn’t managed to finish my bachelor’s degree until now.  I didn’t think I could write about it here at first, because I felt kind of dumb. This has been something that I’ve carried some shame about over the years– my peers earned their masters degrees 10 years ago. No one ever made me feel bad about it, but I did. While I have skills and advanced training and experience in other areas, this was something I had always wanted and expected from myself.

But it’s also the shame part of the experience that has actually compelled me to write about it here. Because I know we all have things in our lives that have seemed impossible.  We all have finish lines that were crossed too quietly, without the recognition or celebration those personal victories deserved.  I want to share my triumph with you, even though it’s not monumental. It’s very significant to me, though, and I could use a little camaraderie. And I want to encourage you to acknowledge and celebrate your personal milestones, as well!

Jeff and Amelia did a great job of celebrating me, and I am lucky to have them. Jeff took me to a very cool venue for a genuinely awful lunch. Then he and Amelia set up a little cake-and-champagne reception in our garden.

(Jeff watching the champagne cork sail over the fence into our neighbors’ yard– very gratifying.)

Would you be willing to share something you are really proud of accomplishing? I would love to hear about it.  We’ll have a little party here!

This post was shared at:  Thank Goodness it’s Monday.


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36 Responses to On Crossing Finish Lines…

  1. Beth June 23, 2013 at 12:26 pm #

    I’ve so enjoyed reading through your journeys. Congratulations on your degree! It IS a feat worth celebrating.

    I’m a full time student myself and single mom taking a little longer than normal to get my degree. That’s the best thing about college. Everyone’s path is different but we all get to cross the same finish line in our own time. 🙂

    • Ariana Mullins June 26, 2013 at 6:00 pm #

      Thank you, Beth! And good for you– working on your degree while taking care of your kids– so much work!! I wish you well as you finish.

  2. BJ Hoover June 23, 2013 at 12:40 pm #

    I feel your joy! Your story is so like mine…it took me 20 years. By the time I finished I had over 160 credits, went to 5 different schools with 6 different majors. The ability and desire were there, but life kept getting in the way of school. It was such a relief, and feeling of freedom, to finally finish. One of my happiest moments.

    • Ariana Mullins June 26, 2013 at 6:01 pm #

      Thank you for sharing your story– such a huge relief, isn’t it? It’s always nice to hear that others have walked a similar path!

  3. Winnie June 23, 2013 at 12:41 pm #

    Congratulations! That’s quite an accomplishment, Ariana: most would have given up on finishing long ago. You should be very proud 🙂

    I wrote a book recently that will be published in December. It was a longstanding goal, so I feel good about accomplishing it.

    • Ariana Mullins June 26, 2013 at 6:02 pm #

      Thank you, Winnie. And thank you for sharing about your book– that is SUPER exciting, you must feel so great! I’ll look forward to hearing more about it.

  4. Kristin June 23, 2013 at 12:50 pm #

    Congratulations Ariana! That’s a fantastic accomplishment!

  5. Joanna June 23, 2013 at 1:52 pm #

    Well done and you should be proud of yourself for getting there in the end.

    As for me, I took my bachelors way back in 1985, last year I completed my Masters after four years of study and two universities. Now I’m onto another university in a different country to study for a PhD, only another 3 1/2 years to go. See you have plenty of time yet! 🙂

    • Ariana Mullins June 26, 2013 at 6:03 pm #

      Thank you , Joanna! I’m impressed that you returned to academia over 20 years later, how exciting!

  6. Hazel June 23, 2013 at 4:21 pm #

    Congratulations and well done for persevering when it would have been much easier to just not bother 🙂

  7. Anonymous June 23, 2013 at 4:48 pm #

    lunch was awful….oh no! Doesn’t matter though because you DID it, congratulations, what a wonderful accomplishment. You should feel proud that you crossed the finish line. Robinlee

    • Ariana Mullins June 26, 2013 at 6:04 pm #

      Thank you, Robinlee! I am used to awful meals here, so it wasn’t too big of a deal. The cake was wonderful!

  8. Selena @ Oh, the places we will go June 23, 2013 at 5:51 pm #

    Congratulations! You should be so proud. And what an example for your lovely daughter. Well done,

  9. Susan June 23, 2013 at 5:53 pm #

    Congratulations on achieving this wonderful goal. You should be very proud of yourself. Some of us have never been to even one day of University 🙂

    I’m sorry you couldn’t celebrate with a large group of your “people”, but glad that those nearest and dearest spoiled you with cake and bubbly. Enjoy your achievement, and God bless you all.

  10. Anonymous June 23, 2013 at 6:34 pm #

    I thoroughly enjoyed reading this post! I feel like you wrote about me! I am in my (ahem) thirties, three children, moving every three years (military spouse). I too am working on my Bachelor’s degree. I will celebrate with my husband and children but will make sure I don’t have an “awful” lunch. (kidding) I am so glad I found your blog! I smile every time I read it.

    -Vic from Ft. Lewis, WA

    • Ariana Mullins June 26, 2013 at 6:17 pm #

      Hi Vic– so glad that you can relate to my journey. And I love that reading my stories makes you smile. Thank you!

  11. Gina Howie June 23, 2013 at 8:08 pm #

    Congratulations!!! I loved reading your post. It is wonderful for you to share so that we can all be inspired ~ and you are inspiring! Shame is a horrible thing ~ I think it has a very hard time surviving if you tell your story and get it out.
    Enjoy your success ~ you deserve it!

    • Ariana Mullins June 26, 2013 at 6:18 pm #

      Hi Gina, I agree with you that telling your story is a very powerful way to get rid of shame. Thank you!!

  12. This Woman Writes June 24, 2013 at 6:40 pm #

    Congratulations — because you kept at it, because you never gave up, because you reached the finish line. Dreams are beautiful things, but they take a massive amount of determination and hard work to come to fruition.

    (As an aside — please never feel dumb because something is “taking too long” or you’re doing it in your own, unique way. One of the smartest things we can do in our lives is eliminate the imaginary voices of others, rattling around in our head.)

    Congratulations again. It’s time to read a good book.

    • Ariana Mullins June 26, 2013 at 6:19 pm #

      Thank you so much, This Woman Writes. I agree with you about silencing those ridiculous voices. And I have been reading some good books lately, and it sure feels great!

  13. Anonymous June 25, 2013 at 1:14 am #

    Congratulations Ariana! Don’t feel ashamed that it took longer than you thought it would; be proud that you started it and saw it through! I’m a little bit older than you I think and haven’t reached my educational goals yet. You are a great inspiration to me and I applaud you!

    • Ariana Mullins June 26, 2013 at 6:19 pm #

      Hi Julie! Thank you so much for your encouragement.

  14. marcinsen June 25, 2013 at 3:21 pm #

    Hey, congrats!
    This is actually very inspiring, because I have this problem. I left university years ago to travel and do lot of other stuff, I thought I was going to do it later, but I never got around it. And now it’s haunting me. I still have dreams about going to uni and being completely lost:) I think once I sort out my job (I’ve just arrived), I’ll get around it. At least that bloody bachelor degree:) I’d go for special needs teaching, this is my thing.

    • Ariana Mullins June 26, 2013 at 6:21 pm #

      Hello Marcinsen! Yes, you can finish that thing! I think older students have some advantages, because they have seen more of life and the world, and have a stronger sense of self. Hopefully, this leads to a more appropriate degree choice. My husband did his masters in special needs, and that eventually lead to a great job overseas!

  15. Marisa June 25, 2013 at 6:36 pm #

    Hoorah!!! Such a wonderful celebration for you Ariana, and I’m so glad you shared with us here. And I hate to think of you feeling embarrassed or shamed but I understand those feelings well. We all have these narratives in our heads that are hard to let go. But I can just about guarantee you that no one is embarrassed *for* you – we are all thrilled to celebrate with you. And hopefully our cheers (here in the interwebs) will help buoy you in regard to being away from your support group at home :)One of my very best friends just finished her degree quite recently as well. Your story with all its setbacks and struggles reminds me so much of her story – and honestly I think in many ways it makes your successes much more meaningful 🙂 Biggest congratulations for your perseverance and your wonderful accomplishment!

    • Ariana Mullins June 26, 2013 at 6:22 pm #

      Thank you very much for your encouraging words and sincere cheers from Seattle, Marisa! Such a relief!

  16. Nathan June 26, 2013 at 1:24 pm #

    I think it means more when you do it yourself, through all sorts of interruption and turmoil. Many university experiences are just going through the motions at the “right time”, but at the expense of mature learning. Your path has been long, but, you had the opportunity to approach your learning with many different perspectives and life experiences mixed in.
    Congratulations! Your persistence is admirable and you have reason to celebrate! Love you!

    • Ariana Mullins June 26, 2013 at 6:24 pm #

      Thank you, Nathan. I do kind of marvel at the many people who sign up for school, do it for four years (especially the ones who don’t have to work much at the same time) and just finish, easy as that! To me it seems miraculous, yet it’s the norm for so many people! And you’re right that my “education” has so many interesting elements mixed in… Thank you!

  17. Nikki Wall July 13, 2013 at 4:41 pm #

    A belated congratulations!

  18. outboundmom.com July 27, 2013 at 3:50 am #

    Congratulations! I know the feeling all too well! In 2005, I went back to school to get certified to teach. It should have taken me two years; I JUST finished in 2012. I still have a pesky thesis that is keeping me from my earning my masters. Sometimes I really want to just say ‘to hell with it!’ but that would be suck a waste since I am soooo close. My goal is to complete it this year. Well, really not a goal since I have little choice as long as my university has already granted me an extension and this is my final deadline. It’s do or die time! – Melissa

  19. Kr Oli August 10, 2013 at 5:03 pm #

    Congratulations!!!I’m admiring that it’s all been achieved in a busy life. Such an inspiring example helped me a lot to look out for the positives.Beautiful photo too! kristina


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