This past weekend was special. My family joined me to celebrate my accomplishment of (finally!) completing my bachelor’s degree. I traveled to the commencement ceremony in Columbus, Ohio because it was important that I acknowledge this achievement in-person. I really wanted the opportunity to savor it — to meet my classmates and those who I worked with in online courses, to meet my senior capstone adviser, to nervous-chatter and laugh (and cry a little), and to really feel proud of myself.

And I did.

This goal was personally important to me, and I had so much support from my partner during the last couple years to return to school and finish. He gave me strength when I had none. He (smartly) did not give me answers when I needed them. At times, this was a serious struggle — especially balancing work and travel and other life responsibilities. And other times, it felt impossible to see it through. All the trips that we took for long weekends, and I had to lug with me a laptop and a few books. Weekends and evenings completely devoted to writing papers and attending class sessions. I gave up volunteering. I retired from roller derby.

My life was one big note tornado.

And it was all worth it. But I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the impact of that stress — up to and including the commencement ceremony. For starters, I never received confirmation of my final grades, possible honor status, and a degree audit… until I had to ask for that information. Nobody from the school provided details about the commencement ceremony, save for a static webpage that told me what time to be there. I received no President’s Letter for my final semester. I never heard from the program chair congratulating me on my completion.

And then my heart broke when I realized that our program’s graduates (and, yes, including me) were completely left out of the program book. I tried my best to not let that bring me down (but you bet your ass I emailed the Registrar’s Office to demand a reprint).

I won’t do too much cheerleading here, but know that if you have a goal like changing careers or going back to school in your 30s: it will seem impossible, and you find yourself continually struggling with the day-to-day and wondering how to juggle life. It is all worth that final moment of walking across the stage and seeing that piece of paper with your name on it. To hear your parents or partner or kids tell you how proud they are too. Don’t ever let your age stop you from making changes in your life.

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For the record, I graduated Summa Cum Laude. Yep, that level of dedication was all worth it.

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