1996: A year of milestones.
I graduated high school, celebrated a full year anniversary with a boyfriend, (in teen speech, that’s like 5 years!), enrolled and began to attend Middle Tennessee State University as a Freshman Music Education major.
1996-1998: Lead me Beside Distilled Waters
These two years can best be summed up in a few drunken slurs, as I was drunk most of the time. I was completely overwhelmed in my classes. Am I the only one here who can’t read music?!? I’m such a stupid singer! I’ll fake it. They’ll never know. OH GOD! THEY KNOW!!
I also joined a sorority which took up much of my time with hand clapping, float pomping, and snapping after compliments to each other in mandatory meetings. Snaps for Jennifer! That was the BEST formal EVER! Snaps for Stacey! The New Member retreat was SO much fun! Snaps for Sharon! She learned how to hold her liquor! I still find myself snapping when in groups of women. For instance, I was at a work meeting last night, and someone said something particularly awesome. Dammit. I was snapping before I could embarrassingly stop myself.
I skipped a ton of classes, ran up credit cards that were offered to me in the Student Union, took out Student Loans, sang in every ensemble on campus and off, and partied like the rock star I thought I was. I learned a ton about singing, but the other classes were the bane of my existence. It wasn’t uncommon for me to only go to classes where I sang. I had a string of boyfriends during that time. I forget how many, exactly, but we had fun.–I think. Again, I was DRUNK! So, all in all, in two short years, I ran through 3-4 boyfriends, ruined my credit, and flunked out of school. Next chapter in my life, please?
1998-2001 : MARRIED?! ALREADY?!
I left MTSU and regretfully moved back in with my parents. Somewhere during that time, I applied to a small private school in Pulaski, TN (you know, home of the KKK? It’s a nice, charming little town.) There, I went to one–count it, ONE– class before deciding the campus sucked. I never even spent the night in my dorm room. I knew the choir and music program would never be what I left at MTSU, so I packed my shit up and headed to my parents’ home again. (much to their surprise and dismay.) I ended up getting a job with Americorps and meeting my husband. We met in June of 1999 and were married in November of the same year. Don’t tell my kids how young we were. We were crazy. (We’re still happily together, but I wouldn’t advise getting married that young to anyone aside from an inbred hillbilly.)
In the fall of 1999, I began taking general education requirements at the local community college. Turns out I can be a damn good student when there’s no music building or sororities! I stayed there two years–completing all my gen ed courses and left with a 3.75 GPA! Boo-Ya! I was ready to go back to MTSU and finish my music degree.
2001-2004: The Yin and the Yang
SO.MUCH.FUN. Holy hell. These three years were seriously some of the best and most fun years of my life. Somehow all of the music theory shit that I failed the first time became EASY for me. I sailed through my music courses (besides piano. Sadly, I’ll never master the ivories.) and I sang. BOY DID I SING! I was older than the other undergrads, and this gave me a more mature vocal sound. I sang some great operatic roles and got fun concert solos. I sang for a summer in Austria. I sang in (and won) several competitions. I sang with the Nashville Opera. I became starry-eyed and changed my major from Music Education to Vocal Performance. I had my sights set on becoming an opera singer–and it looked like I could really achieve my goal.
In addition to scholastic and musical success, I made some of the best friends ever and we got into some pretty memorable shenanigans–But for the sake of the sacred pinky swear, I can’t reveal them to you. We’re all still really close to this day, and I love those girls with all my heart! (I even wrote about them in one of my blogs, “how I remember those days”)
During this time, the hot-as-hell hubby and I lived in a cute little apartment. He got up everyday and went to work while I got up and went to sing. It was fun–well, fun for me. He apparently didn’t care much for it, and I can’t blame him. He was responsible and hardworking while I sang all day and performed all night. On nights when I wasn’t in a show, I bar hopped to hear bands that my friends played in. Frankly, I was still living like a college kid supported by her parents when I should have been living like the mid-twenties-wife-who-happened-to-go-to-school that I was. We fought a lot. I cried a lot. Did I say this was a fun time? I lied. It sucked balls. We were unhappy as a couple and tried our damnedest to pretend otherwise. I even entertained the possibility of divorce to pursue my graduate degree in voice and my opera singer dream. One night, during finals week, we had the mother of all fights and were faced with the decision to make it work or walk away. We decided to make it work. (and since the smoke cleared, we’ve been happy ever since. This night was the best decision of my life.)
Everyone knows that after big fights there’s big sex, and we were no exceptions to the rule. Well, we got pregnant that night. Cue the next timeline dates!
2004-2012: How the hell DO you get to Sesame Street?
I was one semester away from graduating with my degree in Vocal Performance when we got pregnant with our firstborn. I had every intention of finishing…but I got sick in the mornings. I also think I self sabotaged myself. I had made the decision not to be a professional singer, so why would I do with this degree? I ended up a hormonally depressed and confused lump on the bed for a week and withdrew from school. Not the smartest decision, but It worked out.
We bought a house in the country and had our little baby boy. Two years later we had our baby girl. I was a stay at home mom for 8 years. I’ll not bore you with tales of sleepless nights, teething, breastfeeding, and the diaper trenches. You know that being a mom is hard without me proving it. Those eight years were tough, no doubt, but so much fun! I loved playing with out little munchkins all day long. It was a golden time in my life. There are albums upon albums of pictures on Facebook chronicling these happy years.
In those 8 years, I’d think about finishing school. I’d read online about friends graduating and think, “Why didn’t I do that?” Then I’d play Candyland or blow bubbles with the kids and forget all about it.
School soon beckoned for my little ones, and as our youngest went to Kindergarten, I went to work in the school.
2012-2013: WHAT? All this time I only needed two classes?!?!
I worked as a Teacher’s Aide in the school my kids attended and quickly made an observation. I’m as capable and smart as these folk. I’m actually smarter than some of them! The trouble was, no one seemed to take me seriously because I didn’t have a degree. A few phone calls later and BAM! I had an advisor who, after doing a degree audit, informed me that I only needed two classes to graduate with my bachelors in Liberal Studies and a minor in music. I about had a stroke. All this time I was only 6 credit hours away from a diploma? Sign me up!!!
This summer, I took those two classes, passed them, and will graduate on Saturday.
I may hold the record for “Longest time to complete a 4 year degree,” but it’s come with more life lessons than class lessons. I’m proud to tie off this loose end in my life and begin the next phase of my timeline–whatever that may hold.