37 Years and 6 Universities

IMG_3276 - Version 2I started college at Oregon State University, way back in 1977 . Now, 37 years and six universities later, I have finally earned my Bachelor’s degree. Done, finis, no more!

This is the hardest thing I’ve ever done, including childbirth. At least in childbirth, it’s over in a day, you have a gorgeous baby to hold in your arms, and you forget the pain enough to have another one. Raising those children goes in waves of wonderful highs and worrying lows, but overall brings great joy.

College, on the other hand, is a sometimes enjoyable, always relentless, seemingly never-ending effort that costs a whole lot of money! For me, it included:

  • 1977-79: two years at OSU in Elementary Education. I was young, single, and my whole life revolved around college – no problem.
  • Get married, stop college to work and earn my PHT (Put Hubby Thru).
  • Two music classes at University of Central Florida, while Hubby is in Navy Nuclear Power School.
  • Four classes plus all the transfer credits to receive an Associate’s from Mohegan Community College (now Three Rivers CC). First baby born just before last semester started. (Hubby on first submarine)
  • 1-1/2 years part-time at Idaho State, still Elementary Ed, while Hubby at nuclear power training site. Second child born in the middle of that (having a baby three weeks before finals is a whole ‘nuther blog post!).
  • San Diego, Hubby’s second submarine, no college except a weeklong writer’s conference at BYU Hawaii (fabulous!), with extra work to receive college credit for it. Third child born.
  • Hubby out of Navy, settle in Indiana, change major to English at IUPUI (Indiana University Purdue University Indianapolis), take three classes in 1994-95. Can’t carry on with three kids and part time work.
  • 2011-14: Back from living in Ireland, college sons back home with us. Two or three classes each semester, push through with the help of some horrible eating habits, and . . . ta dum! Bachelor’s in English, along with twenty extra pounds.
Look at the cake my amazing husband got for me!

Look at the cake my amazing husband got for me!

But why do it at all? I’m not going to use a degree for a promotion or to get another job or change careers – I’m going to keep writing, and that doesn’t require a degree. So why put myself through all this?

First, I love to learn. As much as I won’t miss the pressure, I will miss going to class. I’d love to keep going if I could do just one course a year. It keeps me involved, thinking, learning. I had some great writing professors, met some awesome classmates who write beautifully and whom I hope to keep learning from (*waves*), and while I didn’t have time to write any of “my” stuff, I wrote a lot. I’m a better writer now than I would have been otherwise, and I have some essays and maybe short stories to keep working on and send out.

But as far as learning goes, there are many other areas I could have reveled in.  I suppose it comes down to the fact that finishing my degree has been a lifelong goal: something I started long ago and, for whatever reason, was still important enough to me to push toward in my 50s. My working career would have been much different if I had finished in Elementary Ed years ago – I would have skipped countless secretarial jobs and gained plenty of material for my children’s books – and I’m a teacher at heart. But I found that I didn’t enjoy the classroom management part of classroom teaching and figured if I was going to earn my degree, it may as well be in what I want to do: write! Mostly, though, I just plain wanted it. I’m sort of stubborn that way, and blessed with an amazing husband who puts up with me.

So what now? It’s been two weeks since graduation, and I’m beginning to remember how to relax. Sort of. It helps that while most of the family went home after Mother’s Day (yes, we graduated on Mother’s Day!), my mom doesn’t return to Oregon until later this week. We’ve been gardening, reading, gardening, shopping, gardening . . . you get the idea. Tons of hard work, but physical, not mental. The foundation of my backyard landscape is in and my brain is beginning to click again.  Plus, we had lots of fun times with The Cutest Granddaughter in the World.

KC and her great-grandmother

KC and her great-grandmother

Life from here out will include figuring out how to make my physical health a priority instead of letting it slide to the back burner as usual, spending time with long-neglected friends, writing a few letters, playing the piano again, maybe finishing the curtains in the house (3 years after moving in), and . . . wait for it . . . a trip back to Ireland in September – the best graduation present ever!

On the writing side, all I’ll say today is that on Monday it begins anew. There’s plenty planned, but you’ll have to wait for the next blog post to find out what!







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6 Responses to 37 Years and 6 Universities

  1. Wow! Jennifer, you’re the poster child for perseverance. Some writers get discouraged when they don’t get an agent within, say, two years, and don’t get a publishing contract within three. You show us that lifelong goals are worth however much time they take to achieve. Congrats on your degree. i have no doubt you’ll meet your publishing goals, too.
    Pat O’Dea Rosen recently posted..Baton Blog HopMy Profile

    • Jennifer Jensen says:

      Thanks, Pat. I’m definitely a turtle, not a hare, and life doesn’t always follow a straightforward plan. But it feels so good to be done! Stay tuned for publishing plans . . .

  2. Jennifer, I would think that you must love to learn in order to pursue that many years of education. I admire your quest for learning. You go girl! But it has to feel like quite an accomplishment to have finally finished. Yay! Go P.U.!! Oh, and enjoy your trip to Ireland! It is one of my favorite places. I would move there in a heartbeat. I felt like I was home. So awesome that you get to go back and visit! ((Hugs!)) And congrats!!
    Karen McFarland recently posted..A Whale of a TaleMy Profile

    • Jennifer Jensen says:

      Hey there, Karen! It wasn’t really 37 years of education (other than life lessons), just 37 from start to finish. I had lots of detours! As Dory said, “Just keep swimming, just keep swimming.”

      Ireland will be a blast, three full weeks! Time to see old friends and get to places we never did while we were there. And hopefully the weather will be good when we get to the Skelligs and we’ll get to go out again. Cheers!

  3. Alana says:

    Congratulations! That’s quite a journey. I thought my own was long and complicated 😉 I decided to pursue my MFA for similar reasons. It might not make me any more money, but I’ve learned how to be a better writer and was able to devote dedicated time toward the craft and study of it. All said and done, I’m glad I did.
    Alana recently posted..On (Not) Being a Failure: My Post-College JourneyMy Profile

    • Jennifer Jensen says:

      HI, Alana. I thought about an MFA, but found I’m not all that thrilled writing literary short stories. I’d much rather use the skills to craft better commercial fiction! But with your MFA, teaching at a university is open to you to supplement your writing, so that’s a plus on the financial side.