A Few Credits Shy of My Mother’s Final Wish

When I originally started out on my college journey, I had really high hopes for myself. And then I got there. I really had no clue what college was all about. In some ways, I still don’t.

Neither of my parents went to college. My older brother Juan did and graduated in four years. I didn’t understand that’s how it worked. You took fifteen hours a semester, passed all of them, and graduated in four years. Seems easy enough. But this is me we are talking about.

Doesn't really mean much,
Doesn’t really mean much.

I can still remember meeting with my advisor those first few days at St. Ambrose University. He asked me how many hours I wanted to take? I asked him how many should I take? (Always answer a question with a question, right?) He said you can take anywhere from twelve to eighteen hours each semester. Now I’m no mathematician, but why on earth would I take eighteen, when I could just take twelve? Um, I’ll take twelve please.

I was signed up as a journalism major. So I believe I had an intro to writing class, a math for beginners class (which I’m not sure even counted as actual credit hours) , a religion class, and some sort of science class. A few weeks in, I found out you could drop a class and still be considered a full-time student. Bye-bye science.

Now, of course, my parents had no idea about any of this. I told them all about the classes I was taking and they seemed excited. Well maybe relieved is a better word. Little did I know at the time that if you took twelve hours, or fifteen hours, or eighteen hours, it was all the same price. Again math has never been my thing.

I came home for Christmas break already knowing my grades. An A, a B, and a C. Oh and a “W”. So my GPA was a 3.0. Not bad for a first semester in college, right? Well, when the report card actually came to the house, I was ecstatic to show it to my parents. But for some reason the religion teacher didn’t get her grades in on time (true story), so the report card was even better than I imagined. An A and a B.

My Dad tried to be encouraging and asked, well where in the hell are the other grades? Well, I’m not quite sure, but I do know I “earned” a C in Religion. And don’t worry the W doesn’t count for anything. Again, they seemed more relieved than upset. But we did have a long talk about maybe shooting for the stars and taking a few more hours next semester. I said I’d think about it. Perhaps I’d give it a whirl.

And I did just that. I met with my adviser again and told him I was ready to up my game. I took another writing class, another math class, some philosophy for good measure, another attempt at science, and Com 103 (Speech). I was going to do this! I was bringing home some major hours this Spring.

Didn’t take long to drop the ol’ science again. But the real toughie was Speech. I had never been a very shy person, but something about getting up and talking in front of an entire class of kids, sober, was overwhelming. I attended class until the day of the first actual speech. Instead of going to class, I brought my withdraw slip to my professor’s office to get his John Hancock on it. I gave it the old college try.

So that Spring I again came home with a mere nine credit hours. I had accomplished half of what other students my age had in a years time. I’m sure there were a lot of students who got the full eighteen hours and saved a shitload of money. Not me. I wasn’t one to rush things.

It went downhill from there. I spent one more semester at SAU and decided it was time to come home and figure life out. At nineteen. I did my stint at Community College with my bestie, Dolleen. I just signed up for whatever she was signing up for because that would be fun. So, once again, I find myself in Speech class. This time I meant business. I went to every class and even did the first few speeches.

Then one Wednesday night we were out at a bar called Bucko’s. Wednesday was Buck-o-beer night. You really can’t pass up a deal like that. Even though we had our final speech the next morning. My plan was to go for a few, then go home and write a speech. At that point in my life I had never “gone for a few”. But, I thought I’d give it a go. Nope. Didn’t happen.

My good friend, Dutch, sat me down and asked in so many words, what the hell are you doing here when you have a speech due tomorrow? Calm down, old man, who are you my Dad? I’ll just get up early in the morning and write it and it will be fine. Dolleen was also wondering how I was going to pull this one off. I reassured everyone that it would all work out just fine. And it did. Not.

I slept over at Dolleen’s and shockingly, I did not get up early to write my speech. Yet, more shockingly, I still went to the class. Why in God’s name I did this I still don’t know. Dolleen was so embarrassed for me. I still remember what I was wearing. A pair of green sweatpants with shamrocks down the sides. You know, because I’m Irish. So when the teacher called my name I just said, no I’m just not feeling it today. Are you sure? This counts for like 95% of your grade. Nope, I’m good, but thanks. What a freaking weirdo I was. I ended up with a D in the class. All I needed was a C.

So then, of course, I had to take it a third time. Because when they say it’s a prerequisite to graduate, they mean it. So now I’m like twenty-four and taking Com 103 for the third time. Nailed it. I realized preparing a speech and reading it in front of a class of other idiots is really not a big deal. No one is even listening. My last speech was about being a bridesmaid. It just so happened that the teacher was getting married that summer and loved it. I got an A. So take that! Whoever takes stuff like that.

My parents were so proud, they actually sent me flowers. It was really the lowest point in my life. Even I knew, having my parents be so excited for me to pass a speech class was pretty sad. I bet Juan didn’t get flowers for graduating in four years.

But I was motivated. My mom really wanted me to graduate college. And she was really sick at the time. She wanted to me to be a very strong and independent woman who could take care of myself. She didn’t live to see me graduate a few months later. So I never got to tell her I’m a strong independent woman because of the example she set for me. Not because of any diploma I have. Oh, and one more thing, thanks for dying before you making that final tuition payment.

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