In 2009 I began to emabark on a personal journey — to go back to school. My desire to do so dated from my departure in 1991, but it was only with the unflagging support of Mrs. Ardwulf that it was finally made to happen. I have been taking classes since 2010 and it was a very long, slow road, filled with potholes and faceplants along the way.
There were times that I didn’t think I would finish. One of those times was just before the start of the Autumn 2014 semester, when my financial aid was abruptly cut off. Just like that, it looked like I was done, two semesters away from graduating. Thankfully there was help. Arrangements were made, but in order to pull it off I had to pack everything that I needed into one semester. The university did their part by giving me a final-term grant so I could finish, and a family member lent me the rest until I could pull the money together. It was harrowing — at one point I was actually disenrolled.
The semester itself was backbreaking, bearing in mind that I have worked full time or more the whole time, at a real grownup job rather than at a part-time student gig. Sleep was often an unaffordable luxury; sometimes I didn’t have time to eat. I developed a variety of stress-fueled ailments. My beleaguered wife had to deal with me having very little time or energy to spend with her.
As the pieces started to fall into place in the autumn I kept my distance from the graduation. The paperwork was all done, and as the end of the semester loomed so did due dates and projects. I just didn’t trust that everything wouldn’t fall apart through some bitter mischance. I breathed sighs of relief as the grades came in, one by one, with room to spare. I got nervous when I got my line assignment. It’s not real yet, I’d tell myself. I kept on thinking that as I walked into the Schottenstein Center on Sunday morning, only to find my name on the list. But that still wasn’t surety, that I wouldn’t get a crushing letter in my envelope instead of a diploma, informing me that I didn’t qualify and would have to do more to graduate — which could not have happened. When I saw my name in the program I was still in a quantum state of believing and not believing.
When they handed me this, I believed. And there it is. After 25 years, with an 18-year break and five more years that felt even longer, it is accomplished. I look forward to having my life back.