Tuesday, June 4, 2013

(another) New Chapter

I’m so glad I decided to go through with my graduation ceremony Saturday. It was great to see some of my old classmates and catch up on where everyone is heading and what’s going on with others in our little group.

Even though there were 1,700 former students in the graduation ceremony yesterday, only four of those were WRITers (that’s what we called ourselves in the writing dept.) I was one of those four and two others didn’t participate in the ceremony.

I was a little embarrassed to go back and face them and admit how hard it has been to find a job. One of my friends said, “I heard you are an editor now at the newspaper—that’s so awesome.”

I had to inform her that it was only temporary and they had just hired someone permanently for the job—and guess what—it wasn’t me.

Everyone’s faces got serious. We are all in the same boat—big, expensive degrees with no full-time, permanent writing jobs.

I’m not sure why, but it seems that I tend to get to be the guinea pig of life for my friends. I was able to catch them up on the freelance community in Savannah and point them in the right direction for part-time work.

With the bad news behind us, we got to move on to the good stuff in our lives. We made it through graduate school.

I thought I was the only one who struggled. We compared notes on the number of times we got into bed and cried and wanted to quit. We laughed about papers we hated to write and how that weird guy with the bushy hair who looks like he’s always wearing pajamas keeps his job as an Art History professor.
I even got a little award...not too shabby

And when the ceremony started and the music played, we leaned in close to each other and teared up. For the first time in a long time, I felt really proud of myself.

I felt like I finally achieved something really great…actually I know I achieved something really great. I started something and I followed through with it. That’s not very easy to do these days.

It’s funny because with each new task and struggle, I realize how much I learned from my mother. Nothing was ever good enough for her—and I don’t mean that in a bad way.
She is always satisfied with the simple things in life, but she is always looking for a way to make a little more money or to turn an old piece of furniture into something really special.

When we were kids, she would make popcorn every Friday night and we would watch television. It was never simple popcorn—she would go around her humble kitchen and put together a mixture of whatever she thought would taste good. And it always did taste good—it was also a taste that could never be replicated by someone else.

When I got married the first time around, Mom wore a red, Asian-themed dress to my wedding. We lovingly called it her “Chinese hooker dress.” While my grandmother didn’t approve, I loved it. Everyone who knows me well, knows my favorite color is red and I was happy Mom honored that.

After a few years, she recycled the hooker dress into a chair cover for an old padded rocker she found at the flea market. It made for a beautiful chair and a keepsake for a special day.

I know there is something really amazing about the ability to take the old and unwanted and turn it into something beautiful and unique—something no one else can fully replicate.

Life gave me a crappy divorce and left me at rock bottom with two children to care for and no job or healthcare. Somehow I have managed to turn that unwanted, ugly thing into something beautiful and unique—something no one else can ever replicate.

It doesn’t mean that my degree is better than everyone else’s because I feel I had to sacrifice so much to get to that graduation—there is no telling what other stories filled that giant civic center.

But, somehow I made it look easy. I found a way to make it work, and I found a way to make it my own.
I’m glad my mother taught me to be humble and to live simply. She taught me to find happiness in myself and my family. She taught me to take charge of my life and make things better even when the bank account is on empty and no one else knows how to help.

She also taught me to take a moment and enjoy what I made--and I plan to.

I have this renewed since of pride that I should have had when I finished classes in November. I realize now how important this degree is and how hard I worked for it.

I’m not desperate to find “just any” job now. To be honest, I decided to turn down any future job offers that aren’t worth of my talents and education because at the end of the day, I know I am worth more than an hourly wage desk job.

And, if no one wants to hire me, then that’s okay. I will just take another page from my mother’s untitled book and open my own business and create my own job—a job that no one else can ever replicate. 

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