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My Secret Shame: Part 2

January 27, 2010

Several times over the past 16 years I would visit the University advising office in the hopes that there was some way I could finish my degree without having to go back and complete that French class. Each time I was told no: I had to take the final semester of French, and that was that. Each time I would walk away dejected.

Cut to November, 2008. I was serving as an election judge for the presidential election. I was chatting with another judge, an older woman, about where we had attended college. Now, I never lied about not having finished my degree but it isn’t the first detail I announce about myself either. If I am asked straight out what my degree is in I tell the truth, but if someone only asks me where I attended college or what my major was, I answer that and only that. This woman flat out asked me about my degree so I confessed I didn’t actually finish. I told her about that last French class that had been hanging over my head. She said that she too, had been in that exact same position and she was allowed to complete a culture course instead. What? Angels sang and the heavens opened! Why had no one else ever told me about this?

True to form, I dragged my heels. I was still terrified of failing. I had been an abysmal student before and what if I hadn’t learned my lesson? My husband was constantly on me about finishing my degree. I told him I was scared, scared of screwing it up again. He told me that he would be there to support me and make sure I didn’t screw up. For the first time in a long time, I was able to throw off that mantle of fucking up and believe that I really could do this.

So a few weeks ago I re-enrolled at the University and met with my advisor. She told me that I could petition the powers-that-be to be allowed to take a culture course in lieu of the French language course I still needed. I had no idea what my chances were but I left her office with a glimmer of hope. I sent off my petition, describing my poor preparation for school and my lack of focus and discipline. I said there was no way I would go back and take the final session of French and I was in no position to take it from the first semester all over again. I said if I was not allowed an alternative course of action I would never obtain my long sought after degree. Then I waited.

Classes were starting and I desperately wanted to register. I checked my e-mail account every 15 minutes to see if I had a response. I received an e-mail update saying that there were many reasons not to approve my request and very few to approve it but the committee in charge of making the decision was leaning towards approving it. A week later I received notice from the senior advisor of the college of liberal arts that my petition had been approved. He said that no such request had been approved in the 13 years he had been in his position and my circumstances were extremely unique. I can’t express the joy that I felt in that moment, reading his e-mail as I stood in line to pay for groceries. Finally, my goal was in reach: I had a chance to redeem myself.

Due to a new requirement I also have to complete an additional psychology class. I enrolled in it straightaway, yet still have to find an available culture class to take. The secret I have carried all these years will soon be dissipated. I regret abusing the freedom and opportunity I was given those many years ago, but I am hopeful that I can prove to myself that I can do better, this time around.

4 Comments leave one →
  1. Mary permalink
    January 29, 2010 8:11 am

    Can I say, I just cried and I literally jumped up and down. I am so happy that you have decided to finish it. Go Maija!!!

  2. February 2, 2010 10:36 pm

    Congratulations! I am so excited for you to finally be able to finish. I can only imagine how you have felt with this “skeleton” in your closet! I look forward to hearing your completion of this milestone in your life!

    • mjjaaska permalink*
      February 3, 2010 2:21 am

      Thank you so much, Stephen!


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