I recently discovered that the bachelor’s degree I thought I had earned back in 1999 is incomplete. You see, eleven years ago I was under the influence of raising small children; I was just trying to stay afloat in a world filled with diapers, play-dates and sibling squabbles. It’s not surprising that somewhere during that time frame I missed some important paperwork.
After I finished all of the coursework I needed to complete my BA in Psychology I took my exit exam and never looked back. I went about my life. Besides being a mother, I worked as an advocate for victims of domestic violence and as a skills trainer for the community mental health center before I landed my current position at the Homer Public Library. On each of the resumes I submitted for those jobs I proudly added that I had my bachelor’s degree. But it turns out I was wrong. A certain detail kept it from being official.
I had failed to submit the proper paperwork to the Psychology department when I changed my major from pre-nursing; a little thing, but big enough to throw my bachelor’s degree into a state of limbo for many years. Since I thought I was done it never occurred to me that there was a problem and since I didn’t go through the graduation ceremony I never really thought about the fact that I had never been given a diploma.
I could have blissfully gone through my life never knowing of this problem but about a year ago I decided that I would apply to the University of Alaska MFA program. The advisor at the college, who also happens to be my husband, went through my transcripts and discovered the discrepancy. Enough years have gone by that the Psychology department has different requirements than it used to and in order to actually get my degree I found out I was going to have to enroll again as a student, this time in the correct program, take a couple of classes and reapply for graduation.
At first I was in denial, “Surely they will make an exception for me,” I thought. Much time was spent whining and exchanging emails with registrars and department heads but soon enough I realized that although my case was unique, it didn’t warrant any special treatment. If I wanted to officially graduate then I had to go through the motions. That’s when I got angry. I didn’t want to go back to school and take classes that are irrelevant to where I want to be in my life. For a while I thought about just giving up on the whole MFA idea.
My obstinate attitude started to subside though when I attended the Kachemak Bay Writers’ Conference last summer and went to a discussion about the pros and cons of getting an MFA. It turns out that there aren’t many cons. If I want to improve as a writer, if I want people to take my writing seriously, then the MFA will only help me. The low-residency program makes it possible for me to work towards the degree and stay at my job. And the real clincher is that my husband (remember him, the academic advisor) works for the UAA system which offers tuition waivers for family members of employees, thus making the whole thing affordable. Really, it’s a no-brainer.
So once again I’m working on my bachelor’s degree. This time though, I’m making sure to follow all the rules. Tomorrow I’m off to my Psychological Statistics class and next week I’ll start Systems and History of Psychology. No, I’m not thrilled about the fact that for the next few months I have to spend so many hours working on courses that are essentially meaningless to me, but I’ve come to a place of acceptance about the whole matter. Really, I have. And who knows, maybe the statistics class will give me lots of new, interesting things to write about. I’ll be sure to let you know if it does.