So I finally did it – I graduated college May 20, 2015 with a Bachelors in Fine Arts!!!!
With this accomplishment and degree came THE question: what are you going to do with that fine arts degree?. And all I can say about it is it’s not so much what I’m going to do with the degree – it’s about what the degree has done for me.
My father was illiterate. My mother was lucky enough to have the opportunity to graduate from high school. We were low-income minorities living in Elizabeth. I never thought about going to college – I thought about surviving. About working and providing for myself and my family. But I just so happened to stumble across a job, that just so happened to be at a university, that just so happened to offer tuition free courses for employees. And something made me take that chance….just try it, for the hell of it. To see where it would lead me – it was an opportunity and I took it.
My degree is not one many are proud to say they have. Some are shunned and told it will lead nowhere. Some are told it is a waste of time and money. Some are told they will never find jobs. But for me – it was never a waste of time or money, because it was never really about the degree to me, or about a career. It was about personal growth – it was about challenging myself and taking a risk. It was about doing something that I truly enjoyed, and that for much of my childhood was so much a part of me already. From my love of music, to being creative and hands on….it was always who I was.
Pursing my degree in fine arts was truly one of the best decisions I’ve made. I’ve grown immensely from the experience. The saying “it’s the journey, not the destination”, rings so true for this experience. I’ve grown in ways that I don’t think I would have, had I stayed in my own little shell – in the safety of not trying, and just working and surviving. I’m much more open to others and life in general. I learned to step out of my box, to try new things, to get involved (not only in class but through my participation in college activities such as the CPTS (Council for Part-Time Students)). I’ve connnected with other students, both older and younger, as well as professors. I’ve learned so much in my classes and have been privy to conversations, cultures, and people, I would have never gotten a chance to meet and be part of had I passed on the opportunity. Not only that, but the experience helped me get through rough patches in my life – from my father’s illness which spanned the majority of my time at the university, to unemployment and heartbreak. It gave me other things to focus on. It was a channel I desperately needed to keep me on track and moving forward so that I wouldn’t be stuck drowning in my own sorrows and disappointments.
Yesterday (my graduation), went by in a flash. 10 years – yes, 10 years as a part-time student at my university (never giving up), and it all lead to 4 hours at a ceremony and 3 seconds on a stage to receive my diploma. Those 3 seconds a complete blur, but a culmination of what I had set my mind to 10 years ago.
I’m proud. Proud that I stuck with something for so long, and continued, even through everything that was going on in my own life. Proud that I can say that maybe I sparked a fire in my brother so that he too could begin his college career and eventually end up receiving his Masters in Social Work. Proud that there are now 2 college graduates in my immediate family. And proud that my parents (my father who is not here, but I know would have been proud of us), can see us moving forward in our lives and reaching for goals that they could have never even imagined for us.
So I say to those who ask me – it is not about what I am going to do with the degree….it’s about what the degree has done for me.