I have finally finished college. It took me just above the average amount of time to do it. Seven years of higher education. It was not easy, specifically this last semester. I worked full-time during my last two semesters, which is something I would never recommend to anyone. If you care about someone, and they say they are going to do that, at the very least warn them as extremely as you possibly can that it is not going to be easy.
I worked very hard in 2009 to be able to get the test scores necessary to go to college. It was the first time I ever had to study for anything. When I got accepted to Kent State I was overjoyed. The day after I graduated from Bedford High School I moved out of my parent’s apartment to live with my best friend’s family in Stow. Shortly thereafter I was offered a job at the Kent State Financial Aid office. That was amazingly convenient and timely. I could start working mid-summer which meant I wouldn’t have to drive to Bedford everyday from Stow and back to work my previous job (I worked for the Bedford Court my senior year of High School).
But then it hit me, college is not going to be cheap. But, to my surprise I was blessed with a status known as “independent student”. This meant that my FAFSA (the Free Application for Financial Student Aid, a form you fill out to see how much your family should supposedly be able to contribute to your schooling, and what is needed after that to be made up by the Federal Government) results would only be based on my own income. Being a recent high school graduate, my personal income was very low and so the government was going to cover pretty much all of my balance. This situation seemingly couldn’t get any better.
It didn’t take long to get distracted from all of these good things. I got a girlfriend. My first girlfriend since Junior High School. Since I could remember, having a girlfriend was always a desire of mine. The unending feeling that I just needed to have a sense of intimacy. This void I felt was (and still is) most likely caused by the lack thereof when I was younger. I love my parents to death, but they were struggling with many things when I was young, and they too were seemingly distracted from the task at hand - loving their kids. They did their best in the circumstances they were faced with (from bankruptcy to being evicted from our house and many other things) but because the pressure of everything else was so intense, my brother and I were neglected the TLC two young boys require. To this day I still struggle in this area.
Anyways, because I got distracted, all of the sudden school was not that high of a priority. More so was my relationship. My list of priories at the time went something like girlfriend, ministry, and lastly, school. The distribution of care on concern was heavily unbalanced, with girlfriend probably taking up about 80% of my thought life, and really, time.
My grades reflected my distraction, and so did my life. I maintained my relationships otherwise as best as I could (much like my parents) but my life was my business, and I decided to lock it all up inside me. I tried my hardest to make sure my girlfriend would reflect this attitude as well, so our secrets remained within only our hearts.
While I was ignoring the things that mattered most and spending all my time and effort with my girlfriend, my father fell down outside a bar and hurt his hip pretty bad. He had already been in and out of the hospital on many occasions where they told him to stop drinking or his health would continue to decline. He never really listened and now, what I believe, is that the pain meds given to him for his hip actually sped the decay of his liver. It wasn’t long after that where he was back in the hospital, basically brain-dead. He could every now and then speak, and sometimes understand words. But for the most part he was gone and was only a shell of himself. He died when I was 20 years old. It was sad, but I had to stay tough as to help my family through it. Not to mention my heart was getting so cold that my ability to really feel what happened was missing. I cried hard a few times around then, but soon I was back to my selfish ways.
A few years of school had passed, somewhere around three I believe, and my desire for intimacy was seemingly back. As if I woke up one morning and no longer cared about my girlfriend. I decided to move on and be single for a bit. But with breaking up, the chamber of secrets was opened, and people were introduced to the real me. My shame threw me into a deep depression. I started to have some of the wildest thoughts. From thinking about running away and leaving all my friends and family behind (the destination in my mind was California), or maybe even killing myself. Facing my sin was the last thing I wanted to do, and so I ran. However I stayed in the same place. Only in my heart did I dessert my people.
During my run, my desire for intimacy pushed me to do things I never imagined I’d do. “I’m not like all those dirty people out there”, I felt. Yet, I found myself in situations I’d regularly speak out against. I was ashamed regularly of what I was doing, but because I was so far removed from any of my real friends, I had to keep this all inside. The pressure of this got so intense that I decided to make a pact with myself. I’d never think about the things I did during this time ever again, and nobody will ever need to know. My secret is safe with me and God, I imagined.
So time moved forward and I was on the journey of getting back on my feet. I decided to attempt to rekindle all my relationships and get my relationship with the Lord back to where it should be. This was my goal, and I made it very far. However my desire for intimacy was still there, and affecting me with my next girlfriend, and my concern for school was once again at an all time low. I continued to squeak by passing courses by a small margin, but my cumulative GPA continued to drop. The Federal Government had made some changes somewhere near my third year of school, and the amount that I received in Grants to pay for school was significantly lessened. I started piling up debt pretty quick.
Everything started to finally feel as if it was getting back to normal. I wasn’t being quite as dumb or selfish with this girlfriend but I definitely wasn’t perfect at it either. I was even starting to be fruitful again for God (meaning I was successfully reaching my friends for God). Still, for some reason, my priority list was all whacked out and school continued to be at the very end.
One summer when I was attending the Xenos Christian Fellowship Summer Institute in Columbus (a 3 day conference where you can really dig into some amazing truths about God), I was punched in the teeth with a surprise I never saw coming. The lady speaking at the session I was at started to talk about some of the things I was into post-first-girlfriend-breakup. For a moment I was just agreeing, nodding and thinking “yeah she’s right that stuff will mess you up”. Then it all came back to me in that instant. All the dirty things I once successfully stuffed so deep inside my heart started running through my head. It was surprising. I hated what I did so much that I had not thought of it again until that moment. Maybe I was just good at distracting myself from reality, but this caught me off guard. Immediately I’m begin fighting with myself and with God. “No, absolutely I will not tell anyone about this stuff, quit trying to get me to talk!”. I spent the entire drive home (somewhere around 2 hours) struggling and talking with God in my head while the other people in my car slept. Near the last third of the drive I was convinced I’d open up, but that was also a scary thought. I was so clear with people lately, what will they think of me? I felt that I was doing so well that being honest about this stuff would tarnish my reputation.
When I poured out everything that had been holding me back I felt so refreshed. All my friends forgave me for keeping this from them, when I seemingly told them everything else. It was a breath of fresh air. Now my heart could start to heal, and heal it did.
Then I made a mistake which only further delayed finishing college. I began working full-time. I had many dreams that I wanted to accomplish, and they all required money. School then being pushed even further back on my priorities (although it was already last on the list, more was added to the list, making the gap from first to last much larger). I was now going to school part-time.
It was either Father’s Day or my Father’s birthday, I was 23 at the time, and the deep sorrow and pain I missed out on when he died hit me like a wrench. I was feeling the death of my father then more than ever. Luckily I had good people around me who let me just talk and get it off my chest. I continue to feel it more and more even to this day.
My journey as a full-time worker and part-time school-er lasted for two semesters (my sixth year of school). Following that I got a new job, much closer to campus and so I decided I wanted to finish up quicker since I could make the drive back and forth. So began the busiest year of my life, my seventh year in college, twentieth year of school total if you count Kindergarten. I fixed my priority list, with God & ministry first, and school was number two. I wondered how I would actually be able to pull it off, and I was worried (up until about 4 months ago) that I wouldn’t.
The first semester went okay, but I didn’t get the grade I needed in one of my courses, which meant that the following semester would be even busier with a heavier course-load. I thought I’d be pretty busy, and boy was I right. Interestingly enough however, with being so busy, I almost felt as if I had more time. With probably the most time constraints I have ever had to deal with, I learned how to properly deal with free time and how to fit the right people in when it matters most.
The second semester came along and I was very scared. I mapped out every possible grade distribution I needed this semester in order to graduate. Being that my GPA was so low, I was right on the line of the required GPA to graduate from the Kent State College of Business Administration. First I mapped it all out on paper, checking with my advisor to make sure the math was right. GPA is based on “quality points”. Every grade letter received is backed by a specific amount of quality points. For example and A will yield 4 quality points per credit hour. Typical classes are worth three credit hours and I had 12 total credit hours, or four courses. In order to graduate I would need to receive 31.7 quality points this semester.
I worked it all out in a very detailed excel spreadsheet. All of my classes on separate sheets, with all my estimated grades culminating on the main sheet. This page will take whatever estimated grades are on the other sheets and add up the quality points. The first half of the semester I probably put a good weeks work into this spreadsheet.
Halfway through the semester I was formally diagnosed with ADHD from my psychiatrist. My diagnosis claimed that I was at the highest severity of this disorder. Although I wish I knew this earlier in my life (because maybe I wouldn’t have got so distracted all these years from what matters), this diagnosis came at a very crucial time in my career.
Once medicated, my ability to focus in school was insane. Something I hadn’t felt since the end of fifth grade. I believe it was puberty that set my brain off. Prior to that time I had good grades and was regularly in the paper for honor roll. I remember this clearly because my grandfather (probably the last person on earth to read a newspaper) would call me every time congratulating me.
My grades immediately skyrocketed, and studying became fun. How well I was on track to graduate became less of a worry when I began receiving full credit on my homework assignments and higher grades on tests than ever before in college. I had hope once again, and I gained a good amount of confidence.
Quick side-point, I don’t know where I stand on medication for ADHD totally. I think for adults it makes sense to get checked out by a psychiatrist if you are having trouble focusing. I do think that too many kids are medicated at a very young age, and their medications aren’t regulated in a way that helps them not be completely dependent on the meds. I think this is a mistake and we are only now seeing how it has affected our generation, being that in the very beginning of the nineties, the amount of children diagnosed with ADD or ADHD grew exponentially. Word of mouth spread to other parents about how their kids were crazy and they were diagnosed with ADD and now they are great little boys and girls. The amount of medications on the market also grew, because the demand grew so drastically. Point being, parents please be careful before getting your child hooked on meds for ADHD. In rare cases it makes sense for them to be on it long-term, but they aren’t cheap and when they fall off of your health insurance, they are going to run into trouble.
Anyways, thank God for my medication, especially at the time it came. This blog is already long enough, but I must say I left out tons of details to try and make it as succinct as possible. If you run in to me and you’re curious about a certain part of this story, please ask, I’m an open book.
To conclude my life-after-college story, I should take some time to quickly talk about who I am now and what’s next. First of all I still struggle with my desire of intimacy. I may never be fully cured of that, because although intimacy is healthy and right, the type my heart desires is skewed and unhealthy. My goal now is to try and tackle this issue as much as possible, now that it has been so clearly defined for me. I very recently had a situation that made this so clear. On top of that I also have an issue with trying to keep my reputation as clean as possible even if it means lying to the people that care about me most. I hate my sin, it really has held me back for so long. But I have hope that God will take care of me and help me through this and whatever else comes my way. Now that I am done with school I hope to work hard dealing with my character issues, and studying the Word of God.
Thanks to all my friends and family. Thanks to my psychiatrist. Thanks to all the companies that hired me over the years. Thanks to Kent State for giving me the opportunity to go to school. Thanks to the people who write the ACT and OGT preparation books. Lastly, thanks be to God for “the first shall be last”, and oh has God been good to me.
I’m walking at my graduation ceremony this coming weekend. This is something I felt I must do, since I’m the only person in my immediate family to graduate from college. I do wish my father could be there to see me walk.
P.S. - a few things that helped me get by this last semester.
The playlist I listened to the most during the semester:
48 best of 2015. The Spotify link is below.
The television show I watched in between long work days and study times to help clear my head and switch gears:
Comedy Bang Bang. Do yourself a favor and watch a few episodes.
Otherwise, when I had downtime out of nowhere I watched Bates Motel, Better Call Saul, and Workaholics. It’s amazing the free time you get the more busy you become.