Wednesday, April 21, 2010

A few thoughts about school and moving on

Here I am ... it's after 1 in the morning, and rather than being fast asleep in my bed, I am writing on my blog. Rather than let my occasional bout of insomnia get to me, I figured I may as well finally pen the thoughts that have been going in my mind lately about school and moving on to bigger things. A lot of people probably won't even care to read this, so I won't be offended if you stop here :)

School is really important to me. I never thought it would be this important, but it has become a major part of my life, a major part of my self-worth and well-being, and a major part of my best days. When I was in high school, I still got good grades - in fact, the only class I didn't receive an A in was my Spanish class my senior year that I ditched most of. But I didn't have plans for college. Halfway through my junior year, I had considered going to beauty college instead ... but somehow that never worked out. When I did decide my senior year to try going to college, I applied to a private Christian school in southern California (The Master's College). Though I was accepted and received an 8,000 dollar scholarship, finances would still be unattainable unless I was willing to take out more than 20,000 a YEAR in loans. I didn't even reply to the school, and gave up once more on the idea of college. MJC was NEVER an option. I always considered myself above that, even though I had considered beauty college ... the Spanish class I had taken my freshman year of high school had made me recognize MJC for what it was - a big, oversized high school with a bunch of kids who just hadn't grown up yet.

As most of you know, my life changed, and I ended up applying for BYU Idaho, and, of course, got in. Though I disagreed with some of the rules there (known as the honor code, there is a dress code portion that says you cannot wear flipflops, capris, or sweats on campus, which I thought was ridiculous), my teachers were phenomenal. Each of them cared deeply for not only my educational well-being, but for my emotional, physical, and mental well-being as well. One example: I was particularly sick for about two weeks in March of 2008 with pneumonia. Having missed several classes, as well as having had an emotional breakdown where I quit my job and almost moved home, I took a midterm for psychology and received a C- -- about 35 points down from my first test. On Monday, after I'd decided to stay in school, my psychology professor, Matthew Whoolery, (who was also my advisor since my declared major was, for some reason, psychology) called me into his office and talked to me for over 45 minutes about how life was going, and what he could do for me. He said he was really surprised my grade had dropped so much, and that he wanted to know how he could help me make sure I could still do my best in the class. After explaining everything to him, he offered to drop the test grade, and average my other test scores in its place. In addition to this extraordinary kindness, he just kept chatting with me until he knew I felt better about my situation, even telling me some fun books to read, and about his experiences in Egypt.

However, great as my teachers were in Idaho, the weather was not, and I came back to California and got married, where we decided to stay.

Fast forward to Spring of 2009. Though I was working 30 hours a week during the daytime hours, I decided at the last minute to take some classes at MJC, though school had already been in session for a week. I was able to add two classes that Paul was also taking. Though I enjoyed one of my teachers (who later became a mentor for me that wrote me a letter of recommendation ... but I'll get to that later :), I overall disliked MJC. It still had that immature, high school feeling to me, and I couldn't shake my discomfort of all the gang banger types swaggering around campus.

The beginning of August came around. My job hadn't been going so well; for months I had been so depressed and stressed that I would come home crying 2-3 times a week. I suddenly knew that I couldn't just work an office job making less than ten dollars an hour for much longer. It was time to move on. I decided that I would go back to school, and after setting everything in motion, registered for twenty units, and quit my job. My last day was August 28, and school started the 31.

It was amazing, when I really gave MJC a shot, how much I loved it. Within two weeks, my self-worth increased, and my depression literally disappeared. I was doing something to better myself, rather than working a stagnant job with no hope of progress. I started to have that fire in me again for doing well. My teachers' approval and encouragement meant the world to me. A's on my papers and margin notes saying, "good job!" made me glow more than most things in my life ever had.

My major had been undetermined up until this point. After one semester at BYU Idaho, I decided to change my major from psychology to English. But then I'd had a particularly annoying English teacher for creative writing, and decided that though I loved to write, I could write about other things. It was at MJC I found my niche. I had a history teacher, Professor Vallance, that made history come alive. I had always been interested in European history, but she not only made me love European history, but love Asian history as well. I had another teacher as well that made a huge difference to me; Professor Miller, who I mentioned above from a previous semester, was my political theory teacher. He, too, encouraged me and guided me until I decided exactly what I plan to do.

I figured out that semester that writing about history and political science and theory, and their correlations together is not only easy for me, but incredibly exciting! I found such joy from going from my world history class to my political theory class and being able to draw conclusions and correlations and causes and effects and on and on that I would talk to random people about how amazing everything fit together!

When school ended and winter break was here, I got so bored. I was ready to go back to school and take my 22 units! Advanced English, math, biology, three history classes, speech! I was ready to conquer. I was, however, a little dismayed I would have to take math again. I thought I had finished my math requirements at BYU Idaho, but it hadn't transferred to California schools for some reason. My first week of school, I appealed to the dean of mathematics to take my math class and give me the credits, but he turned me down. I also spoke to my professor, Heidi Meyer, about it, but she too said that the class would be different and that I probably needed to take it.

So, while I was excited about, well, most of my other classes (I'm not really a big biology fan, though I still have an A in the class), I was pretty disappointed I was taking math. But I needed it to transfer, and I planned to do my best. Within one week, I was so enthralled with math that I called my brother, the math nerd (compliment), every Tuesday and Thursday after class and told him all of the amazingly cool things I had learned about math! Fractals, tessellations, graph theory, math history, number theory! I couldn't get enough somehow ... It is amazing how a great teacher can change your outlook on everything.

This past November, I applied to UC Santa Barbara (as well as UC San Diego and a few CSU's) for their history department, though I plan to either double major in political science, or definitely minor in it. I have high goals for myself now. I don't plan to just stop at a bachelor's degree. I want to be that professor at a junior college that reignites the student that gave up to early. I want to be that professor that makes history and political science come alive! I plan on getting my doctorate in history, specifically an emphasis in French history, and someday making that dream of helping other students become more than just a goal, but a reality. But history isn't my only interest now - I want to take another math class because I've learned how exciting it can be! I want to learn more about the sciences and how "stuff" works. I want to take more speech classes and improve my fairly natural skills.

As I'm on my last week at MJC, I find myself growing sad. I am moving on to better, more exciting places! UC Santa Barbara (or possibly San Diego if for some reason Santa Barbara doesn't work ... but that's another story) is one of the top rated schools in not only California, but in the country! But I can't help but feel that I will miss the amazing teachers I've had this semester. I've already written much more than I'd planned to regarding my education, but I could fill several more paragraphs talking about all of the incredible teachers I've had - Professor Lunt for Western Civ, Professor Zermeno for Biology, Professor Sahlman for Speech and Debate, Professor Higginbottham for International Relations, Professor Netto for English ... and of course, Professors Vallance, Miller, and Meyer that I've already mentioned. These people, especially the last three, have cared deeply for my well-being, my education, and how I'm doing in life in general. And the people I've met at MJC have become good friends as well, and I will miss the friends I've made and seeing them on a near-daily basis. I may have never wanted to go to MJC, but I am so glad that I did.

So here I am, more than half an hour later, and I'm still rambling on about my college education. If you're still here, I applaud you. Tell me who you are so I know you're on of my true friends - you'd have to be to have read all of this! But I guess if anyone was to have read and gone away with one thing from all of this, it is this:

Don't give up. I never had plans to go to college, but it is thanks to wonderful teachers and mentors that I am where I am today, with goals to get a doctorate and become like those amazing people. As cliche as this sounds, go for your goals. Do what makes you happy. If you're in a job you can't stand, or if you're in a place where you just need something different, go to school. Take out a loan if you have to, but do something to better yourself. It will be worth it. It has changed my life, and I am so, so glad I gave my goals a chance.


Chad and Clair said...

I'm glad that you have found what you want to do and that you get to go somewhere new and exciting and take your new furniture with you! Haha You are a hard worker and very determined...I think that's why we get along so well!

Boyd Jahnke said...

I live a long way from you, Elizabeth. I am up in Canada, on an acreage near Edmonton, Alberta, sixty years old with a wife and eight children. So the distance between us is likely more than physical in some sense ~ there is a cultural and generational and gender distance there as well. But even with all that distance I resonate joyfully with what you are saying.

I ran across your blog from a link posted by a FB friend of mine, Judi Dalton.

I have just read your "education and moving on" post and I am thrilled to see how you have come alive to knowledge. Your thoughts are actually inspirational and I hope and will pray that you do find yourself teaching history and political theory some day.

Hold on to truth with both hands and cling to Jesus with all your heart. There are many in the academic world who will try to undermine your faith, even destroy it. But we need women (and men) of faith in our educational institutions desperately.

Keep up the good work and peace and grace to you as you pursue this dream, and may God bless you and make fruitful every good deed prompted by your faith, no matter where He decides to take you :-)

PG&E said...

Thank you, Boyd! I'm glad you were able to read, and thank you for your kind and encouraging words!

Jess(ica) said...

First, throw me on the "true friends" list because I read the whole thing.

Second, make sure I am on the top of the "true friends" list because I enjoyed reading the whole thing.

Third, I am so glad to hear how excited and rejuvenated you are about school and life. I remember talking to you last summer when you hated your job and wanted to quit and how happy I was that you were able to quit and return to school! I agree - people should go for their goals and do what makes them happy. You only have one life and why settle for something boring and mondane (I know I spelled that wrong) when you do something exciting. Hmmm... actually I have been thinking about this in my very own life. As much as I love being an insurance adjuster, it's only about a 3 on the excitement-o-meter haha.

love you!

Stacey said...

I just wanted to let you know that I really enjoy your blog! I especially related to this post. When I first got married I wasn't going to school and felt bouts of depression. I decided to give MJC a chance and loved it too. I still love school and learning-anything! I strongly believe in setting goals! At the beginning of each year we write down our family goals, business goals, and personal goals. I really feel like it gives us more direction. By the way, I would love to get together to exchange recipes. I would have gotten back to you sooner, but its been a long couple of weeks.

Allan said...

I'm glad that I decided to glance through your blog tonight because I enjoyed reading your essay all the way to the end! My memory takes me back to when you were a very little girl in the 'hood. Now, it is awesome to read about the journey that God has been taking you on. Blessings to you!