Just Heather

…I’ve spent the last 11 years as a stay-at-home mom, adding kidlets along the way. Going back to school was always on the radar (and, of course, made the 40×40“>official list) but I didn’t have a timeline and it wasn’t on my radar. Then, my business began to grow, and I frequently wished I knew more about managing it. An MBA was out of the question since I didn’t even have an undergraduate degree.

At one point, I looked into a business major but I would have been practically starting over after my previous 4 majors. I really didn’t have the motivation to start college as a freshman. It all seemed so pointless to me but I was determined to make it happen eventually, even if just to prove to my dad that I could. Then, a simple, passing conversation changed everything.

My parents were upset that my cousin didn’t invite people to her December ceremony. Dad commented that none of his kids had made it so this was a huge deal to him and they would absolutely have been there—even with Christmas days away. She turned to me in shock and said, “You never graduated? Didn’t you go to Ball State forever?” Let’s see…4 full years, as a matter of fact—including summers. They kind of don’t like to give you a degree, though, when you skip around and drop majors all the time.

That’s when she asked why I couldn’t just get a General Studies degree to be done with it. Huh…never occurred to me. It really got my wheels turning, and I contacted my former advisor at Ball State to see how that worked. She told me I was completely finished minus 1 core science course but I needed a few extra hours plus a BGS requires 2 minors. She turned my El Ed work into 1 minor, and gave me a list of all the minors offered completely online.

To make my decision even easier, she also highlighted 2 minors for which some of my other classes already qualified! I picked Psychology of Human Behavior—mostly because it required less classes but partly because understanding that can only be helpful to a parent. I would later find out that I took so many education classes I didn’t need the minor anyway. One “major emphasis” would count so I was able to stop with the horrid science classes to complete my last few hours of coursework with the business class I would actually use.

For two years, I have completed classes (mostly online), written papers, taken tests and had real &amp actual homework! It was a lot of work, and my family deserves all the credit! The school stuff was actually quite easy—it was just time-consuming enough to take me away from cooking, cleaning and managing things at home. (Not that I was ever good at those to begin with.) Spencer picked up a ton of slack, our marriage suffered (though this was certainly not our only issue) and the Mommy Guilt was frequently overwhelming.

Through the success of our alphabet dating project, the magic of a meteor shower and a lot of hard work, we are happier than ever. The Mommy Guilt, I’m sure, is here to stay. However, I am pleased to announce after 14 years, 10 moves, 8 towns, 5 majors and 3 kids, I am an official college graduate!


heather-at-high-school-graduationAlmost 15 years ago, I graduated from high school. At the end of the summer, I packed up and moved to Muncie, Indiana for college. Because that’s what you do next. I was enrolled in the College of Architecture & Planning—after 4 years of architectural & drafting classes, I thought for sure I knew exactly what I wanted to be when I grew up. Oh, to be young again and so sure of myself! Before the year was up, I had moved on to Landscape Architecture but that was only the first of many changes.

Just a few short months later, I met the man who would soon become the love of my life. Freshman life continued—I gained the requisite 15, drank a little, flirted with Spencer a lot and went to class when strictly required. Due to the intensity of my architecture program, classes continued through the summer. Most of my friends went home for a few months, but Spencer and I were left behind. The rest is history, and plays a big part in the twists of this story.

1997-010I had never really intended to get married and never saw myself having children. As a teen, I ignored all the people who told me everything would change when I found “the one” but I’m a believer now! Suddenly, my entire future changed. I had visions of Elyse Keaton, but it just didn’t feel right. My heart wasn’t in architecture anymore. Before school resumed in the fall, I changed my major to the only thing I could see working with our plans for a family—education.

My exact major was Early Education—I was going to teach preschool like my mom! She was always there for us before school, after school and in the evenings. It was what we wanted for our children. It only took a semester for me to widen my focus and change my major (yes, again) to Elementary Education with an Early Ed minor. I was actually enjoying my classes, and, once again, continued work through the summer to catch up on the time I lost with my first 2 majors. By then, I officially had a ring on my finger. I wanted to finish college as quickly as possible so we could move on to planning our wedding.

1998-025That’s when life threw us a big curveball—her name is Stacia, and she just turned 12. Because when I make plans, God laughs. Wedding plans shifted to immediately. We were married in August, I continued school and our daughter was born the following January. Just 6 days after she was born, I returned to classes (part-time) since my parents were convinced if I didn’t stay in school, I would never go back. As long as I continued college, they agreed to continue helping with my portion of the rent & groceries. As a broke newlywed with an infant, free money seemed like a good idea at the time.

I started full time again the following fall, and hated it! During the spring semester, I took a Foundations of Education class with a professor who changed my life. During a lesson on the purpose of education, he posed the question, “Why are you here?” My answer? Because my parents said I had to be. The discussion that followed was involved, thought-provoking and heart-wrenching.

I aced the class, with high praise on my final paper titled “Why I’m Dropping Out of School.”

I see I could have worked harder in all my classes, but I have also realized that it is not because I didn’t want to learn. My motivation lies at home with my family. I am much more concerned with my daughter and our relationship than I am with completing homework assignments. For this reason I have made the decision not to return to school next year. I am going to take a break until my family and I are more prepared. It is this class that made me realize I am in school for all the wrong reasons.

I should not force myself to take classes I do not care about just because it is important to my parents. School can wait until is a priority for me. When I return, it will be because I am ready to learn. The things I have learned over the last semester have empowered me to do what I feel is right for me and my family. Education is very important to me, and I do intend to return. This is just not the right time, and I now see that it is doing more harm than good for me to continue.

I wrote those words more than 10 years ago. I was practically still a child but clearly wise beyond my years! They still ring just as true to me today. I fully stand behind my decision to withdraw from Ball State. My parents, however, did not. I remember my dad telling me I’d never go back. I remember the look of disappointment on his face, and I became determined to replace it with pride. But only on my schedule. My time arrived 2 years ago, when I re-enrolled at Ball State University…