I'm Graduating With Honors After Failing Out Almost 10 Years Ago
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I'm Graduating With Honors After Failing Out Almost 10 Years Ago

It does't matter how long it takes you, what matters is that you keep working toward what you want.

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I'm Graduating With Honors After Failing Out Almost 10 Years Ago
Grand Canyon - Magen Castronova

It's taken me a long time to come to terms with my story. You'd think that after all the college and scholarship application essays and interviews that I'd have a grip on it by now, but it really wasn't until I had to sit down with my transcripts and fill out the dietetic internship application that I realized how far I've come.

I started college right out of high school in 2008. I'd just had major knee surgery that summer, and I was living at home. Most of my friends moved away for college, and although we kept in touch, I was pretty much on my own. I hadn't actually wanted to go to college right away, but I didn't have any other plans. To be honest, I was pretty ho-hum about it. In a very mediocre and ungrateful way. I wanted to pursue art and painting, but I didn't have familial support on that front, so I majored in Education. My grades sucked. I excelled in what was interesting to me and totally blew off everything that wasn't. I did that for a year.

I realized that if I was going to succeed, I needed to switch to a major that I was actually passionate about. So I petitioned the Fine Art program, spent all summer making art, and I was accepted. After a few months of being told what to paint, how to paint it, and how fast to paint it, I was exhausted. It wasn't what I hoped it would be. Looking back I know it wasn't the program, it was me. I really just didn't have the confidence to proceed. Criticism was super difficult for me, but I learned a lot about art and myself during that time.

Then I met someone who changed the course of my life. We spent way too much time together and I let everything else fall by the wayside. I fought with my friends about him, and isolated myself. Eventually, I stopped going to classes with one excuse or another and landed failing grade after failing grade. I withdrew from school. I basically failed out of art school. I was not impressed with myself and neither was anyone else. So to say that things got rough after that would be an understatement. I argued with my parents, my friends, and I delved deeper into my relationship. I clung to it like shit on a cow's behind. The more he screwed up the more humiliated I was, the more I hated myself, and the more I covered for him. Cheating. Gaslighting. Lying. Financial withholding. Manipulation. Physical, verbal, and emotional abuse. Everything was my fault and to say otherwise would be to invite a shit storm of misery into my life.

I was working a lot, as a nanny. I worked with kids of all ages, but my main charges were twin boys with a complex medical history. I started to wake up with that work. Those boys were so wonderful, and going to the hospital with them, and spending hours with a different therapist with them made me think. After a year away from school, I re-enrolled. Instead of going back to Art or Education, I chose Nursing. Part of it was that I wanted to do more with myself. Part of it was that I was disgusted with my home life and needed a better place to be. I took night classes and worked full time for 2 years while my ex cheated, berated, and spent my money. My grades were a direct reflection on what was happening at any given time. If I had money for gas, if my home had internet or even electricity, if there was anything to eat besides Taco Bell. Please understand that I know that it's not only his fault. I accept responsibility for the part that I played in my own misery. I felt stuck. I sometimes thought I loved him, but most of the time I was too stressed out to feel anything. At the very least, I couldn't gather the courage to rip the band-aid off. I was living in a black hole.

When my Grandfather passed away in the summer of 2013, I spent a week away from home. I didn't hear a peep from my ex. Not a single text, phone call, or "Are you doing okay?" At the funeral, my Godfather, a kind military man for whom I have deep love and respect, asked me about him. "Does he treat you well?" I knew the answer to that, and I knew something had to give. At that moment I was surrounded by my family, the people who love me and see me for who I really am, but I couldn't be honest about the person I went home to.

When I did finally go home, I went with a broken heart. I was done, and I told him so. The shit storm raged. I wavered a few times, but I got through it. There were a lot of sleepless nights of fighting, but I didn't have to move out. He did. So all I had to do was wait. When he finally did move out, it was still hell. He would show up and bang on the front door for a half an hour, or call 37 times in a row. Once I came home to find that a break-in had been attempted. He tried to win me back with diamond necklaces and dinners out, but after 4 years of bullshit and pain, I had nothing else to say. I really was done.

I got on a plane to the Grand Canyon the day after he signed his new lease, and then I started a new job, and a new semester, and a new sport. I started a new life. Fencing allowed me to be out of the house for 9 hours a week, and out of reach. It took two years until I attempted dating again. I spent those two years working on my self, my mindset, my health. For a few years, school got better and better for me. I had more and more direction. Until I didn't. Nursing wasn't really "It." I was fine with taking a few classes per semester and continuing to work full time, but I knew that eventually, I would have to make the big push to full time to finish. I couldn't do it. I kept failing at deadlines or being just short of the GPA requirement for that semester. I frequently asked myself "What is my problem?" It stayed like that for too long.

I had other focuses besides school. My health was a big one. I gained a lot of weight between leaving high school and leaving my ex. I decided to lose it, and I did. In doing so, I also discovered that I love nutrition. I fell in love with nutrition, and then I fell in love with Steve. He's been one of the best things to ever happen to me. We met on OK Cupid and had our first date at Starbucks. He won my heart with his expressiveness, genuineness, and his big vocabulary. That's not a euphemism. He's so smart and he keeps me on my toes with his witty humor and sense of adventure. We had only been together for six months when he held me while I cried over my acceptance letter to the Nutrition program at West Chester University. That was a little over two years ago.

Since then, I've taken class full time every single semester, including Winter and both Summer sessions, while continuing to work full time. To say it's been challenging would be like saying that ants are small. They just are, it's almost not worth mentioning. Steve has stood by me. My friends and family have stood by me. I've worked incredibly hard at school. I love it. I understand it. The people I take classes with are all passionate, smart, and kind. The professors I learn from are experienced, knowledgeable, and highly invested. I love what I'm doing. In that way, getting good grades and taking advantage of the different opportunities that arise has been easy. I've studied abroad twice. I have a second job in the study abroad office. I've received scholarships, and never had to look far for a letter of recommendation. I've been extremely lucky.

When I started college, I had no idea where my life would take me. No idea. When I started art school, I never thought I'd be taking biochemistry and advanced classes in human nutrition. Just because I didn't know, didn't have a clue, didn't mean it wasn't possible. Anything is possible.

This week, I interviewed for the internship I was applying for when I had this walk down memory lane with my transcripts. It went great. Whether I match or not, it went great. I'm proud of myself for getting as far as I have in the process.

Yesterday, I received notification that I was nominated to be the commencement speaker at my graduation. I cried. Then I learned that I'll be wearing honors that day to represent the Magna Cum Laude achievement. I cried again. Imagine me going through my transcripts and counting the D's, F's and W's. It was like looking at a past life. But, that was yesterday.

Today, I am telling you, if you want something, don't stop until you get it. Even if it takes 10 years.


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This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.
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