Okay, as promised, here is the first installment of my final 30 days until I graduate.
It's 5:45. I've been up since 4:30AM. I have been getting up early all my life because I was always a paperboy, or I was going hunting or fishing. The truth is I really like being an early riser. Something about an early start that makes me feel like I'm getting more done. But 4:30 is really early...especially every single day without a break since February. But I have to do this. I have a mandatory Algebra class I am taking and it's very hard for me. I am learning it as I go and it takes me 3 times as long as any of my other classes. I spend an hour to an hour and a half per day on each of my other classes. Right now those classes are Bibl450 which is a class on Daniel and Revelation together, and Lifc301 which is a Health and Wellness class for my life coaching program. Earlier this semester I had Life Coaching 201 (a basic Life Coaching course) and Bibl364 (The Book of Acts). Online semesters at LU are 17 weeks long but they are divided into three sub semesters lasting eight weeks each. (One sub semester overlaps the first and the second, but few people take courses in those) Plus there are some classes that run all 17 weeks...like this algebra class. My other courses are eight week classes so I had the first two from Jan 17 until March 12 and this set runs from March 21 until May 11. It's a great system as long as you keep up. If you are a resident student the same material takes 17 weeks to cover, so online you are covering the material in huge chunks. If you fall behind even one week you really run the risk of failing. With the additional study time I've needed for math, this has been a hard semester. I've been sleep deprived and stressed to the point of my vertigo returning. I had shingles about two months ago. Both of these are stress related. I am so pressed for time that I stopped going to the gym, which makes me feel even worse. Starting tomorrow I am going back. I am close enough to being caught up in math now, that I can spare the 2 hours in the morning.
In all this, I am still happier than I have ever been. Getting this degree means the world to me. It's been the first good thing that happened to me in the five years since I lost my home to foreclosure and the 4 years since I first became homeless and was sleeping in my car and showering at the gym. It's been a hard road and my degree completion has been the only thing that I've tried that worked consistently throughout the last few years. Liberty University online probably saved my life in a lot of ways. At very least it saved my belief in myself and my tattered self esteem.
I started at Liberty in 1984. I had been out of High School for three years and each fall as my friends left for college I would be severely broken hearted. All I wanted was to go to school and become who and what I felt I was supposed to be. I could spend pages writing about why that didn't happen right away but suffice it to say that I didn't grow up in a home where education was valued or respected. I was told that a good factory job was what I should pursue and I should be thankful for whatever I got. That's partially true, but it's also mind-numbingly sad. I was a brilliant student in high school. I scored a 29 on the ACT. (The highest score possible is 32) My English aptitude was off the charts. My advisor at Liberty my freshman year said that with scores like mine I could have gotten scholarships galore had I applied right after high school and that I could CLEP up to a Junior level in English right away.
I got one year at LU in 84-85 and another in 94-95. Then I got married. Then a year and a half later I became a dad. Then I became a mortgage banker. Then a homeowner, then a divorcee. In 2007 I lost my home when the industry collapsed and in 2008 the career I had grown into and had tremendous success in was gone. I had been a national award winner. A Branch-of-the-Year nominee for the largest privately funded mortgage company in the world. I had earned six figures.
By May of 2008 I was living in my car.
August 9, 2009 I was sitting in that same car, in the parking lot of Panera Bread Company and I had just hung up with my advisor at LU online. I had an old envelope in my hands and I was reading the words scrawled on the back. "Bibl110, CRST290 History of Life, HIUS221, THEO202." This was my class schedule for Fall 2009. I was back in LU and once again pursuing my dream of graduating from there. In the midst of my homelessness and desperation I had something to look to and work towards. I cried in my car for about 15 minutes. I had forgotten how much this meant to me and how badly it hurt that I'd never completed this journey.
For the next three years...six semesters online, five of them completed while living in my car...I pursued this goal. It was the one thing that I could look at and say "At least this isn't failing. This is working out". I dropped a lot of classes and attempted them more than once. It's not that any of them were especially hard...it's just so hard to do your best when you are limited by where you are living and you can only study at a restaurant or the library or FedEx office...or by flashlight in the front seat of your car.
But I did it. 30 days from today I will wear that cap and gown and walk across the stage on Liberty Mountain and receive the degree I have chased for literally more than half my life.
But today I have to get back to studying and then go paint a deck, and draw some plans for another deck and pressure wash yet another before I return home this evening and study a whole lot more.
Typically I am up until midnight. 4 1/2 hours of sleep each night is not much...even for a guy like me who has been sleep-avoiding most of my life. But in 30 days I can relax a bit. So today I'll press on.
See you all tomorrow...