Early on in life, I hated school. I hated it not because I do not like learning. I hated it because the school did not feel like a haven for me. I did not want to go to school because I hated to be intimidated by teachers and bullies. When I started, I attended a Catholic School. The reputation for Catholic Schools back then was horrible. Catholic schools meant you will be greeted by a very strict nun as your teacher, with a ruler in hand – If you misbehave, your hands will be beaten with the ruler. That was partly-true for me during first grade. The only thing that wasn’t true was that my teacher was not a nun. She was a lay person. If anyone of us misbehaved in class, expect a beating. She will make us stretch our palms out, and she will give it a swift hit at the tip of your fingers as punishment. She instilled a fear in me that made me not want to go to class. I never misbehaved, but I remember a time when I wrote the lines of my paper. She kept telling me to write in between the lines, repeating herself several times. I was so scared that I tried not to do it. As a 7-year old, I could not perfect it. She beat my hands several times with a ruler.
The school was a place that I feared. I would go to school, and I find nothing there that would make me want to stay. Of course, I met friends. I had playmates. It was the only time that I enjoyed school. However, back in the Philippines, I had playmates at home too. Moreover, at home I had much nicer friends. There were no bullies. So, why would I go to school to play with friends? Right?
It was a struggle for me. I would go to class in the morning during elementary school, and I would cut class (play hookey) and stay at the arcades in the afternoon. Remember arcades? Ha! That habit went on till I was in High School. I would go to classes in the morning and leave in the afternoon and pretend I was sick so that I could hang out at the mall or to watch a movie. I never excelled. I went to school to pass my classes, and that was it.
I managed to finish high school. No flying colors here. I was just glad to graduate. I intended to enter the seminary right after high school, but I was persuaded not to do so. I was told to experience college life first and then decide. So, I did not. There was a multitude of options for me at that time. I did not think I would enjoy going to college, but college life was more fun for me than any time in my school days. I met so many cool friends, and they became lifelong friends. I did not get to finish college as I had to leave the country and come to America. I wanted to come to America more than I wanted to go to college. So I left. I only finished a few credits during the one and half years that I was in college.
Fast forward to life in America. Remember, I am the youngest of several children. My parents were already at the age of retirement when I was in college By the time I joined them here in the U.S.; they were not working. They were taking care of my siblings’ children while they go to work and earn a living. Life was entirely different. Even though my dad promised me that he would send me to school when I got here, I realized how much money it would take for them to send me to school that I opted not to go. I decided to work instead. Since I did not like going to school, I was glad. I started working, and the rest was history.
I was fortunate enough to have been able to work my way up from the bottom of our organization even without having a college degree. All I had was the determination to work hard and someday it would pay off. Moreover, it did. However, there was a ceiling. Upper management requires anyone to have at least a Bachelor’s degree for me to get promoted to the next level. And in my mind, if I lost my job at this organization, I would have to find another job. To earn the pay that I earn today and get a comparable salary would mean that I would have to seek positions that only require college grads. When I look at want ads on Monster.com or even in the newspapers, the first thing I read is this: “Bachelor’s Degree Required.” That made me determined to get a college degree no matter what the costs were. The additional Tuition Reimbursement program from work was a bonus to attain my goal.
One fall season in 2007, I decided that I would register for classes. While working a full-time job, I am only allowed to take two classes each semester. To graduate with a Bachelor’s Degree, I would need 120 or more credits. My college credits from the Philippines only amounted to twenty-eight or so. I would need around ninety-two credits to graduate. Given that I can only take two classes, that would allow me eight credits each semester at the maximum, and six at a minimum depending what classes I am taking. Conservatively, it would take me eight full years to finish college. I was determined to get that degree, and if I did not start then I would never reach my goal.
I was going to school at night and after a full day at work, I would have to take the train to go to the university and stay until 10:00 o clock at night. By the time I get home, I would be so exhausted yet there are times that I had to study for exams or write papers that are due. I would burn the midnite oil and still get up for work the next day. Then, the same thing all again. It was very tiring, and there were many times that I wanted to quit. I had stopped a couple of semesters because I was so exhausted. I had almost given up. All those night and weekend classes took its toll and one day, I just decided to stop altogether. I did not see a point anymore to finish my degree.
Then one day, I woke up and said to myself, “I will not die without a diploma. I have gone this far not to give up.” I got all my documents together, sat with a counselor who took the time to evaluate all my credits. She told me that if I start that month, I would be able to complete all credits within one year, and I will graduate. That was all I needed to hear. The classes would be every eight weeks non-stop for one year. This schedule hard for me knowing my schedule and my projects at work, but I had to push it through. I wanted that degree.
Once I was registered, there was no stopping. Every eight weeks, I took two classes and earned grades with flying colors this time. Sure enough, one year later I graduated Magna Cum Laude with a degree of Bachelor of Science in Technical Management, majoring in Human Resource Management. Who would have thought I would finish at all?
I invited special friends to attend my graduation. Friends who were with me throughout and those who simply cheered me on while I went to school. One of them was someone who tutored me in my math classes. I wanted him to see me walk the aisle and receive that diploma.
It was hard. I am not going to downplay it at all. Going to school at night while working a full-time job was very hard. However, I did it. Walking down that aisle and listening to the marches of students ready to accept their diplomas was the best feeling I have had in years.
To those of you who are going to school now, keep at it. It doesn’t matter which school. Just get that degree.
The reward by far outweighs the effort. Trust me.