Friday, April 16, 2010

T-minus 3 weeks - Recap of the 13 year road to graduation

Wow...so about 13 years ago, I was admitted to the University of Utah. I attended my first classes in Spring Term of 1997 and was excited to be in school. I had a number of transfer credits and AP Test credits...so, as far as hours were concerned, I officially started school as a Sophomore.

And now, 13 years later, I am finally about to graduate with my Bachelor's Degree in English. In looking over my transcript, there were a number of calendar years where I took no classes at all and there were many semesters with only 1 class. Part of me is depressed that it took me so long to finally get through with a ~4 year degree.

Even though it took a while, I'm actually very happy with the way things turned out.  True, it took me more than a decade to get a Bachelor's degree...but let's look at what's happened during those 13 years.

When I started school, I was a newlywed (~3 months married). I was bouncing between jobs (spent time packing/stuffing/shipping vitamins, selling board games at the mall, flipping burgers at McDs, selling music/games/videos at Hastings, and working as a substitute teacher).

Within that first year, I was hired on at a video game development house on the tech support staff and worked up into the Testing department...which turned out to be one of those "major breaks" you hear about, because it set me on a career path (different from my goal of being a High School Teacher, but we'll get back there). The company I worked for was bought out by Microsoft which brought significant financial changes as well as some new opportunities. The work schedule was hectic and made it difficult to balance school, but it provided some great training and helped hone some skills it would have been hard to learn elsewhere.

My wife and I took many fun filled road trips around the Western U.S. and even a couple back east. We went to a bunch of plays and concerts and other fun filled events. Had I been going to school full time and pinching pennies, there's no way we could have done all we did. We had tons of fun.

About 3 years into school, we had our first child and things changed yet again. Because I was working for Microsoft in the heyday of the Technological Upswing, we had fabulous medical insurance...we didn't have to pay a dime when Jason was born, and Microsoft even sent gifts of congratulations when he was born. A few months later, we decided our small one-bedroom apartment was going to be tough to raise a kid in and so we went house shopping and purchased a wonderful home in a great neighborhood. The following year, our second child was born. We continued to take family vacations, a little trickier with very young children, but still a lot of fun.

At this time, I tried to dive into school with a little more regularity. For a couple of years, I don't think I missed a semester and I pushed my hours up into the 'mid-Junior' range. Things started shaking up a bit in the technology world. The dot-com bubble burst. There were some big layoffs at work and eventually Microsoft sold our division. Still, things were going well for myself and my family. We managed to avoid the layoff and kept a moderately stable job with good salary and decent health benefits. Our third and final child was born (a girl this time) and we decided that our family was complete. We kept taking great family vacations...showed the kids what Yellowstone, Disneyland and the Grand Canyon were like. Our oldest started school and the others followed shortly after.

The tech world got bumpier, particularly in our arena ('sports video game development' - Amped Snowboarding, Links Golf and Top Spin Tennis) and I went to work one day to find a couple of bouncers sitting next to the door with a note taped on it indicating that our studio was closed. Through some old connections, I found a job relatively quickly. I actually transitioned through a couple of jobs and eventually landed at FranklinCovey where I've been for the last ~3 years. The career shakeup made it feel more important to finish school, if for no other reasons than to have the diploma in hand and to not have classes hanging over my head any more (not to mention the fact that some of my original credit hours were nearing their "expiration" and new requirements were being added). So I started going every semester again. I modified my major since I couldn't imagine working 'Student Teaching' around a full time job.

And now, 13 years after I started, I'm counting down the days to graduation. Looking back, I don't know that I would have changed a thing. There were so many great opportunities found and memories created that wouldn't have been there if I'd just done the full-time school thing and pushed through in ~4 years. There are tons of great friends that I would never have met. Things would have been very different. I plan on attending the graduation ceremony...I've taken a few "graduation surveys" for the school, and a lot of the questions/comments don't really apply to me since I've already got a family/home/career/etc...but I still figured that this was an accomplishment I should make the most of.

So, in 3 weeks, I'll be sitting through a couple of hours of lectures from school and department heads, telling us about how to use what we've learned to plan for the future and what we can expect and do in the 'real world.' Lynette has offered to throw a party for me...I think that'd be fun, but I'm not really sure what to plan. A barbeque would be fun but with the way the weather's been lately, I'd be nervous about it. Still, we'll probably do something.

In any case...here's to a great 13 years of school. Thanks to the teachers and students at the U for providing me a wealth of knowledge and experiences. And thanks to everybody I've met and known over the past years. I wouldn't change a thing. Most of all, thanks to Lynette for continuing to support my slow progress through school. I truly couldn't have done this without your support. Thanks so much.


8 comments:

utahcouple said...

Congratulations Chris!! You had better do something to celebrate - this is a monumental occasion. Wow, those 13 years went by in a blink.

utahcouple said...

Congratulations Chris!! You had better do something to celebrate - this is a monumental occasion. Wow, those 13 years went by in a blink.

Brian Miller said...

congrats on completing your degree...sounds like it was quite the fun trip along the way...

logankstewart said...

This was a great post. My wife is graduating on May 8 and she's very excited to finally be finishing school. I'm glad you've enjoyed your non-traditional student path, as it's definitely proved excellent for you. Good luck with finishing up, and congratulations!

Stacy said...

what a great story! that's really awesome how you persevered through it all! Congratulations!!!

Phoenix said...

Congrats! So...close...

And that photo of you and your wife mashing cake into each other's faces cracks me up.

Juju at Tales of Whimsy.com said...

What a beautiful family!

Okie said...

Thanks all. :)

(now I just need to post the actual graduation post)