I Got My Associate’s Degree, and I’m Not Proud of It.

The first thing I can ever remember wanting to be was a super spy. I’d have a club house with my best friends and we’d wear the mandatory super spy clothing and be known to all as the “Blue Girls”. I was in kindergarten at the time, standing in a woodworking class drawing out blueprints for my clubhouse and wishing I would be given the tools to make it a reality. Oh well. I was only a child. There were so many other things I could be doing in preparation for my future as a secret agent.

At eight years old, I gave up my childish dream of being a super spy for the ideal of being a singer. Preferably in a girl group. If we could be cat themed, that would be the best. After all, girls that were cat-themed were sleek and beautiful and confident and cool, and that’s what I wanted to be. Come the third grade, I still wanted to be a singer, but I added ‘author’ and maybe ‘illustrator’ to that list. I’d gotten a taste of the good life of getting lost in a story I was telling, and never wanted that feeling to stop. Higher education never really occurred to me. As far as I was concerned, the two could not be mutually exclusive.

Fast forward about thirteen years.

At the end of this past fall semester, in a flurry of online classes that required only a little effort and passed quickly, I finished my requirements for school and was awarded my Associate’s Degree in Liberal Arts focusing on language–specifically, east Asian languages. I graduated from my local community college with a semester GPA of 4.0 and an overall 2.7 GPA after a rough two previous semesters. What should take people in my position two years to accomplish took me three and a half. The worst part wasn’t even falling short of the standard I hold myself to.

Nope.

The worst part was that I didn’t care. It was fighting through working toward something I didn’t care about. I hated that I failed my classes when I failed, but I didn’t care about the work. I hated that my name could be found beside a failing grade and that my identity in the eyes of everyone who saw it would be this lazy and/or foolish child who wastes her time and money and can’t grasp simple concepts–it was that hatred, along with the truth of those words, that made me finish–but I hated pushing through my apathy for the tests and quizzes and presentations and group work even more. I couldn’t see the light at the end of the proverbial tunnel; sure, I was going to school for language–learning about cultures and languages was an acquired passion of mine. But even when the overwhelming majority of my classes weren’t ones that had nothing to do with my major, I was miserable. Why?

I could see where I was headed; maybe teaching in a classroom of students that most likely don’t want to be there, just like I didn’t. Maybe trying to fit into a country that I’ll never feel fully wanted or accepted in. Maybe sitting at home poring over Japanese texts until my eyelids felt like sandpaper, translating it and living for that “Eureka!” moment that would become fewer and further between as time went on. I knew that language and culture are beautiful; the symbolism, the connection of history to the present, the understanding of what it all means.

I also knew that those things, with regards to my life and my future, had precious little to do with me and who I’ve wanted to be and have always been for the past sixteen years of my life. But it was the route that promised security and the pride and understanding of my peers and family. It didn’t require many risks, and, as my father and everyone else always told me, it was “something to fall back on”. A plan B in case plan A didn’t work out. But what they didn’t tell me was that the “just in case” would take up what little time, focus and energy I felt I had. And even though I’ve made the minor achievement of receiving an associate’s degree to frame and put on the mantle in all of its gleaming glory–maybe a few more places would be willing to hire me than before–I can’t help feeling resentful and disappointed in myself.

 

 

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