Look, if you had one shot, or one opportunity
To seize everything you ever wanted in one moment
Would you capture it or just let it slip?-- Eminem, "Lose Yourself"
Seventeen years ago I dropped the ball, big time. My "final" semester of college I had a 3.68 GPA, was on the dean's list for the fourth time, and was looking forward to graduation. And then I imploded. There are any number of excuses -- the end of a three-year relationship I had thought would lead to marriage and a white picket fence; starting a full-time job for the university president that felt like a conflict of interest; an arrogant professor with whom I couldn't work; a calamitous new roommate situation. It doesn't matter. I self destructed and a year later was given an "administrative withdrawal" with a final GPA of 1.85, two Fs on record, and no degree. I was 3 credits short.
This week I decided that, as a 40th birthday present to myself, I'm going to start the process of getting my degree. It's the first step towards my next goal: a teaching license.
I am terrified.
I have a habit of starting projects I don't complete. My university career was perhaps the biggest, but certainly not the last. I have abandoned friendships, ruined at least one relationship, and walked away from a career. I have tucked away five or six half-finished sewing projects, crocheted three or four partial baby blankets, written just the opening of too many stories and essays to count. Each of those is part of my personal litany of failures, the cumulative effect of which is a crushing sense of self-doubt and imminent failure. I can't even host a dinner party without a moment of panic that no one will show or I'll inadvertently poison everyone who does make it.
Now I am faced with the prospect of two or three years of classes -- assuming they'll accept me as a transfer student with that final GPA – just to get my bachelor's degree, and unknown more to get a teaching certificate. Looking at my track record, the doubts are coming hard and fast.
There is one saving grace. I believe teaching is my calling. More than twenty years ago a fellow student in my algebra class leaned over and asked "are you going to be a teacher?" I've been asked that same question, or a variant on it, hundreds of times since then. And the truth is, I love teaching; it comes naturally to me. So, if I have to get my degree to do it, I have a reason to finish.
This time, maybe I'll make it. I'm older, wiser, and have fewer distractions than I did 17 years ago. Plus, the stakes are higher: this is my one shot.
Wish me luck.