“Come, Dobby. I said, come!”
But Dobby didn’t move. He was holding up Harry’s disgusting, slimy sock, and looking at it as though it were a priceless treasure.
“Master has given a sock,” said the elf in wonderment. “Master gave it to Dobby.”
“What’s that?” spat Mr. Malfoy. “What did you say?”
“Dobby has got a sock,” said Dobby in disbelief. “Master threw it, and Dobby caught it, and Dobby — Dobby is free.”
-Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets
So this post isn’t actually about health, but it is definitely something important that happened in my life this weekend. Saturday I officially graduated as a Masters student from the Kent School of Social Work through the University of Louisville. I feel blessed to have had the opportunity, but it has definitely come with plenty of sacrifice. For the last year and a half I have been shackled to my nightly studies that felt unending. Graduation means tasting sweet freedom again. Freedom from having to balance work and school at the same time, freedom from being stuck doing homework every evening, freedom to do what I want in my spare time again, freedom to even HAVE spare time again.
Master has given Mary Anne a diploma, Mary Anne is a free elf!
All of this is fantastic and exciting, but the biggest gift of all has been freedom to finally walk away from a job where I have long been unhappy, and start a new job in a field of social work I actually want to be in and which pays a hell of a lot better. (As a footnote: I say a hell of a lot better but it doesn’t take much to make more than a social worker even with a Masters degree and an independent license. In the past, I barely made more than some of the clients I served who qualified for food stamps and government subsidized housing. Talk about a goddamn shame. No one wants to pay the people who are working in the trenches to heal those who feel broken and make them productive members of society again, but we’ll pay a college football coach a million dollars to teach teenagers how to smash into each other and carry a stupidly shaped ball across an arbitrary line on the ground? I really wish our country would get its priorities straight. *Steps down off soapbox*)
Losing the extra stress of paper deadlines and sacrificing family time to Skype with the rest of my class (which is an organized clusterfuck at best) has significantly reduced my anxiety. Not being anxious all the time also means feeling a lot better overall, so I guess in a way you could say this post is about health after all.
I wish I could say graduation went smoothly without a hitch, but this is me we are talking about so nothing ever goes according to plan. This aligns with one of my Secrets of Adulthood (which I will write more about in another post in the future), which is “Shit happens… count on it.” To start off the trip we were late getting out of Columbus due to traffic, so we didn’t get to Louisville until 45 minutes before the store closed where they were passing out the caps and gowns. As soon as I got to campus, I ran for the Red Barn and straight to the table where they had the Masters regalia. After spelling out my name, and several minutes of the man digging through all of the remaining boxes, he finally declared that he couldn’t find my package.
“I can’t seem to find your name. You should probably go talk to the event organizer.”
So he leads me to the back where a guy is talking on his cell phone. While I am patiently waiting for him to finish his call, this pushy helicopter mom comes storming up with a sheepish looking teenager in her wake and starts yelling at him that her kid’s tassel is the wrong color or some such nonsense. She demanded that he fix it NOW. Meanwhile, I am standing there aghast her rudeness with a serious desire to be like “Bitch please! I was standing here first; can’t you see there’s a line?” But passive aggressive is more my style so instead I just sighed loudly and made the universal “What the fuck?” gesture to the person next to me. The angry women was completely oblivious to anyone else around her, except the poor man she was yelling at, so when he got off the phone he dealt with her first, most likely to make her harpy shrieking stop. He gave her what she wanted and she walked off in a huff. When it was my turn, I explained the situation with infinite patience and showed him my email receipt for my cap and gown that I had purchase almost two month ago.
“Are you sure you didn’t buy under a different name?”
“No, I only use one name.” And I am pretty sure I know what my name is fella.
He thought for a moment and then a light bulb came on. “We had a girl come in yesterday who hadn’t bought a package in time and just up and walked out with one. I wonder if it was yours.”
*Facepalm* It figures out of a 1,000 graduating students my packet would be the one to get stolen. My life is one big Murphy’s Law after another. Fortunately, he was able to piece together a new packet and I was on my way. The afternoon got a lot better from there. We checked into the hotel and I tried on my cap and gown to make sure it fit okay. Mike didn’t understand the Masters hood so I put it over my head to show him it was kinda like a witch’s hat. We decided I looked like a Hogwarts professor, which was cool with me. I can’t think of a better life goal than being Professor McGonagall, or Dame Maggie Smith for that matter. She’s a badass.
We had several hours until my graduation practice that evening so we walked around the Highlands neighborhood of Louisville. It reminded me a lot of the Short North in Columbus, or Coventry in Cleveland. The most notable thing we found was the Homemade Ice Cream and Pie Kitchen which boasted a menu of over 28 kinds of pies, god only knows how many flavors of ice cream, and an assortment of cakes. We were literally fat kids in a candy store.
We also found a few of the painted horses that are scattered all over the city. They were much like the cowboy boots in Cheyenne and I thought they were cool so I kept making Mike stop so I could take pictures of them. I was sorely disappointed that I only saw three.
When it was time for practice we headed downtown and I was ushered into the giant KFC Yum! Stadium (yes that is the name, stupid I know). There I met up with my academic advisor for the first time because he had the Dean Citation I had been awarded by several of my professors. Oh, he also had my cap and gown package. He conveniently forgot to tell me he was going to pick it up for me since I was coming from out of state. It was very sweet, I just wish I had known because then the incident at the Red Barn wouldn’t have happened. I was very happy that I hadn’t really had shitty luck and my stuff hadn’t actually been stolen, but unfortunately that meant the package pilferer had taken someone else’s cap and gown which truly sucks for them.
Graduation day was a blur. It was also exhausting. So much standing and waiting around. We were crammed in the holding area like cattle to the slaughter. I definitely don’t regret going though. It was awesome to be able to walk around my beautiful campus for the first time and see some of my classmates in person. Even though I only walked across the stage for all of 10 seconds I still felt very emotional and I texted Mike that I was having a hard time holding back the tears when I got back to my seat. Grad school had been really challenging, but I had done it. When I saw his response the tears came spilling out at last.
“Let it go. You earned this. So proud right now.”
So I did. And as I sat there wiping my eyes and watching my classmates make their own journeys across the stage, for the first time in a long time I felt truly at peace with where I am in my life. I may not be rich or famous (nor do I really want to be), but I am right where I need to be on my path. Getting my Masters has granted me a greater ability to chart my own course, the freedom to choose where I want to go in life.
After every last name was called, President Ramsey called us to stand and as we passed our tassels from the right to the left I realized I was finally able to leave an old and tired part of myself behind and open the page for a brand new chapter that is just waiting to be written. I don’t know what this new story will bring but I have a feeling, whatever it is, it’s going to be good.
A special thanks to my mom and Mike. I couldn’t have done it without you ❤