The conversation always starts really innocently and I’m always at a loss as to how to answer. I bring up that I have something to do down on campus and someone will ask, “Aren’t you done with school?”
I am not done with my undergraduate degree in film theory with a minor in creative writing. You know the degree that is so very marketable that I imagine under my name and the bachelor’s information there will just be a note that says degree seems more impressive in your mind in little letters. Of course I wouldn’t know because I can’t get my fucking degree.
I am short one class. One class until I can graduate. I need a Spanish class. A class that I have taken three times and failed three times. It is Spanish II. I took Spanish I three times as well, and the only reason I was able to pass that in the end is the fact that we were able to turn in huge amounts of extra credit and I turned in ALL of the extra credit and we were able to tweet for Spanish causes for extra credit and we all know I was going to take that task on with vigor. Even then I barely passed the course, but I did pass – but I couldn’t tell you how to ask for directions in Spanish or order dinner.
I’ve been trying to graduate for a while now, and while I had some classes that I needed to take to finish out my major, I actually had time to pick up a minor because I’ve taken Spanish six times and pretty much learned zero Spanish words. Along the way I’ve developed a bit of a complex, started to doubt my sanity, and pretty much begun to believe I’m the biggest fucking idiot that is allowed to drive in this state.
As I was failing again in the spring this year I started talking to my best friend and my mother about just leaving school. I have a job, there is no reason for me to finish my degree or even trying to continue on since being in school just makes me feel retarded and moronic every time I get up and go to class and have no idea what I’m doing. Both of them told me to take a deep breath and talk to someone about it. Which I thought I was doing, but they suggested I talk to someone in the medical field about the fact that I can’t remember things, that I can’t seem to remember anything from Spanish and try to get my shit together and stop freaking out.
Which I did. I spoke to my neurologist who basically said that with my epilepsy and my seizures that it really wasn’t that unusual that I might have problems remembering things that required mass amounts of memory retention like a language. She typed up a letter, sent me on my way and said have a nice day, come back in a couple months to have your levels checked. It was literally that quick and easy, and that strange to me. I was excited and freaked out all at the same time. I also was about to find out that the feeling of being excited and freaked out was going to be pretty much my baseline for a while.
I made an appointment with my academic advisor, we looked at my transcript, we looked at the letter from my physician and she said that this kind of thing happens all the time, there is committee that meets, you fill out a bunch of paperwork and they take a look at your paperwork and they say it is okay for you to take class *blah* instead of class Spanish or French or German or whatever you’ve been struggling with and can prove you cannot learn. She suggested I enroll for one of the alternatives, that I fill out all of this paperwork, and that I apply for graduation because there are deadlines and all that for those things. Once again, excitement and freakish trepidation.
There were several other stops along the way, one to meet another advisor, she was great even though I never met her face to face and she had fantastic information. I met with the disabilities office and although she was helpful, she had quite possibly the biggest downer of an attitude and she didn’t feel like a I had a good case and she was like the least helpful part of the process. She was also the one that felt I needed to get a neuropsych eval or I wouldn’t have a very good case for the committee. So whether she was helpful or not, I did get to have that less than pleasant set of testing and come back with everything in writing from more physicians that basically stated I’m a freaking moron.
A little bit on the neuropsych eval. I knew when I made the decision to take this test that is would not be a walk in the park, it isn’t a painful test, and it isn’t a hard test, but it was a lot of stuff that proved that my cognitive abilities are failing and that I am in fact clinically depressed. At different points that ask you to do different things and I could tell I was doing badly during these things and that made me really uncomfortable, really uncomfortable, and very weepy. Oh so weepy. Like at one point the person administering the test asks you to give reasons why two things are alike. This was fairly early on in the six hours worth of cognitive testing we did that day and I knew I was in trouble when the reasons I gave were not on the “approved” list.
“Tell me how baby and bud are alike.”
“They both start with B.”
“Do you think you could expand on that?”
“They are both small?”
“Do you think you could expand on that?”
“Uhm they are both young and fresh and new and smell nice usually?”
I got more and more desperate with that test, and then the memory tests were nightmarish. It was a fantastic six hour day of tests, full of crying, and nausea, and learning things about myself I was good never knowing. A couple weeks later I was able to pick up a report of those tests that spelled out – Hey yeah, that girl there, she is just a hot mess.
It is one thing to think you might have issues and joke about having memory problems and all of that with your friends. It is another thing entirely to have three or four doctors spell it out in black and white on paper and then take those papers to a committee and ask them to let you take class A instead of class B.
But the committee of appeals met today, and they said I can do just that. I can take these classes and attempt to graduate this semester. Part of me feels like Woot. Another part of me hears that line from Clueless – I couldn’t be more proud than if you’d actually earned these grades. Another part of me wonders why I went to so much effort other than just to prove I could finish something in this lifetime, I’m not so good at the finishing of things.
Now as I get close to actually finishing this degree I wonder if I should tell anyone? Should I say anything? Most everyone thinks I’ve already finished, and I really can’t imagine trying to explain all of this bullshit whenever someone asks me again, “Aren’t you done with school?”