Work your way through college

Elizabeth Johnson has nearly completed her Bachelors Degree at Weber State University in English with a minor in Technical and Professional Writing. If words were air she could consider her asthma cured, but they aren’t, so she and her inhaler are working full time and studying full time, dreaming about a nice desk with good lighting and endless steamy cups of rosehip tea.

There is an easy way, a moderately difficult way, and the make-every-wrong-turn-before-you-find-the-right-one way. The latter is the way I take, every single time. Who knows why. But even now, deep into the struggle, I am grateful for the journey. Working full time while attending University full time is, at its best, challenging. But one credit at time the foggy future is becoming clear and I couldn’t be happier with the choice I made to make it work.
In 2015 it will be ten years since I graduated from high school. Ten years since my last football game from the bleachers that face the pink-and-purple-in-the-sunset Wasatch Range on a Friday night. Ten years since my first semester at a University.
2015 will also be the year I finally receive my Bachelors Degree from Weber State University, sitting snugly up against those same pinkishly pretty mountains.
I was eighteen and three months when I attended my first class at Weber. I had no idea what I wanted to study, no clue what career would ever suit me. I wasn’t a dummy, but I lacked direction. So I quit school after my first semester, choosing to work full time while I made up my mind. Calling myself a quitter doesn’t fill me with warm fuzzies, so let’s just say I was a tryer. I tried a lot of things. When I was twenty-three I was working in the book department in an entertainment store, shelving books and helping high school students find all of the novels on their summer reading lists, and it hit me. Of all the things I had tried, this minimum wage, part time servitude had been the one to touch my soul. I knew that I had to find a way to make the propagation of the written word the work of my life. I knew I’d need a degree to do that. So, I went back to school.
I found a full time job in a clerical position to fund my education. Working and studying simultaneously has slowed the process, but five years dues isn’t too bad by my estimation for a lifetime in a career that I love. My dad told me the other day, “Choose a major you love and you’ll never work a day in your life, because they’re probably not hiring in that field.” He’s a real joker, but he’s not wrong. Choosing passion over practicality is a risk. It’s the risk of a lifetime.
What I’m trying to tell you is that not everyone’s college experience is the same. In fact, the beautiful University I attend is full of non-traditional students who mix in seamlessly with the eighteen to twenty-four year-old crowd. But no matter which path you take, or how long it takes you to get there, all graduations are triumphant.
Every student who chooses to pursue the ideal of a higher education is an adventurer. They must all face the trials of Hercules, cutting off the heads of the Math 1050 Hydra, even as they grow back double to defeat him. And they will all have at least one moment, but more likely more than they can count, where the clouds part and the sweet sunshine of enlightenment shines through. Whatever touches your soul, let it guide your course registration, along with a counselor from your department. So maybe it’s risky, you are definitely worth the risk. If you’re going to invest in anything in this crazy world, invest in your dreams. See what kind of treasures you pick up along the way. I can’t wait to tell you that I’m not just a tryer anymore. In a few short months, I’ll be a graduate.

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