The Degree that Almost Didn’t Happen

On this coming Saturday at 10 am, I will be seated in graduation regalia at Liberty University, impatiently waiting for the moment I hear my name called.  This is a moment that admittedly almost didn’t happen.

When I started my tenure at Liberty, I began as a student in the Marriage and Family Therapy Masters program.  I felt very strongly that I wanted to do counseling, specifically geared towards marriages and families.  I was convinced that during my time in this program, God would allow me to get married and start building a family because why would he place a passion within me just for my life not to follow that passion?  I still had many unbroken and hope-filled dreams in my heart at that point.

Almost a year into this program, I went through a break up (that I’ve devoted enough blogs to so I’m keeping it moving).  At the same time, I was unemployed and then underemployed, living with my parents, and trying desperately to still just be alive.  I was gripped with deep emotional pain because it seemed like my whole world decided to crash at the same time.

You know how when you’re in the midst of suffering, it feels like nothing good will ever happen again?  I was so distraught, which was exacerbated by the fact that I felt like I had to suffer through everything by myself and decidedly shut myself off from most folks out of embarrassment and shame.  I not only felt like I was by myself; I was by myself for awhile.  That was the worst bout of depression I had since my freshman year of college.

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And yet, I would have to log in to Blackboard and read about counseling people after an exhausting day of applying for jobs, tutoring on the side, and working a part-time job as an After Care Teacher to preschoolers.  Each day became excruciatingly more difficult as I struggled with whether or not I’d be qualified to do this work.  Who am I gonna help to wholeness when I’m a shattered collection of painful pieces myself?

Sometimes the pain was so great that it drove my decisions.  I decided halfway through my program to switch to the Professional Counseling program because what if I never get married?  Who will listen to me as a single woman?  As word got around about my newly acquired single status, the question was brought up to me a few times by some others.  How are you gonna give me advice about being married and you’re single?  I gave in to the fear; I gave in to the pain.  I didn’t have an answer and I nearly decided to abandon the degree altogether.

Life did the most lifin’ that life ever did for me over the past four years.  I had no choice but to grow up.  But I did have the choice to give up.

We learn many lessons while growing up that sound very sanitized but they grow in meaning once we experience life.  I did not fully understand, prior to this process, how to fight with everything for what you want.  I did not fully understand that just because something is a passion or your purpose does not mean that the road to that passion/purpose won’t be designed to break you. I had no clue that I would not just be able to float through this degree but that I would have to fight through every class, through every paper, through every discussion board post, through every quiz/exam, through every case study, through every internship.  All I had to keep going was sheer willpower and the belief that I did not have to give up.

And God only knows how true it was that I was seconds away from withdrawing twice, one time as recent as a few months ago.  But every time I tearfully was ready to submit the withdrawal paperwork, I thought about what I know in my heart.  I thought about what I know I was equipped to do.  No transcript could tell that story but it could help me get to where I needed to be in order to be able to open doors myself.  I’d cry but I kept pushing.  I’d cuss but I kept pushing.  Some days I just didn’t have it in me to do what needed to be done and some semesters my grades reflected that.  I wanted to beat myself up about that but at this point, survival was more important than perfection.

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I can honestly say that the road to this degree showed me what I am made of.  This process helped me to prove to myself that I had everything in me that everyone already said I did.

I have no doubt that I will cry on Saturday.  The tears may trickle down silently or may come in waves as I take moments to remember what occurred to get me to this point.  I want to be clear about my struggle, not just about the depth of this victory.  I look back sometimes I wish I had stayed in the Marriage and Family Therapy program but I believe that what I have been equipped with from my current program will be enough to meet me wherever my purpose lands me.

I really don’t have any worries.  I’m just glad I’m getting to the stage.

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10 thoughts on “The Degree that Almost Didn’t Happen

  1. I went through something similar with my undergraduate degree. You’ll feel so proud walking across that stage. And you’ll feel even prouder once some time has passed. You’re incredibly strong. Don’t let anyone tell you differently! Congratulations on your masters degree!

  2. Ashley this is an awesome and amazing article. God breaks, molds, builds and thanks be to God, He’s with us each step of the way. See you Saturday.

  3. Ashley I am so proud of you and all that you’ve accomplished. Ypur life doesn’t just strengthen you it will serve as a light of inspiration to others.

    Love you! Congratulations!

  4. Congratulations on a difficult yet beautiful journey. I don’t know in detail all of your struggles but I do know God has done a marvelous work in you and He will bring it to full completion. Can’t wait to get my cry, shout, yell in on Saturday. Continued blessings Valentine.

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