Coming clean

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Recently I made a big decision. Not a particularly life-changing one at this point in my life, but it is a big commitment of time and finances. It’s a bit of unfinished business from a time in my life when everything went very, very wrong. It’s a decision that under most circumstances should be applauded. But, instead this decision means I have to tell the truth and face the shame of having misrepresented myself for most of my adult life.

I have decided to go back to school to complete my Bachelor’s degree.

Even now that’s hard to write. In telling even my closest friends it feels like a coming out of sorts. It’s hard to admit to others that I didn’t finish my degree. Most people thought I have, and I have made no effort to dissuade them from that notion. When people talk about college I have always said with confidence “I went to Berkeley”. I don’t say I graduated from Berkeley, nor do I tell the complete truth that  I dropped out from Berkeley in the latter half of my senior year.  Well, that’s not entirely true either. Since I’m being honest, I have overtly lied about having a degree. When I was much younger I lied on my resume and said I had my BA in Film Studies. I figured a) being only one semester away from graduating was close enough b) they wouldn’t check anyway and c) no one was going to hire me based on a degree in Film Studies, for fuck’s sake. But still, it was a lie and lies have a way of weighing on your conscience.

The decision to go back to school was a relatively sudden one, not something I’ve been ruminating on for a long time. It never seemed necessary.  I’ve made my way through the working world based on my smarts and initiative, not on a couple of letters after my name. Yet, after some long, deep discussions with a colleague of mine about our accidental careers, I realized I had painted myself into a corner. Granted it was a comfy corner with good pay and benefits, but it was still a corner. Will a BA open up whole new career horizons? Especially a BA in Humanities? Maybe, but probably not, especially not at my age. But, at least I won’t think twice about applying for jobs where a BA is required. Also, should the foolish notion of graduate school cross my mind, at least I will have met that whole “graduated” requirement.

I will be attending an evening BA completion program at a lovely, small, and well respected private university that is with only 7.5 miles away from my home. Rather than doing an online program, I wanted to have that human touch (after all, my degree will be Humanities) and to be in an environment where studying non-career enriching topics such as literature or art history is valued, not questioned, as in “how on earth is that going to help you in the real world?”

So far everyone I have chosen to tell has been very happy for me. A couple of them were downright verklempt. And as I have started to free myself from this lie I had to told to others (but mostly to myself), I am finding myself feeling oddly vulnerable. I am stripping off a layer of identity – “Berkeley graduate” – that I had taken on even though it was a lie. And under this layer of faux identity, I am finding the skin is very pink and tender.

And it’s OK. It’s amazingly OK.

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15 responses »

  1. I’m so proud of you!! I have a degree in the humanities (religious studies) and I think, though it hasn’t directly scored me jobs, it did teach me about the world, and most importantly, how to learn. You’re going to do just great!

  2. Thank you. Gosh, now I’m getting a little verklempt.

    While I’m more than happy to be a Humanities major, it was chosen because of all the other major choices I was considering (Psychology or English with a writing emphasis) it was the one where I had the most transferable credits. With Humanties, I just have to complete my senior year. Any other major would have put me back to being a junior. I’m pretty excited about some of the classes, particularly the senior seminar and senior project.

    Thanks again for your encouragement. 🙂

  3. 🙂 Since I didn’t know anything about any of this, to me it is simply an inspiring story of being willing to continue your education later in life. Rock on sister. I bet you’ll do great.

  4. This is wonderful news! I’m glad to see that you’re fulfilling something that you’ve wanted to do for a long time and that you’re not ashamed of saying you have unresolved business. I admire that about you and well everything you do with this site. I’d figure with money not being a problem and being in a successful field there wouldn’t be any problems but it just goes to show (a tough reality for me to accept) is that money and social perception are not the only things of value in life.

    Thank you for being you.

    • Ah shucks (she says blushingly), thank you for the kind words. I can’t complain about being well-compensated, but that still doesn’t satisfy the deeper needs for like integrity and honesty. I feel like for the first time in my life I have no secrets. And it feels absolutely amazing.

      Thank you for coming by. I’m glad you enjoy the site.

  5. I am so proud of you LB! I have to admit I have been a resident of the same closet myself for 25+ years. I left stopped going with a mere 8 classes left to finish a communications degree. I’m hoping I can attend in the Fall… more likely the Spring. But I really want to finish, if nothing else just so I can be honest in saying I got the paper. Hopefully I can finish before Little Fawn. : ) Look forward to hearing of your adventures in the classroom.

    • Thanks Jules! Yes, join me in being a middle-aged coed (the name of my next blog btw). Wait, are boys coeds? Or are they just Eds? Anyway, being on campus will be much nicer than hiding out in that musty old closet.

      • “Or just Eds?” 😀 Wow would that take virtual friendship and being blogging buddies to a new level or what! We’d be classmates!… sort of. Ok, not, since we wouldn’t be going to the same school but finishing our senior year.

        I hope that’s all I need to finish. It’s been so long I wonder if I’ve lost any credits. I’m going to look into it soon. I’ll let you know how it goes.

  6. My thoughts/feelings are similar to Christina’s. I find your story inspiring. It’s not easy to step out from behind something false that we spent a good part of life building. Freeing though, isn’t it? 🙂

    • Hi Robin –

      Yes, it is amazingly freeing. Funny though, I never really much thought about it all these years. Maybe I would get a weird twinge when the topic of school came up, but it was never a driving need. But, once I started to consider it, and especially after I found a good & very convenient program, there was no question that I wasn’t going to do it.

    • Thanks, Ombuds. Funny, I knew I was traveling down some kind of path, but I never dreamed it would be leading me back to college. Who knows where it will take me from there?

  7. Congratulations! You’ve made a really big decision. I can understand feeling vulnerable but do you also feel a bit excited to be doing this…kind of like embarking on an adventure? I think I would feel that way. You’re doing this for all the right reasons! Enjoy the adventure!

    • Hi Corina. Yes, in addition to the vulnerability, there is a lot of excitement. I’m ready to go – I got a new book bag, school supplies and my text books. Alas, I have to wait three more weeks. Who me? Excited? Guilty as charged. 🙂

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