Saturday, December 18, 2010

Graduation

I've been sick since yesterday with a low level virus bug of some sort. I've been in bed most of the time trying to shake it off. I watched the Ironman triathalon this afternoon on TV. I have seen it a number of times and it is always inspiring. The last person across the finish line at the absolute midnight deadline was a 56 year old woman. She had a wonderful look of triumph on her face. For her it had been a 17 hour grueling race. There were many, many people there to congratulate her when she finished.

I was reminded at that moment that the degree which hangs on my wall in my bedroom is stamped with the date of one year ago today. I thought about how grueling it was to get that degree. It took me five years. I had so many challenges along the way that I thought I would never finish. I wanted to quit many times. Halfway into it, I fell and broke my right elbow. I had near constant pain/ aggravation in that elbow/arm for the remainder of my time finishing that degree. Winters are very bad for my elbow because it just hurts so bad sometimes. It is quite a bit better this year but just this afternoon I had the heating pad on it again to get some relief. People don't realize how much you use your elbow to write. To get a degree in Chinese, you have to write a lot of essays in Mandarin. The majority of them seemed to have to be memorized. I cannot adequately describe how difficult it is to memorize Chinese characters for a timed exam, especially when you are not young. The stress was overwhelming at times. Writing Chinese characters takes a lot of writing dexterity because there are so many strokes involved in each character. So many times I just wrote and rubbed and wrote and rubbed my elbow and my arm to complete my task.

But I started something and like the 56 year old triathaete who crossed at midnight, I was not going to stop.

No one but God knows the enormity of that task at my age. Only God knew what it took to help me finish. He was always there for me and I needed Him so much to help me.

On the day of my last final I was tired, worn out and beat. Really. The last exam was in English thankfully but there was a long essay. So many students were finished before me but the essay was thought provoking and I knew what I was talking about. The essay was about China. I wrote and I rubbed and I wrote and I rubbed until I finished. At the end of the essay I wrote,"The end...and now I graduate." My professor was Berkley trained and she liked me. She like most of my professors wondered what I was doing there. They gave up after a while as they realized I was there as a serious student. I think she would have liked my note. :)

I handed in my exam and left the class. My car was quite a distance across campus. I began to cry. I hoped no one would see the 50 year old lady crying as she was walking across campus. But I had finished. It was over, and against so many great odds.

I wear hearing aids for a moderate hearing loss. The doctors told me in the beginning that I couldn't do a degree in Chinese because I couldn't hear well enough to do it. Mandarin is a tonal language. It requires the acute ability to discern tones. There were times we would break off into groups and the noise was so loud that I couldn't stand it. My professors learned to allow me to be on the outside of the groups so I had the best chance of hearing. There were a few students who always helped me. So many would not give me the time of day.

I graduated with a GPA of 3.844. I did not do that degree alone. God helped me, every step of the way... He helped me.

When I walked across the parking lot after my last final with tears in my eyes, there were no crowds at the finish line like there were for that 56 year old woman. It was just me. But I had the distinct sense that my ancestors knew what had just happened and I pictured them in my mind's eye cheering for me. I wasn't alone after all.

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