I Am A College Graduate!

It’s true!  Our time here in Michigan enabled me to return to school at Central Michigan University and finish out my degree.  I have been working my butt off, but it all paid off because I graduated Summa Cum Laude with my B.S. degree in Psychology!

My time as a “non-traditional” student was an interesting one, to say the least.  I had to start out taking online classes my first semester here (August of 2016), because there was a mix-up with my application (I got married since I was last in college, so they had a tough time matching up my transcripts) and therefore I didn’t meet the deadline for on-campus enrollment.  I was really disappointed, because even though we live in a college town, it’s still a small town and I was worried about not having a reason to leave my house, especially so soon after we moved here and before I had a chance to make new friends.  But it really wasn’t too bad, and I quickly learned that online classes are TOUGH!  They move at a much faster pace, and most require you to essentially teach yourself the material and then take a test on it with either a proctor or using the webcam on your computer along with a “lockdown browser” which disables everything else on your computer during the exam.  I found myself studying for five hours every day just to feel prepared enough for the tests, and I definitely didn’t want to screw up my first semester here and start off with a low GPA!  Luckily that didn’t happen and the outcome matched the effort I put in :).

In spring of 2017 I got to take on campus classes.  I was actually very nervous!  I’d been out of the classroom for about seven years, and did not know what to expect anymore.  Would the other students ostracize me, wonder what I was doing there?  I had a serious case of imposter syndrome for the first several weeks.  I needn’t have worried.  People see what they expect to see, and most people assumed I was 19 or 20.  In fact, in a journalism class I took, I mentioned my husband in a class discussion, and the girl behind me whispered to her friend “wow, someone sure got married young.”  I seriously wish I had thought to turn around and tell her that we had just celebrated our 5th anniversary!  I can only imagine what the look on her face would have been like!  Ugh, the ideas for witty comebacks always come after the fact, don’t they!?

That spring I also took a chemistry class to help satisfy one of my remaining science classes, and I fell in love with it – so much so that for awhile I was listed as a double major in chemistry and psychology.  I spent all last summer taking General Chemistry.  It was tough, but I loved every bit of it!  ALL I did was chemistry, so I was pretty exhausted by the end of the summer, but I thought I had found my calling – at least, I really loved all the math involved!  Organic chemistry in Fall of 2017 was a much different story.  I still did really well in the class, but I soon realized that chemistry was about more than math, and a lot of it was memorizing shapes and structures, which I did not enjoy nearly as much.  It opened my eyes and made me realize that perhaps my interests really fall on MATH, and that chemistry helped me, in a roundabout way, to realize that.  Around this time, my husband mentioned that there was a sliiiight possibility we would be moving away in summer of 2018 – this was a problem, as with the chemistry major, I would not be able to finish until May of 2019.  So I decided to drop the chemistry major, which only left me with 2 required classes in Spring of 2018 to finish out my psychology degree!

While taking two classes this spring was a nice break from the full schedule I had had up to this point (I took 18 hours in the fall), it was not as stress free as I imagined.  One of my classes was an Applications of Research Methods class, which basically required me to design and run my own psychological experiment.  At the beginning of the semester, I was extremely overwhelmed with all the requirements, but I just forced myself to take it one step at a time, and everything turned out great!  I ended up studying divided attention and learning during boredom, and though most of my results were not statistically significant, I still learned a ton about how to set up and run experiments, ethics, bias, and I got better at overall APA style of writing papers.  But even though I learned a lot, my stress levels this semester were through the roof – I think because, the last time I was this close to graduating college, everything all went to hell, and I was afraid something was going to happen to screw it up again.  And I was gonna be damned if I let anything like that happen again!

Commencement was May 5 and it was a fantastic weekend.  Not only did my parents come up from NC, but my grandad flew up from Georgia and my in-laws even drove out from Nebraska.  It felt amazing that so many people make that trip just to celebrate my accomplishment, and I was so happy to have them here.  It was a short trip, as they all got here Friday and left Sunday, but again – small town, not a lot to do, so I think it was perfect.  We gave them the campus tour on Friday, and Saturday we went to eat at Firehouse Subs for lunch and to a campus clothing store where my mom was able to pick up some CMU souvenirs.  My commencement was not until 6PM, which wasn’t ideal for dinner plans, but hey, I was GRADUATING COLLEGE so I wasn’t gonna complain too much about the time!!  However, the ceremony, which we were told would be about 2-2.5 hours, lasted almost THREE HOURS.  It was crazy.  Also, they did not call us up alphabetically – instead, we showed up an hour before and filled out a card with our name on it, which we then handed to the speaker to read as we crossed the stage (which wasn’t even technically crossing the stage – we never even got on the stage haha).  My husband had texted me beforehand to say they were sitting toward the front on the left side, so when they lined us up beforehand, I put myself in the front on the left.  To my dismay, when we got into the coliseum, the section I had put myself was in the BACK left!  I was literally 3 rows from the back and, out of nearly 1000 people, my name was one of the last!  By the time they called my  name I was so HANGRY that I didn’t even get that emotional teary-eyed “omg I just graduated!” feeling that I had anticipated, which was honestly a bit disappointing, but oh well.

I still really wanted to grill out, so even though it was after 9 by the time we got home, my husband and I lit the coals to the grill and cooked lots of hamburgers and chicken breasts.  It was really casual and really nice just hanging out with family, and such a WEIGHT had been lifted off my shoulders!  I did it!  Not only did I graduate, but I did it with the highest honors I could possibly get!  During my whole time at CMU, I made all A’s except for one A- in an Abnormal Psychology class (that class was TOUGH!  Most people will argue that was one of the hardest Psych classes to take as an undergrad, so I didn’t feel too bad).  I know that grades don’t matter so much after college (except for GRAD SCHOOL, which I do plan on going to), but I set a personal goal when I first got here to graduate summa cum laude, and I achieved that goal.  Anything is possible.

Since it was so dark after the commencement ceremony, we took graduation pictures on Sunday.  We went to the seal on campus and got some really nice pictures with me in my cap and gown and with my family.  Sadly, everyone had to leave right afterwards, all too soon, but it was such a wonderful weekend and the memories from the weekend as well as my time at CMU will always be with me.

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NaNoWriMo 2017!

After two years off, I have decided to participate in NaNoWriMo once again this year!  I participated, and won, back in 2014, but unfortunately I accidentally deleted my entire novel the following January.  This put me in such a writing slump that I did not write any more fiction again until earlier this year, and what I have written has been limited to the stray scene here and there.

For the past month, I have been brainstorming and plotting a sci-fi novel.  That’s really all I am going to say about the content for now, for numerous reasons ranging from being a bit self-conscious to not wanting others accidentally taking my idea.  But I will say that, even though I have not actually begun writing the story yet, I am in love with this novel far more than I ever have been with any writing project I have ever undertaken.

The challenge this month will be balancing my writing with my classes.  I am taking organic chemistry as well as two other online psychology classes (the reason all but one class is online is due to my husband’s IRONMAN in a few weeks, which, including all the traveling and activities, will take me away from campus for about two weeks – thankfully including Thanksgiving break).  The good news is, I finished three other psychology classes about two weeks ago, and THOSE were time-suckers.  I really dislike online classes in general. Because there are no class meetings to attend, but they feel like they have to give you SOMETHING besides just exams, they tend to feel like an endless stream of tasks and busywork that always take up way more time than one would expect.  I also dislike how disconnected I feel with them, whereas when I actually attend class, I am able to connect with other people. But my thoughts about online classes (as well as returning to school as a non-traditional student on a mostly traditional campus!) are really for another post!

This year I am choosing to write my novel in a Leuchtturm Master Slim notebook using fountain pens and, occasionally, dip pens.  If I am going to write, I want to WRITE!  We all know I love fountain pens, and, while it may take me longer to actually write the novel, I feel like I will connect with it more. Also, I am in front of the computer all day for school, between typing up papers for my online classes or working on organic chemistry homework, so I need some time AWAY from a screen!  This will give me that opportunity to unplug and just put pen to paper and write.  I generally write about 1000 words per page in those notebooks, so, in order to ensure I achieve the 1667 word average needed to win, I plan on writing two pages each day.

Are you doing NaNoWriMo this year?  Have you participated in the past?  What have your experiences been like?  What are you most looking forward to?

New Exercise Regime

It has officially been a week since I started exercising, and I thought I’d reflect on it a bit. For a little background info, I have not seriously exercised since probably about 2009.  I used to enjoy going to the gym and running, but I started making excuses (“my stomach hurts,” “I’m just too tired today,” “I’m dehydrated today and running wouldn’t be good,” “it’s that time of month,” etc).  Each time I made an excuse I insisted that it was only for THAT day.  Well guess what.  One day turned into eight years, and here we are.

My husband is currently training for Ironman Arizona this upcoming November (side note: he has partnered with Smile Train in order to raise money for surgeries to repair cleft palates for children who cannot afford them.  If you are interested in donating to this amazing cause, please follow this link.  Every little bit helps!).  In order to prepare for that race, he raced in Ironman Ohio a few weeks ago.  I had never been to any Ironman event before, or even any organized race event before, and I was absolutely blown away by the amazing atmosphere.  I got to witness new friendships being formed, encouragement and hype that complete strangers gave to racers, and got to see my husband feel incredibly proud of himself for such an amazing accomplishment.  I saw super-athletes in their early twenties and I saw those in their 70’s all running the same race.  People of all shapes and sizes were in this, and I realized that I wanted to be like them.

My short-term goal is to run the Traverse City Duathlon on August 20th.  It may be more of a walk than a run (especially at the end) but I am determined to finish.  I am the type of person who needs concrete goals.  If I say I’m going to get in shape but don’t have a race to train for, I will quickly decide that I’d rather be on my couch reading my book than out in the heat slogging the miles away.  I also plan to do a few upcoming 5K runs, and my “big” goal is to race in Ironman Ohio next summer.  I think a year is enough time to get myself ready as long as I stay consistent.

I started off last Wednesday with a swim.  My goal was to swim 500 meters total.  I ended up swimming 25 meters, resting 30 seconds, and repeating x 20.  This ensured that I did not overdo it, but I also didn’t let my heart rate drop back down too much in between each length.  I have been dealing with some unknown shoulder injury for the past several months and I was worried that swimming would aggravate it, but I actually think it helped.  I was much less sore in that part of my shoulder for the next few days than I have been, oddly enough.  Unfortunately I have not been able to swim since then, as we (my husband and I) took a trip to see family for a few days, and the only pool within reasonable driving distance of us is shut down for the week for some unknown reason.

Thursday – 45 minute bike ride on the trainer.  This was the day when my husband was doing a 2 hour bike ride for his Ironman training.  I’m nowhere near able to do that, but I was able to hang in there for 45 minutes.  We had made the mistake of ordering pizza earlier, though, and to be honest I started feeling pretty nauseated toward the end.  Bleh. Lesson learned, cut back on greasy crap!

Friday – rest day, as we had a 12-hour drive to see my family

Saturday – 1 hour bike outside on a greenway near where my parents live.  I “bonked” about halfway through (I blame on hills, dehydration, and general out-of-shapeness) but I discovered the amazing Gu energy gels that everyone talks about and after I ate one of those I was good to go.  Even when we finally stopped the ride, I probably could have kept going at that point, because I felt great.  Figuring out what to eat before exercise so this doesn’t happen so quickly is definitely a trial-and-error experience for me, but good to know these are available if I need them.  Saturday night I also did a 25 minute run outside.  First run in eight years!  I kept a run-5-minutes-walk-1-minute thing going for most of the time, which I was really happy with, and it didn’t heart as much as I thought it would.

Sunday –  30 minute run on treadmill due to rain.  I have discovered that the treadmill seems much easier to run on than outdoors.  I was able to run for 15 minutes straight without stopping, walked for a minute, and then ran the rest.

Monday – rest

Tuesday – my first “brick” workout.  This kicked my butt.  Everything was indoors on trainer/treadmill due to storms. The bike was fine and I actually noticed a lower average heart rate even when I tried to push the pace.  Maybe my body is gradually getting used to this exercise thing.  I immediately followed the bike with a 15 minute run on the treadmill and my calves started cramping up a bit, so I stopped and stretched them out for about a minute in the middle before finishing out the run.  I was exhausted by the end of it but actually felt great.

Wednesday – travel day/rest day

Thursday – 25 minute run around my neighborhood.  This one was rough.  I don’t know if I needed another rest day in between, or if the fact that I took my dog made things harder.  I actually suspect the latter, as she kept trying to cut in front of me so I had to use my left a bit to keep her to my side, which probably altered my gait a bit.  My left calf and shin were really hurting by the end of mile 1, but my right was fine, so this is what makes me suspect my dog being the issue.  I stopped to stretch it out, and by mile 2 I think she was tired enough to just chill out trotting by my side.  But it was pretty hot and humid so by then my lungs were really burning too.  I really need to figure out this breathing thing with running (I start out in four, out four, and then go to in three, out four, but if anyone has any tips I definitely welcome them).

So yeah.  There we have it.  A week and a day recap.  Overall I don’t notice much of a difference in how I feel, but after a week I don’t expect to see a huge change.  I’m not nearly as sore as I would expect, but I’ve also been trying really hard to listen to my body, so even though I’ve jumped into this pretty quickly, I’m backing off when my body says stop.  I do notice that I am happier and feel more confident in myself already, so that’s definitely something.  And the little “stress twitch” that has been present over my right eye for the past two months seems to have gone away, so definitely a bonus!

I hope to continue chronicling this journey on this blog and hopefully this time next year I’ll have checked off many of those goals!

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