“Justin, I think I am going to pass out when they call my name. I’m dead serious!” is what I said to my classmate while sitting 10 rows from the stage at my graduation on Saturday. I wasn’t kidding. I can’t exactly name why I was feeling this way, but I have a few guesses. For starters, in typical Ali disaster fashion, I had run 10 miles with Adam (in 1:33:07 mind you- killin’ it!) and was too rushed to eat anything after. HUGE FAIL! Or it could have been that I had just spent the previous 20 minutes with my body half out of Adam’s car window screaming at people who were driving like idiots by my standards. “Get the hell out-of-the-way!” “Drive your goddamn car!” because, also in true Ali fashion I was late and thought I would miss the graduation completely. Maybe it was that I made it into the procession line with my cap and gown on within a minute or so of filing?I have never been on time for anything in my life.
Well, all those things were contributors I am certain of that. But, I think this dizzy, sick to my stomach feeling had a lot to do with the emotions surrounding what was about to happen. They were going to call “Alison Fornash”, I was going to walk across a stage, get hooded, get handed my diploma and become Alison Fornash, M.Ed. The emotion I felt shocked me. I couldn’t figure it out because if you recall, I didn’t even want to go to my graduation. All week I joked with my friends about how silly my family and husband were for making a big deal out of it. But as I sat there, next to poor Justin (whose counseling degree he was about to have conferred to him came in handy during that 2 hours while he tried to calm me down) I realized this was it! I spent three and a half years in graduate school working towards this degree that would change the course of my career path forever (hopefully!). When people asked me what I do I would never list “pursuing my masters in school counseling” anymore. I am not the first person to accomplish this. I am in no way special. I can name 10 people right now that I know personally who have M.Ed’s.
But, I recalled 22-year-old Ali sitting at the desk in her childhood bedroom searching for a job post- undergrad and realizing that to do what she wants she would have to earn a master’s degree. And do you know what she thought to herself in that moment? “I guess I will have to find something else I will like, I am not smart enough to get my masters.” Flash forward to 25-year-old Ali sitting on the curb outside of a testing center in the Sea Port area of Boston crying into her lap after taking the GRE and viewing the scores. In that moment I had whole heatedly resigned to the fact that graduate school would never be an option for me. If it weren’t for pep talks from my dad, my husband (then boyfriend) and my good friend Melissa that day I would have given up. I recall the three and a half years of working 40 hours, going to class until 10pm and then sitting up on my sofa and writing a paper until 2am before getting up and doing it all over again. Then I think of 28-year-old Ali standing in the middle of Government Center in Boston angrily telling her friend over the phone how her employer was making her choose between her job and finishing her master’s, while fighting back tears. I remember the anger surging through my body. With the decision to leave my job and finish my degree, I lost my tuition benefit. Meaning that in the middle of renovating our now home, I would not only be unemployed but also had to come up with thousands of dollars out-of-pocket to pay my tuition. I had no idea how thing would workout.
In the end, after all those hurdles, I did it! I got up, heard my name, walked across the stage, got hooded and received my Master’s in Education in School Counseling. All without passing out and while earning a 3.8 GPA!
(Proof Adam is the worst photographer in America).
I was lucky enough to share with moment with my parents. husband and good friend Belle. All of who absolutely embarrassed me by screaming out things like “YESSSSSSS!” “You go girl!” and “THAT’S MY WIFE!” as I crossed the stage. Ha! I would expect nothing less. It means so much to share that moment with them because it truly took support from all of them to get there. Adam especially made so many sacrifices for the sake of my education.
The feelings of nausea, fear of what comes next, excitement and accomplishment were all present in that moment when I warned Justin that I might collapse. But the overarching emotion of Saturday was elation.
I had done something that I doubted I would even accomplish so many times. I got hooded without passing out. Kidding….
PS: Thank you, Justin for keeping me laughing and calm throughout that ceremony and sorry you ended up sitting next to me.
What have you accomplished that you never thought possible? How did you feel in that moment?