Whew, chile, this is going to be a long one, so grab a cup of tea, woulda? I joked earlier about not having to take summer classes, but if y’all only knew how much this accomplishment means to me. The thing is, I always knew I could do it, but there was literally so much fighting against me to make sure that I would fail—that succeeding feels that much better! It makes me feel so relieved (*cues heavenly music*)
Eight months ago, I decided to walk away from a salaried position that looked ridiculous to leave. But I knew I wasn’t happy there and that I would never reach my destiny if I stayed. No, I had (and HAVE) faith that God has something MUCH greater for me! And He is steadily proving this to me day by day.
I’m still soaking in all the events I’ve experienced to get where I am today, and I’m literally in awe of all God has done in just the past year of my life.
With His help: I did it. I graduated. Under NO false pretenses!
What do you mean by “false pretenses, Crystolyn?”
Let me try to explain in as short a version as possible:
The advisors in my department didn’t think I could handle the pressure to maintain a certain GPA to actually graduate since I have two kids and have been out of school for 3yrs. So their advice to me was to sign up for classes to take during the summer “just in case” I didn’t really pass. They didn’t see me crossing the finish line. But how many of you know that it’s not about the vision other people have for you as long as you’ve got one for yourself! (Come on somebody!) They told me they would allow me to “walk” on graduation day because I’ve earned the amount of credit hours needed to graduate, but that I would still need to take summer classes in order to “actually graduate.”
In all honesty, I felt like they looked at me like just another black girl with kids who probably wouldn’t ever rise to her full potential. Well, I’m more than that, and I’m so glad I didn’t need them to tell me so. Often, women like myself experience this form of discrimination which is so clear when you witness peers of a lighter pigmentation who receive that extra help—the type where the professors and advisors work together to ensure that that student has all the information they could possibly need to succeed!
Apparently, I wasn’t worthy of receiving such information, but it worked out so much better because God alone gets the credit for being my Advisor and assisting me throughout this process. He said, “I have all the steps laid out that you need to take in order to reach your destiny. Follow my guideline—not theirs.”
MAN!! I wish I could tell y’all the full story, but it would be too long and nobody would read it lol so I’ll save it for book form one day.
Anyway, when I returned to school this past fall, my overall GPA was fine, but the GPA I had within my school/major/department (however you want to look at it) was on the brink. My last time being in school was the Fall of 2012—the same time I had my second child. Even while pregnant, I attended school all year-round. I gave birth to my son on a Thursday, and I was back in class the following Thursday. I’ve never made excuses. I’ve always worked hard. Probably too hard sometimes.
So back then, I had these two particular professors within my major who really gave me a hard time. For one reason or another, they just didn’t care for me. Whether it was the way that I speak, my intense desire to succeed, the fact that I ask questions rather than just take everything I hear at face value—I don’t know. All I knew is that they failed me in their course with little to no explanation, regardless of the fact that my work was everything it was supposed to be. They’d always find a way to insert the fact that I had kids into classroom discussion—no matter that I’m also somebody’s WIFE too. Nope…that would give me too much credit. Again, I was just another girl with kids, which triggered them looking at me through tainted lenses.
This didn’t deter me. My thing is: I’m paying for my education and I will do whatever is necessary to make sure I’m getting my monies-worth and to be successful. Not only that, but professors should want students who ask questions and are truly engaged in the material enough to do further research and bring up opposing arguments. But this is only okay sometimes if you’re not black. (I’m sorry if anyone thinks I bring up race too much, but I’m speaking openly and honestly about my own experiences. Facts are facts). So whose classes do you think I was in when I came back to school? You got it; these same two professors would be the ones determining my fate.
When I was pregnant with me son, I tried to get as much out of the way as possible so that I could still graduate on time. I went to school all year round while working full-time and already having had a baby the year before. The financial aid department assured me I had enough money to attend summer school, so I did—as taxing as it was on my body and mind. It wasn’t until after I started the fall semester that I was sent a notification saying that I owed VCU over $4,000 and it would have to be paid before my next semester began. That gave me three months at best, which wasn’t going to happen. So I ended up having to temporarily drop out of school—working hard to gradually pay that money off before I could return. I didn’t have any help. I didn’t have a well-off family member who gave me the money. I didn’t raise the money. No. I WORKED for it. And looking back on it, I see exactly why God allowed me to acquire the position I did where I was earning more money so that I could afford to pay it off. People automatically assumed it was because I had kids that I wasn’t in school anymore…or that I got lazy…or whatever else they thought. I always knew I wanted to go back to school, but there did come a time where it seemed so out of reach. But looking back, now I know it was just all about God’s timing for my life. I had gotten comfortable with the idea of not going back to school if it wasn’t in God’s will, and as soon as I had peace about that–He opened up the door for me. By the time I came back to school, the department I was in had grown and become more accredited and more prestigious, and therefore my degree would carry more weight, in a sense. We also got brand new equipment the very same semester I returned, so while I had been afraid of getting back into the swing of things and not being up to par like my classmates were who had been progressing within our major with no breaks or delays—we all ended up having to learn how to operate the new equipment at the same time. Even cooler, this year was VCU’s first time honoring minority students in a completely separate ceremony, and I got to be a part of the first annual “Donning of the Kente” ceremony where only about fifty of us African-American students were recognized in a beautiful and intimate celebration. It was great! This is something I wouldn’t have been able to experience if I had graduated “on time,” and I always wanted one of those ethnic stoles 😀
On the very first day of class, I talked to these professors—explaining my situation—you know, the whole: This is my last year of school, I refuse to fail, how I wanted to make sure I stayed on top of things, how I’d be willing to do whatever it took to ensure my success throughout the course, yaddy, yadda, yah…
Now, I know I don’t need to defend myself, but I want to put things in perspective for you; there are people in this world who get a kick out of kicking others. These people enjoy having some sort of control (or thinking they have control) over your circumstance in some form or fashion. So when I had this discussion with my professors, they seemed eager to help me and make sure I passed with flying colors! Yet, as the time went on—their true motives became very clear; they would soon show that they had no intention of allowing me to graduate, especially if they had the control to give me whatever grade they saw fit. I had one professor who got upset when I asked a question in class because she said it made her look inadequate. She went on to say that I was a bully and a disruption in the classroom. Can I get anyone…I mean ANYONE to vouch for me? HA! I have never, by any means, been a distraction in class or a bully or anything along those lines—ever in my life. But…since she was an Asian woman who has a particular view about black women in America, and was so “threatened” she felt like she could say anything to me and I was just supposed to accept it. I always treated her with respect; she simply didn’t like that I would ask questions because she never had an intelligent answer to give. She told me once that I talked to her as if I were somebody. My response was, “Are you suggesting I’m not? Everyone should speak as if they are somebody because they are.” She went on to say that I needed to remember that I was her subordinate and should act as such. There’s a longer version to this story that includes me having to write a formal complaint on her which included a 10-page report on the different forms of discrimination I received from her.
I say that to say, my grades weren’t where they needed to be for several reasons, but none of those reasons included me not being smart enough, disciplined enough, or knowledgeable enough. In the grand scheme of things, it had everything to do with an enemy trying to fight against you (or in this case ME) when you’re trying to break certain limitations off of your life for yourself and future generations.
See, I didn’t just have to pass my classes to graduate–I had to ACE at least two of them. Well, I am PROUD to say that I finished my last semester of undergrad the exact SAME way I started it: taking 5 classes & receiving 4 “A’s” and 1 “C.” And no, I ain’t sweatin’ that “C”; it was for a class I absolutely hated, taught under a lecture style that I don’t excel in, and it was a subject that had zero to do with my major or minor. So I’ll take the “C”! Not only that, I MADE HISTORY! I was the very first-ever female at Virginia Commonwealth University to produce a documentary on her own; I was the FIRST student from the program to produce a documentary longer than 10min (my final submission was 20+ minutes long). It airs on PBS Friday, June 10th, and I hope you tune in and tell everybody you know to do the same! Lord knows I worked hard.
I am still just taking everything in that has transpired over the past couple of days. I appreciate all who took time out of their schedules to celebrate with me—even if it wasn’t convenient. That means more to me than you will ever know. I LIVE WITH people who didn’t think enough of me to attend or wish me well; so when I tell you it means a lot to me—believe it. This entire experience has been eye-opening and life-altering. Against all odds, I MADE IT!
When I tell you the enemy was working overtime to make sure this day didn’t come for me—THAT is why it means so much! I have no doubt that this whole process was necessary to drive me further into my destiny, and I’m honored to be chosen by God for such a task. I am a part of a first-generation of college graduates! My grandmother has roughly 30 grandchildren (NOT including great-grandchildren) and less than ten of us are college graduates. I was raised in POVERTY in section-8 housing by a single mother who worked two jobs to make sure we had what we needed, and God never failed us! She took in other people’s children when she didn’t have to and opened her doors to others even when we didn’t have “space.” But seeing her sacrifice is what has pushed me, along with an inner witness that said, “You HAVE to do this! And you CAN do this! Because this is so much bigger than you right now!”
May I forever be all the motivation my children need to keep pushing when times get hard—just like my mother was for me.
I dedicate this post and even my degree(s) to you, Mom. You, my lady, are the REAL M.V.P.
I also want to thank everyone who participated in my documentary and/or came to the Watch Party for it. I truly believe God has something special in store for you for being such a blessing to me!