I don’t mean to brag, but this post is kind of a big deal.
Today, my mom is graduating from college!
My parents are nearly 12 years apart, and got married while my mom was still in undergrad. A few years later they had me, and moved to Minnesota (yup, this wasn’t my first move to ‘Sota!) a few weeks after I was born so my dad could start graduate school. For the last 28 years, my mom has been just one semester shy of earning her bachelors degree.
She also suffers from Lupus, a debilitating auto-immune disease she was diagnosed with in her early thirties. Doctors told her she would never be able to work, not even just part-time. As a stay-at-home mom to four kids (who are only four-and-a-half years apart!) her health, fatigue, and constant pain were a huge hindrance to her duties at home. I can’t even begin to imagine the weight of the discouragement she experienced, yet I do know there were many times she feared she would never get better.
It took many years, and a great deal of experimentation with her treatment and medication, but eventually, mom proved her doctors wrong. She was able to work full-time for the first time since college, sharing her abundance of patience and kindness with special needs children as a paraeducator.
But mom wasn’t stopping there. Not a week after my youngest brother Janss had graduated with his bachelors degree, she registered for her first semester of classes at Evergreen State University. Twenty-eight years later, she was finally going back to college, while continuing to work full-time.
Today, after countless hours of studying, thousands of words written, and even a creative writing interpretive dance class, she has finally earned her bachelors degree.
And I couldn’t be more proud.
Or maybe I could…?
A conversation from last week…
Mom: Oh! Guess what!
Mom: Your Dad and I are going to the Senior Prom!
Me: But mom…you’re not really seniors yet…Dad’s still a year away from being 65. Or have they officially changed the age to 55 now like they do at Denny’s?
Mom: No, Katrina…not a prom for senior citizens. The Senior Prom at school. I’m probably going to be the oldest one there, but who cares, right? All my friends are going, and I’ve worked so hard…I feel like I need a night out. Plus, you’re dad says we have to go because there’s free drinks and appetizers.
Anyone who knows my father knows he never passes up a chance for free grub and liquor.
Mom explained that she would be doing her own hair and makeup and borrowing a prom dress from a really good family friend. Dad would probably wear the suit he wore at their wedding 31 years ago, which I found to be wonderfully romantic.
I also was kind of jealous that dad still fits into his wedding attire. Must be all that running he’s doing.
Me: Mom, that’s so great! I bet you’re really looking forward to it!
Mom: Yeah. We’ll see. I’m probably going to feel really fat, and your dad is self-conscious about his face peeling, but we’re going to try to make the best of it.
The face peeling.
Where do I even begin?
I just typed out 873 words explaining how exactly my dad ended up in the ER with second degree burns covering his entire face.
And then, I realized Mark might not appreciate the details of his candle melting accident gone wrong being divulged on the internet.
Long story short, don’t, under any circumstances, try to melt multiple candles into one jar at three in the morning when there’s a pretty good chance you might fall asleep during the process.
Apparently, problems with candles run in my family.
My dad was extremely lucky. He was wearing pants and a long-sleeved shirt that protected the majority of his body from being burnt. His glasses also prevented damage to his eyes, and he had the presence of mind not to inhale any of the lung damaging fumes from the fire.
In fact, the horrible burns have actually worked in his favor and given him results similar to a very expensive chemical peel.
Some dads have all the luck.
So, my fifty-two year old mother attended the prom feeling self-conscious about her age and the way her dress fit.
My sixty-four year old father stood by her side, beyond embarrassed that large, scaly sheets of dead skin were peeling off his entire face.
Thirty one years later, he was still too cheap to order my mom a corsage. (Although I do think he deserves some credit for not attempting to melt down all the votive candles used to decorate the tables at the end of the night.)
I called my mom last Sunday, eager to hear all the details of her big night out.
“It was okay,” she sighed. “I mean…there’s all of this build up and excitement, and then you get there and it’s just not that great.”
Story of my life.
And not merely in regards to big events like the prom, but just growing up in general. Prom is similar to adulthood in that you keep waiting for it to happen, and then when it finally does, you realize it’s a little bit…well…overrated.
I always used to think that once I reached a certain age, things would just fall into place. I’d have my life together, I’d be happy and responsible, I would finally be able to look back on all of my hard work and say, “I’m here! I’ve arrived! I’ve finally made it to the place I’ve been working towards.” Adulthood represented a utopian life where everything was polished and shiny. I envisioned myself being put together and problem free. A perfect version of myself.
Instead, adulthood involves sharing a car that doesn’t even have cruise control with my husband, realizing we actually have to pay back all of those student loans we took out, and coming to terms with the fact that we live in an apartment that is within walking distance of the mall.
Also? I no matter how old I get, I still relish every single moment I spend watching “Greek” on ABC family while lounging on the IKEA sofa we had to settle for as we still can’t afford a sectional from Crate & Barrel due to the aforementioned student loans.
Ummm….welcome to adulthood?
My mom’s night at the prom made me realize something really important: Adulthood is awkward. Sure, it’s different from the awkwardness of puberty, proms and pep rallies, but it’s uncomfortable nonetheless. I still wrestle with some of the same problems I did in high school. How do I make friends? Do I look stupid? Did I say the wrong thing? What if nobody likes my blog? What if nobody likes me?
I don’t think we ever grow out of our insecurities, and I’m learning to be okay with that.
Mom mom is a great example. She’s overcome a devastating disability, has raised three wonderful children (and one snarky one), gone back to work despite her health issues, graduate from college and enjoyed a wonderful 31-year marriage with Mr. Candle Melter. You’d think she’s got it all together, yet despite her list of accolades, she still felt goofy at the prom.
Come to think of it, I’m not sure I know anyone who didn’t feel goofy at the prom.
Yet in spite of our fears, our self-doubt, our flaws, and yes, even our peeling faces, we can still be successful, fulfilled, content individuals. We can have fun at the prom without being the King or Queen!
Having your life one hundred percent together is not a prerequisite for making it wonderful. A comforting thought, indeed.
Almost as comforting as the knowledge that I’ll never have to go to the prom again.