Before Baby: Graduated Magna Cum Laude

Part of the intention of this blog is to become Eleanor’s mother more fully, but also to remember who I was before. That person is not gone. That person is only made more complete by Eleanor joining our lives and our family. One of Sara’s best pieces of advice for her middle school students is “don’t peak in middle school.” You’ll see why that’s relevant in the story that follows.

Some of the earliest stories about me depict me as a precocious, attention-seeking, wild child. Once, when my grandmother was talking to me about how pretty I looked in my dress, I sat down next to her and said, “Grammie, I want to have a conversation.” No small talk for me.

Another story is my decision to go to Yale University when I was in Kindergarten. I don’t know where I got this idea from, but I told my parents I wanted to go to Yale. And when the follow-up question was “what do you want to be when you grow up?” I answered: a waitress.

Big dreams.

For most of my life, I wanted to be an actress. Something tells me this is a common desire for precocious and loud-mouthed children. Give them an audience. I invented and performed plays with my sister and brother at home or my classmates at school. I remember my second grade teacher would allow me to perform these skits when we came back from recess. I was well on my way to becoming a star.

However, I didn’t get a call back from trying out for the fall play my Freshman year of high school. My story is not a Michael Jordan story where I overcame this adversity and followed by dream anyway. Nope. I gave up. If I couldn’t even cut high school drama, how was I supposed to make in a pool of the whole world of talented people. That was that.

Instead, I pivoted my obsessive and perfectionist tendencies towards my studies and the world of extracurricular activities. I joined every club I could and even considered joining the anime club because it happened to meet on Fridays, and I didn’t have a meeting on Fridays. I became president, secretary, treasurer, or joined the boards of as many of these clubs as I could. Community service, literary magazine, political clubs, religious clubs – didn’t matter – I wanted in; I wanted to join.

It’s strange to look back on this time now – almost 20 years removed. I felt like the big shot on campus. As if everybody knew who I was. And they did, but I’m not sure what that did for me. I joined all these clubs and was busy, but I’m not sure what it was all for. Why did I fill my time with all that busy-ness? What gold star was I trying to achieve?

Turns out, this lack of focus extended to my university searches too. I scored really well on my PSATs sophomore year and received tons of interest from schools, so I thought I was the bell of the ball. All these schools would want me and work hard to get me. I don’t know why fourteen-year-old-Maggie thought this. What a silly idea.

When no school just opened it’s doors to me by my Senior year, I applied to just one school, Gonzaga University. I got in with flying colors and no contest. I applied for the Honor’s program and didn’t receive a call back. By that time Senior year, I didn’t care. I had a school for the following year, and I knew where I was going. That was enough.

University was a strange time for me. I began my time at university joining NOTHING because I wanted to ensure I did well in my classes. I had it in my mind that university was going to be difficult. I assumed the course-load would be challenging and rigorous. What I didn’t account for was how much free time students have at university. For the first semester, I was either at my desk or on my bed pouring over the assigned readings and completing every extra assignment.

My first semester Freshman year, I earned an A minus in my Old Testament class when there were other slackers who earned As. I was pissed. I worked so hard. I did all the reading. I didn’t go out partying for one single night. Not one. So this was my first lesson in the level of effort you put in does not always equal the end results you want. If effort wasn’t the affecting variable, then what was?

Therefore, second semester I tried to recreate my high school life. I joined as many clubs as I could midway through the year, and I found them lacking. Even the clubs were meant to be about community service or politics or donations for causes were mostly social clubs. I didn’t find myself fitting in with any of these people as a group. I was very lost. I even looked in to transferring to UW or Seattle University. What an interesting decision that would have been.

Eventually, it came down to the simple fact that transferring would mess with my ability to graduate on time due to different requirements and/or my classes from Gonzaga not counting for the same credits. So I decided to stay at Gonzaga. It was a matter of expedience. I’m sure the GU Zags would be so proud to read this rousing endorsement.

I earned a degree in Religious Studies which really means that I can read and write well. I can reason through term papers among the best in my class. I can wrestle with philosophies and theologies and come out on the other side with less of an answer than before I started reading. It also means that I used the prime years of my life to think – really think – about the world around me. How much religion has shaped the world we live in. How my religion is not the only religion. How even those who are members of the same faith don’t even all believe the same thing. I earned a study in people as individuals and the groups they choose to form around themselves. Who is in, and who is out.

Other than a degree in Religious Studies and graduating Magna Cum Laude, my most notable accomplishment of my university years was finding the love of my life. Sara and I have often joked that I used Gonzaga as a really expensive dating service rather than a launching pad for a career. I thought I was going to be an academic for the rest of my life. Instead, I found the person with whom to spend my life.

I worked hard to earn GPA higher than 3.5 (I truly don’t remember what I earned at this point, but Magna Cum Laude means higher than 3.5 – so somewhere beyond that). I worked hard at Gonzaga to take my studies seriously, read as much as I could, write well, etc. I worked less hard once I began dating Sara, but that’s typical and to be expected. Overall, I’m glad everything turned out the way it did because now I have a wife, a doggo, and a little girl named Ellie who can grow up to be whatever she wants to be.

Published by @electrickduckdesigns

Eight days into motherhood, I needed a place to be myself again. Follow me as I grow into this new role.

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