After YEARS (like, 15 years) of stress and obstacles to overcome, I can FINALLY celebrate this milestone in my life.
I graduated high school in 2004 and received a full academic scholarship to NAU in the fall. I spent a year working on dual degrees in music and psychology, before deciding to transfer to ASU for the music therapy program.
This decision cost me more than my financial aid. My dad’s side of the family disowned me because they disagreed with my decision and did not like that I got a male roommate to help pay the bills. (Super conservative, religious upbringing – we’ve made up and we now have a positive relationship again.)
After a semester of struggling, I realized music therapy was not the career path I wanted to pursue. I still loved music and psychology, but I was more interested in the research of music cognition. I dropped out after 1 semester and felt like a failure.
I always wanted to go back to school, but I was too young to qualify for financial aid independent of my family. Every time I was within a year of being able to qualify, the minimum age restriction increased. I started to lose hope.
Throughout my 20’s, I worked odd jobs that would allow me the flexibility to take classes here and there. I explored many possible career paths. And I started teaching HS and independent percussion groups.
Teaching was always more of a glorified hobby than a career. It doesn’t pay the bills. I once broke down the hourly rate across a school semester of teaching percussion. I made $0.63 per hour. But, teaching and sharing music brings me joy, so I did it anyway.
Finally, in spring 2015, I decided to enroll full time at a local community college to knock out some pre-reqs for a psychology degree. I decided to audition for the NAU school of music and if I was offered a scholarship, I would also pursue the music degree I had always wanted.
I won a partial performance scholarship and returned to NAU to pursue dual degrees in music and psychology.
Two years passed smoothly.
In spring 2017, I developed a severe nerve injury in my left shoulder that prevented me from playing. I made the difficult choice to medically withdraw for the semester and dropped my music degree from performance to arts. I lost my scholarship and got a full time job.
Until now, I had been paying my school expenses out-of-pocket with some help from family and personal savings, but the money starting running thin. I applied for financial aid. I was approved. Even with aid, I worked full time while taking a heavy course load to complete both degrees (18-20 credits per semester).
It’s winter 2018, my final year, and I’ve completed the degree requirements for my psychology degree. I lost my financial aid because I had “too many credits” thanks to all the random classes I had taken at community colleges during my 20s. But I have 3 more classes to complete for my music degree. Senior-level music research capstone and 2 semesters of Spanish.
I’m stubborn, so I refused to give up on my music degree because I was so close.
I enrolled in a tuition payment plan for the music research course. Couldn’t pay for it all by the deadline and NAU sent the account to collections, even after we entered into a verbal repayment agreement. (They never sent the contract to sign and I forgot to follow up).
I completed all my degree requirements in 2019, but I wasn’t able to transfer the last Spanish credit until 2020. NAU wouldn’t release my degree certificates until my account was paid in full. I finally paid off the $5k debt earlier this year.
NAU released the hold on my degree certificates and mailed them… to my old address. They’re currently lost in the mail or in a landfill somewhere. But, I gained access to the eDiplomas, downloaded them, and now I can finally FINALLY celebrate this milestone! 🎉
So, why did I share this LONG story?
Because sometimes the vision we have for ourselves, doesn’t fit the reality. When I decided to finish my undergrad degrees in music and psychology, I planned to continue through a PhD program in the field of music psychology or cognition and pursue a career in academia. But, after all the twists and turns, struggles and obstacles, I realized the traditional academic route no longer fit my life’s vision.