Monday, October 8, 2012

looking back and celebrating a Master.

last year....or maybe a year and a half ago?  the timing is cloudy.  ben qualified for his Master's Degree.  at the time we were saying, "oh, let's not bother with it."  he's registered in the doctoral program so it isn't a necessary step for him, it cost several hundred dollars to even apply to receive the certificate and whoknowswhat other fees {or reasons why they were there} and we were struggling to even pay our rent, so we skipped the ordeal.

but, with the past year of the ups and downs of schooling and the up-in-the-air way things have gone with his dissertation which will put a hold on everything, we decided to fork over the money and make ben an official Master.

sometimes it's nice to have a piece of paper to hold in your hand, in case your best laid plans go awry.  something tangible, to take with you...if you need it.

i looked back on the first two {and a half?  again, cloudy.} years of school and what this certificate and ben walking up a few carpeted stairs to greet one of his professors meant to us.  what the symbolism behind watching his hand reach up and flip the tassel on his cap from the right side to the left meant to me.

and truthfully, i teared up.  because to me, it meant a lot.  we faced quite a bit in those first couple of years, and realized what the words graduate school really entailed.  and what having multiple children while in graduate school really entailed.  what moving {twice} and having no close family support in graduate school really entailed.

we were very naive going into this situation, this idea of school.  almost as naive as we were when we first decided we wanted to have a baby.  we were starry-eyed and big dreamers and so optimistic about what our lives would look like.  during those first two years i struggled personally more than i think i ever have.  and ben did too, but in a different way.  individually we faced some of our darkest demons, and there were times when both of us felt extremely lonely, though we were together through it all.

we.  us.

ben received the paper and he earned every inch of that sucker.  but he walked up to me afterward, hugged me and thanked me for being there through it.  and i love him for that, for seeing me.

i have a few friends whose husbands are also in graduate school, and they just seem to take care of things on their own.  yes he is gone a lot, and she is left to work through children and all that entails, but with us it has been different.  ben has needed my support in ways i had foreseen and in ways that i hadn't.  and this has been the case for me as well, needing him in ways we had not expected.

blurry blinking at 4 a.m. to help correct/rewrite one of his many extremely long papers that was due at 5 a.m.  biting my nails off as he drove to turn in his end-of-the-year papers, praying he would make it in time.  crying tears as our hopes of finishing school in the timeframe we had initially thought pushed back another year.  working through constantly stressful financial aid problems together.  giving countless pep talks to let him know that regardless of what anyone {including himself} said or thought, that i knew he could do this.  that he could not give up, because i knew he would regret it for the rest of his life.

filming the online show in between studying and doctor's visits, hoping we didn't look as frazzled as we felt.  bouncing an endlessly screaming and colicky baby through 4 months, staring at the empty space in our bed, grateful in knowing his full-time overnight shift was helping him to complete his homework, while silently resenting his absence when i needed him most.  feeling trapped and suffocated in our small apartment with no car to leave, and only the blistering heat of the summer to walk out into.

we grew apart those first two and a half years, learning how to cope on our own because we were hardly ever together.  and ben and i had never been apart in this way before.  it was scary for a moment, until we both woke up and realized that if a child with special needs could not break us, and a group home full of mentally unstable teenagers could not break us, and a whole lot of outside family drama could not break us, then neither could this.  our love for each other and this life we had created was bigger than this.

we dug deep, recommitted, and worked through it.  no longer starry-eyed, but holding hands, interlocking our fingers and setting our jaws in determination to finish this.  together.

i can count on one hand the times i have literally felt a fork in the road of my life.  and i felt one those first two years.  and thankfully, as with the other times i have felt this, i look back and know i made the right decision.  i came to know the Mercy and Grace side of my God once again.  another growing pain put to rest.

i used to hate graduate school, loathing the very words and how it tore us down and changed us.  but now i see we were both stretched those first two years, and am finding we are now in more of a groove in life, in our marriage, than i feel we ever have been.

and it isn't over, this graduate school thing.  i think when it finally is, we will have to find our identity once again.  we will search for our new place in life and readjust as we so often have.

but until that day, we will hold onto this paper and know what it means for us.  

congratulations, Master Ben.  i know what this degree means to you personally, and each day i love you more and more for sticking with this and seeing it through.  i think the easy road would have been to quit every time you were discouraged, or when you saw your wife crumble under the pressure for a little while, or when you missed out on family events that the 9-5-and-home-on-weekends dads were able to attend, or just wanted to get a good night's sleep for the first time in weeks instead of staying up writing and studying.

we will get there one day, that will be us.  and we will appreciate it so much more than we would have if we hadn't earned it.


this weekend, we were lucky enough to have some family come into town to join us for the commencement, and then to meet up at a restaurant with an even bigger group to celebrate benandlynsey strader style--with food and laughing.

and now....of course,


Nana said...

What a beautiful post Lynsey. Congratulations to both of you! Ben is blessed to have you and you are blessed to have Ben. Sending lots of hugs your way.

MeggyT said...

First, I just have to tell you that I'm so proud of you for being able to walk in those high-heels! Holy Cow I would have fallen over!
2) Congrats to the Great Master Ben! Whaaa Whooooo!!!!
3) No pressure, but hurry and become Dr. Ben and then you can join Mike's psychology practice here in MD! We are starting it up 2013!

Rachel Chick said...

Is it a silly thing for me to say that I'm SO PROUD of you two? As if I had some credit in this amazing accomplishment? :) Probably, but I'm still so proud of you guys. I love you both so much and I'm so excited for you to have that little piece of paper . . . for all that it symbolizes. You both have taught me so much. Thank you!

You are both such an amazing force for good in this world and my heart swells with gratitude and pride at being able to call you some of my dearest friends. I have no idea the unbelievable sacrifice that this has been for you, but I am so thankful to know of the incredible good that Ben will be able to do for people in his future professional life -- and I'm sure even now. Ben is able to exude such love and caring for people . . . what an enormous blessing to be able to be such a representative for the Savior.

Thank you both for giving so much. I know that Heavenly Father loves you both -- and so do I.

Erika said...

Congratulations!!! You guys are amazing. You look amazing in those pictures too. I love reading about your family. :)

The Hunter's said...

Congratulations to you both!! I am so happy for you! Lynsey, you look beautiful in every picture!!!

ohmylanta said...

That really is quite an accomplishment! For both of you. I think it is so hard to be in school, raising and family and making ends meet. It kind of stinks that all good things in life require hard work. But, how else would we appreciate the journey from where to were, to where we are, to where we are going. You guys have some amazing years ahead of you!

And you look smokin hot Lyns! My goodness!