You Not Gon’ Take my House! (and)… My First 30 Days as a Wag Walker

Hey Hey!

So, by now you can probably tell I’m a Southerner. And I’m proud of it. My flair, my flava, my lingo – all dutty South. But I’m also educated. Don’t come at me sideways LOL I got wit! So, yes. My southernness will also be sprinkled in my words. Can’t help it.

Anyway, Heeyyyyyy y’all. So, on to today’s post. I want to be a little vulnerable. Being vulnerable is hard for me. Not because I think anything I’m doing is top secret, but I do think some level of privacy is essential for sanity. Especially these days when everyone’s whole lives from the moment they open their eyes to the first thing they put in their mouth and what’s going on in their day to when they’re going to bed are documented and publicized – voluntarily! It’s just tew much.

So, here goes.

(I actually took a break in between the last sentence and this one to breathe, because just thinking about it has me emotional again)

Years ago I made a decision I wouldn’t open mail when I got home from work. It’s an easy habit to fall into: You get home, you have mail, you open it.

Years ago I made a decision I wouldn’t open mail when I got home from work. It’s a natural habit to fall into: You get home, you have mail, you open it.

But what if it’s not-so-good news, and you need to talk to someone’s customer service, but they’re home now just like you are? You spend the rest of the evening deliberating over said not-so-good news and thinking about how soon you can call customer service in the morning.

I’m an Aries. I don’t need more reasons to think than I already do.

I’ve spent many a sleepless night stressing over unanswered questions, possible situations I’d conjured in my head, and every scenario I could think of only to get me nowhere but sleepless, worrying over what I can’t control, and grumpy in the morning.

So I decided I will only open mail at work, or at least during business hours. Just in case in case I need to call someone and get some answers. Problem solved — no more sleepless nights. Well, at least not because of mail.

Years ago I made a decision I wouldn’t open mail when I got home from work. It’s an easy habit to fall into: You get home, you have mail, you open it.

But what if it’s not-so-good news, and you need to talk to someone’s customer service, but they’re home now just like you are? You spend the rest of the evening deliberating over said not-so-good news and thinking about how soon you can call customer service in the morning.

I’m an Aries. I don’t need more reasons to think than I already do.

I’ve spent many a sleepless night stressing over unanswered questions, possible situations I’d conjured in my head, and every scenario I could think of only to get me nowhere but sleepless, worrying over what I can’t control, and grumpy in the morning.

So I decided I will only open mail at work, or at least during business hours. Just in case I need to call someone and get some answers right away. Problem solved — no more sleepless nights. Well, at least not because of mail.

But this past weekend was a holiday weekend. So it was a lonnnng weekend. And when I got home from work this past Friday there was a letter from the Tax Commissioner. I told myself, “Definitely don’t open that til Monday!” and I put that thing in the open-at-work pile.

I’m so serious.

My peace… is my responsibility.

I decided not to take off Monday. I could have, but it just seemed like a waste of vacation hours because I knew it would be quiet and we’d go home early anyway.

So, come Monday morning, I made my morning smoothie, as usual, grabbed my purse and grabbed the stack of mail from the open-at-work pile and stuffed it in my bag.

When I got to work, I’d forgotten all about the mail, until I went looking for some lip gloss.

Oh yea! The tax letters. Lemme see what they talmbout. It’s too soon for my annual statement, but whatevs.

I open what feels like an unusually stuffed envelope for my annual tax assessment documents. But I proceed anyway.

What I find is a letter that says (paraphrasing because if I go get it I’ll get emotional, again), “According to records, you do not reside in the home mentioned above so your homestead exemption is denied, which means we haven’t been charging you enough taxes, and you have about a month and a half to pay us for the last 3 years’ worth of unpaid taxes in the amount of …oh, about $2500.”

W.   T.    F.

I read that letter at least 3 times. Then I looked at the included 3 blue documents behind it. One for each of the corresponding years I’ve been renting out my home.

It all felt like a bad dream.

And on July 4th weekend?! Dis-re-damn-spectful.

But it was actually dated May 25, 2017 – the letter was forwarded from my last address. (Sidebar here: People, always, always, always forward your address! A guy who lived at my home previously is still getting mail here, and some look verrrry important)

Ok.

Let me pause for a moment to say this: I’m an honest person. I may not have always been, I’ll admit it. But over the most recent years of my life (say, about the last 3-4 for certain), I’ve come to appreciate the value in honesty. I used to lie. Often. Led a life of lies, easily. But now, maybe it’s maturity or it could be apathy, but I just don’t have time to lie. I don’t have time or the energy to remember my lies.

I won’t say I want to do something I don’t want to. I won’t say I like you if I don’t. I won’t wear something that makes me uncomfortable and say “Aww! I love it!”  And I’m a vegan now so I won’t even eat anything that compromises my values. Cause, for why!

Now, back to this. Yes, I did file for homestead exemption, which, for those who are unaware, is a property tax discount given to homeowners, but it must be your primary residence. Yes, I filed when I was a homeowner,  because I took all the discounts I could get. But I, in all my (almost 10) years of homeownership never even thought to or knew where to begin to remove the exemption when I decided to rent my home out.

My home is my pride and joy. Besides my three degrees, it is the hardest and most rewarding challenge I’ve ever accomplished. I worked my BUTT off to get my home. I researched, I had an outstanding mortgage guy who I still communicate with to this day and took ever piece of advice he gave, I forfeited many temporary pleasures to save, and one of my best friend’s mom found my house after countless views and searches and offers that went no where.

When I bought my home at 23, it meant Everything to me. The only outside assistance I received was a $700 loan from my stepfather toward the final closing costs, whom I paid back within 3 months. All other funds came from saving, budgeting, and one cool ass house party attendees donated toward my closing cost funds. It was a longer road than expected filled with many ups and downs, surprises and detours. When I signed those papers and got my keys, to tell you tears of joy came from me would be an understatement.

Fastforward five years: I’m always in the city. I work in the city, I party in the city, the guy I dated was in the city. The house was a lot of space. It was just me and my baby Champ, but it was a lot of house. A three bedroom, 2.5 bath, fully-fenced backyard, 2-car garage house for a single female and her 5 year old Boxer dog was just a lot. I wanted less maintenance. I wanted more culture and diversity. I wanted city life.

I decided to rent it out. Selling crossed my mind, but we hadn’t quite recovered from the recession, and my home would have been under water. A home just up the street from mine had sold for half of what I’d bought it for just months earlier. I was hot. Selling was not an option. I needed equity. That wasn’t there. And likely wouldn’t be for a very long time.

Fastforward again: I’m a city-dweller! I found a property manager I could trust, tenants I could depend on, and a lovely condo smack in the middle of downtown. It was everything I wanted. I survived my first year as a landlord – which was no walk in the park – and when time came to renew their lease I happily said Yes!

So, here I am in 2017. I’ve had my address updated everywhere important since I moved. Mortgage, student loans, credit cards, post office, HR, you name it. If I was trying to hide my official residence I would have been doing a terrible job at it!

These letters came completely out of nowhere. I had no freakin idea I was still claiming an exemption I wasn’t due! Companies have no problem at all informing you at the worst possible time that you owe them money and expecting you to pay up like you just had said funds lying around, just waiting for the day they’d finally come after you for payout.

My first reaction: disbelief. No! This can’t be. This just can’t be!! There must be some mistake!

My second reaction: cry. I cried the ugliest Miss America tears. The worst, “No you can’t do this to me!” tears. Just hurt tears. All, “the Devil is a LIAR” Nooooooooooo tears.

My third reaction: Do something. You not gon’ take my got damn house!

And that is where I am now.

Here’s another thing about me: I’m not the GoFundMe type. Honestly, I think it’s become a crutch far too many people lean on. Now, in times of immediate or dire situations, sure. It has it’s place. But it should NOT be your first nor only resolution to your own damn problems.

Cut it out, people. It’s not the world’s responsibility to save you!

So, as you probably know, I picked up dog walking just about a month ago now. My last blog post is an introduction on it.

I’m a new Walker on the Wagwalking.com site that has become “the Uber of dogwalking”. Granted, Uber is in some heat right now so they might want to change their catchphrase, but, at any rate, the service is exactly that.

I just hit my 30th day today and my total payout is $894.30.

Not bad for walking some dogs, huh?

Don’t get it twisted though, I bust my ass in this biz my first 30 days! I drove more the past 30 days than I’ve driven all year. And that’s no exhaggeration. I don’t like to drive, people. I have walked large and small dogs, old and puppy dogs, trained and ill-mannered dogs, one and multiple dogs – I was HUSTLING.

To get the walks, I requested everything I could grab, which is tough. Wag doesn’t have a huge presence in Atlanta yet. There are more Walkers than walk requests, which make the requests extremely demanding. I’ve had clients request me directly but because I happen to close my eyes for a nap, walk to the restroom, or don’t have my eyes glued to the app for one moment, I miss the request because another Walker snagged it up. It drove me nuts! Days I’d want more walks but just missed a request by 3.6 seconds. No lie. It doesn’t take long. It was gut-wrenchingly annoying.

So after I composed myself and stopped crying the I-don’t-know-what-you’re-saying-please-stop-crying-so-I-can-understand-you-ugly-bawl tears, I called a friend, who shall remain nameless. I rarely EVER ask for help, so when I do folks know it’s genuine. My goal is to bust my ass as much as I can for the next month and a half, until August 28 when the 3 bills of a total of $2500 are due, to come up with the money. If I’m short, my friend will be my backup, which I will repay as quickly as I can. This saves me from losing my damn mind and thinking out of character, but I will still do all I can in my own power to come up with these funds. (A lesson in maturity: Ask for help, but always be willing to help yourself – first. In my younger years I would struggle alone. The difference now is at least the month and a half won’t be looming over my head. My friend has given me more time, and peace of mind.)

This little surprise hurt my heart because I’ve been saving for my TEFL certification tuition – the certification to teach English abroad – which has been a dream of mine for the past four years. Damn near everything I’ve done has been in preparation for this goal. And every dollar I’ve made from dog-walking has been put into a separate “For TEFL” fund. The tuition is $1400, and I’ve already been able to save over 50% of it… until I got those letters.

The Tax Commissioner informed me my home would be set to delinquent status and then be up for lien that would be reported to the courthouse.

But I can’t lose my damn house. I’ll be damned!

So, the tuition will go on hold until these bills are paid for. It puts me slightly behind my plan, but I’ve been doing this life thing long enough to know everything happens the way it’s suppsoed to.

I’d planned to enroll in the certification course this fall, having had raised the money in its entirety with no temptation to put anything on my credit cards. Back in Novemeber I made a vow to myself to stop using my credit cards altogether and pay down on one by one. And so far, no matter what comes up, I’ve maintained that promise. Even when I went on vacation to Hawaii. If it wasn’t in the travel reserve I’d saved for, it wasn’t available.

Discipline, people. It’s not about desire; it boils down to will. And no promise I make to myself will I ever break. Never again.

So. There it is.

I’m not rolling in dough, although the way my family asks me for money you’d think I was. I don’t have it all figured out – I have my days where I’m like “WHY! Why am I doing so much? What’s it all for?!” And every day isn’t roses and sunshine. I have sucky, sucky days. And, because I’m a loner, I internalize way more than I’d like to admit. I have tons of supportive, loving, compassionate friends that I just think, “Everybody’s going through something; who am I to burden them?” moments.

I am human. I am flawed.

But I am also full of life. And purpose. And kindness. And dreams.

Sometimes I do a great job at being my best self, and sometimes not so much.

I will keep my house, if that means I have to go door to door with leashes and poop bags asking for $10 a walk. And I will fulfill my dream to teach abroad if that means I go later than when I planned.

I don’t really have a  summary for this story. This was my (long) attempt at being transparent, hopefully motivational, and written documentation to myself for the future so I can look back and say, “See, Dani girl. You did it! Again!”

I love challenges. They excite me. I get knocked off my game temporarily, and then I jump back in it and say, “Aight then. So, what we gon do about it though?”

So. Cheers to opportunities, lessons-learned, friends with benefits (hahahaha!), friends who have your back, and going after your muhfuggin dreams!

Love.

(oh, and by the way, if you’re a dog owner or know a dog owner (both in and outside of Atlanta), try out Wag! at wagwalking.com, and use my code DANIELLE2775 for $20 off your first service, plus the referral will help me toward my goal! thanks in advance :-))

Hurt so good

pole

So, I got my first pole injury tonight…

I know. Maybe “injury” was too strong a word. But, this captures what happens in pole. There will be bruises and scars. There will be pain. There will be challenges. But, we keep going anyway.

My obsession with pole started back in 2012. I was introduced to the pole world by my long-time friend, Stephanne. She  invited me out to a “recital,” of which at the time I had no idea what the meaning was; I just went to support. Because I love her, and that’s what love does.

To say that I was amazed would be an understatement. I was blown away. The ladies I saw perform that night – from the beginners to the veterans – was inspiring and empowering. I was moved, and I didn’t even know much about pole beyond what I’d seen at strip clubs. To my surprise, my admiration and respect only grew.

Fast forward, I showed up at an open house she invited me to, and again, love made me do it lol I said, “Ok. Let’s see what this “studio” thing is all about.” Step and I have been friends since the very first day in high school. I knew her background lol We ate hot fries, chocolate chips, and Fruitopia together! But what I saw in her was strength, confidence, and sexiness. It was contagious. I wanted that too!

Open House day – the studio put on a SHOW. They gave you a taste of the different classes they offered, from fitness classes like zumba to sexy pole choreography. I was hooked. I signed up for a series where I met some beautiful ladies who are still friends of mine to this day.

Fit Candy Studio was my first pole studio, and to this day I call it my pole home. The ladies there are outstanding, but what made it home was the culture of sisterhood. Everyone is encouraging, uplifting, and positive. The owner, Kee, is a gem among gems. I can’t speak more highly of her. She’s a sister, a friend, and an inspiration. She’s built her studio from a foundation of love, is a strong believer in her higher power, and a bombshell, ok?! If you ever see her perform, your breath will be taken away. What I love most, though, is that she is so incredible, but so approachable, accepting, loving, and welcoming. She has built that studio with her spirit, and you feel it from the moment you walk in. The sisterhood in that place can’t be faked – it just is: genuine and real.

For me, FitCandy was the only thing keeping me on the eastside – Yes, I love it just that much! But I needed to transition to the city. I work in the city, I was always in the city, I had a house that was just too big for me and my dog; we needed to make a move. BUT if you’re on the eastside of OTP-Atlanta (Decatur/Lithonia/Conyers) and you’re a lady (sorry; no boys allowed – women’s only fitness playground!), do yourself a favor and follow them on Facebook so you know when the next open house is. I’m telling yo. If you don’t get all the feels after being there your first 15 minutes I want you to let me know!

Oh, and I’m not advertising for them, by the way lol Just giving my honest to goodness testimony.

Since moving to the city, making the drive to Conyers was challenging. It might not be so hard if I didn’t hate driving. But when I tell you I hate driving, listen. I am willing to turn my work parking pass in (18 minute commute to work) for a MARTA breeze pass which will take my commute to about 25-27 minutes. (I know, I know. Less than 30 minutes. That’s why I moved to the city!)

I went on a pole break when I started my Master’s in 2013. Pole is not the type of hobby you can jump in and out of like Zumba and not miss a beat as long as you have rhythm. Pole takes practice, practice, practice. That’s the only way you get better. That’s how you get stronger. The skills and techniques build off one another. It’s very much a commitment to growth type sport. Take a few weeks off if you want- what you could do effortlessly will be “Why can’t I get it?!” moment the first session back.

After I got into my school flow I was ready to pick back up with pole. I missed the burn! (oh yea, I think I mentioned pole is painful. You get over it. Or at least I do. You gotta hurt for the werk!) I found a Groupon for Polelateaz. The address wasn’t too far from my condo, so I tried it out for 30 days. I liked the versatility in their class offerings. My primary purpose up front was to get into a regular cardio routine, which they offered. Then I sampled some pole classes. With the encouragement of a few ladies I’d met and made friends with, I decided to join. It felt different. Not as warm and fuzzy for newbies as FitCandy, but I enjoyed their selection – I had enough dose of challenge, sexy fitness, and flexibility courses to keep my attention. I started a pole series with a couple ladies I’d met there, and enjoyed it for a while. The drop-ins were more appealing to me, though. They kept a wide-ranging rotation of classes to sample from yoga-inspired to fierce cardio, floor work to twerk workshops – crazy cardio!

Polelateaz’s instructors are serious about their art. From dance to stretch, tease workshops and pole, I was impressed by every instructor in that facility. It felt clique-y to me; being an introvert it was difficult for me to want to converse outside of being polite, but once I open up I’m warm bubble of Heyyyyy. Polelateaz rarely made me feel I could step into that zone outside of my regular classes and series. If I tried a new class for the heck of it, I felt brand new from scratch all over again.

School started to become a little more hectic. In addition to that, I was losing my love for pole, so I decided to take a break. At the moment, pole was feeling like a chore, and if you know anything about graduate school, the last thing you need is another thing you have to do. So I took another “pole break”, for about a year and a half (or maybe a little more). Until now.

I finished the program that took so much of my time this past summer. And these days I just want to get back into pole life. Almost aching for the challenge again. And the way I operate, once I meet a challenge, it really bothers me not to be able to again. Imagine that.

I used to hate doing pushups. And could only do 5 (regular; not “lady pushups”) with correct form and no stopping. I worked up to doing 10 straight, then 15, then 20. I was PUMPED. I love achieving goals. I don’t need outside pressure – I put enough on myself!

addiction

So when I reached level 4 at Polelateaz and could do a number of spins, conditioning moves, and do them fludily, it was a big deal to me. The thought that I’d have to possibly start over was unsettling.

My good friend has been interested in starting pole classes. I promised her I’d support and join if she’d start, and that I’d start at level 1 (partly for support, but also partly because I feel like I need to after being gone so long!). She was my motivation to start again. But we had to find a place that was convenient. Remember, I don’t like to drive! After doing some searching, I saw several reviews about Vertical Joe’s. I liked that it was less than a 20 minute ride from my place. And an even shorter distance for my friend. They offered a promo that allowed us to try out the dance workout and pole classes – score! We could do both, try samplers, and didn’t have to commit a lot upfront.

So, that’s where I am now. So far so good. The instructors are awesome. Their enthusiasm and talent are pretty freakin on point. My friend and I were talking earlier about the instructors and said, “I love Bunni”… “I know me too”… “but Allure too!” .. “I know right! I love her! And…” lol it just keeps going, so suffice it to say, we love all of them! Shout out to Southern Comfort in ATL Bounce! FiyaStarta (I believe she’s the owner; she’s at least the president) has an awesome team of staff. Everyone is helpful, and friendly, and professional. I appreciate that. It helps me want to come back and keep going.

So, yea. That’s a real quick run through of my pole journey. It’s definitely a journey. And this time it’s my goal to keep going. Even when it gets hard. Even when I have reasons not to. To face the challenges.

pole-work

It’s that challenge, that grit, that focus that keeps me going. So, I’ll heal by Sunday I’m sure, then I’ll be back to hurting somewhere else by Wednesday. That’s how this thing goes. I won’t die from it. But I will grow from it – and that, I can’t explain it. It’s addictive. You may just have to experience it for yourself.

I’ll post videos of my progress/fails as they come. I’ll laugh. Cry. Fall. Get up. And do it in 6 inches or higher and boy shorts. Because, that’s our uniform. hahahaha

If you’ve never tried pole fitness I invite you to try it out. Start with a Groupon whereever is closest to you. Just see how you feel. Go in with an open mind and ashy legs (by the way, ash is good; ash will save your life. When you’re trying to stick to the pole, the last thing you need is lotion! So, yes my picture above I’m ashy. And that is why.) What I can promise you, if nothing else, is your respect for stripper life will dramatically increase. This ain’t no games, folks. Climbing a pole is work. Twerkin in 7-inch platforms is work. Keeping your cool, and your hotness, in a bra and thong is art. Respect the chrome. Tip your strippers. And be respectful. Some of us do it for fun; some of us do it for sport; some do it to make that money honey. The why, frankly, is none of anyone’s else’s business. What’s not ok is shaming. Body shaming. Work shaming. Judgement at any level is not ok.

At the end of the day, I believe this is a discipline that will only develop through the years. I’m just as in awe as I was on day one. Sooooo, let’s see if I stick in it – cause Oooooo, the burn! Go ahead. Try it! #startsomewhere 😉 See you on the floor!

Leave nothing unfinished

2017-02-21-16-19-25-1This year marks a significant milestone for me: I will complete my Masters in Public Administration, with a concentration in Educational Leadership. This degree was by far the most difficult of the 3 degrees I’ve earned because my heart wasn’t in it. I started the program back in 2013 with the intention of “just getting a Masters.” I work in the college the degree is housed in, so I knew I’d have the support of my superiors to take classes and that the admit process would be pretty seamless. After 2 semesters, however, I realized how disinterested I was the public sector and public administration. It is no doubt a strong, marketable degree if you’re interested in working in higher education, the non-profit sector, or government. I decided to give it one more semester (following the advice of my academic advisor) to see if it was for me or not, since up to that point I’d been taking the most difficult core courses. His advice was to jump into my concentration courses and judge from there. That didn’t work. So before the midpoint of the semester, I made a resolve: I’d quit the program and pursue a degree I actually had some interest in. I began searching for an online degree, convinced that sitting in a classroom was the most annoying part about being back in school. This tactic was a horrible way to “find” a degree because there are so many out there and I didn’t want to repeat the same effortless mistake I’d made with the MPA.

My coworker/friend/work-wife/life consultant who I affectionally call “wife” was also looking at pursuing a master’s degree. She was fundamental in my decision-making process, asking me pertinent, soul-searching questions that would make me think much deeper beyond my surface-level desire to “get a Masters.” What do you like about your job? What don’t you like? What would you like the degree to mean for you? And so many more.

My work responsibilities over the past year had shifted dramatically. I went from being #2 of a two-person team to the lead of a larger group. I was responsible for training new employees on our team – from organizing training sessions and materials to facilitating the training topics beginning to end. It was exhausting. Mainly because I was training new people while balancing the same responsibilities as well. Mind you, I was lead, so I was point of contact for nearly every question or concern in our unit – which pretty much occurred multiple times during the day. So, yea, exhausting. I discovered also, though, that it was rewarding. I see new employees’ brains as a blank slate. They come to me with the easel and canvas; I supply the paint, brushes, and accessories. From day 1, I know what the final piece should look like, but a good artist understands there are different ways to get there. My goal is empowerment, knowledge, and self-sufficiency.

My first training session was a chaotic mess! Notes were all over the place. I mainly spoke; there was little in the form of supplemental documents and visuals. And I learned from that situation! I found myself repeating things over and over… “I know I taught that!” I’d say in my head. It wasn’t that I didn’t go over the information, but rather I failed to help them make a connection.

And this is where I began to see my perspective shift. I began understanding it’s not so much how often you deliver something. If you fail to provide a connection, you might as well put yourself on auto-repeat, and expect to do so often. I revised my training when the next employees came on board. And every session got better than the next. It got to the point where I saw myself developing a stencil for the art piece, to ensure it always turned out the same – and that’s what we want (when it comes to training you do want consistency). I began noticing the training period got much shorter, because there was less redundancy. My pupils, if you will, reached their final piece much faster. And seeing that lightbulb in their head go off, when they felt comfortable enough to add their own colors (and they be the right ones!), develop their own brush strokes (that complimented the piece!), and show me a finished product (that was exactly the way I imagined!) – That, good people, is success. And That feels good.

As exhausting as training was for me, it became less burdensome because I enjoyed the process, and I especially took joy in knowing I wouldn’t have to worry if the employees were delivering the right information when I suddenly got fewer calls, IMs and emails from them. I knew I had equipped them with the right skills. I could trust they would make the right decisions.

This evolution led me directly to Adult Education. I found it by searching “corporate training jobs” online. I realized that I loved teaching, but did not want a degree in early-, middle-, or secondary education. I was interested in teaching adults, or perhaps for a company for which I could travel and train – bonus! (since traveling is another passion of mine). I hadn’t heard of “adult education” as a discipline before then, so I was surprised to find that it was, in fact, a huge umbrella encompassing many opportunities of which I had interest – including teaching English as a second language, corporate training, and education administration.

So then it was settled. I knew I wanted to do some level of corporate training, I knew I wanted my Masters, I knew I didn’t want to sit in a classroom. Insert: University of Georgia’s (new online) Master’s of Education program with a concentration in Adult Education! The course had previously been taught as in the traditional classroom format, but, if interested, I’d be among the first cohort in the 100% online program. My interest was piqued. I found out about the program through GeorgiaONmyLINE’s website. Because I am an employee at Georgia State University, I can take advantage of TAP (tuition assistance program) and attend any institution within the University Systems of Georgia at virtually no charge. Whoot! I enrolled. I loved it. I LOVED it! There were some challenging moments, I won’t say it was all roses and butterflies. However, the difference between the M.Ed and the MPA is that I loved the program and was passionate about it, so the struggles were less challenging to push through. There were many nights I went to bed late because I was bogged down by thousands of readings. Some semesters I felt I was always in class because – it being an online course – I think some instructors thought our whole life was school. I also had to pay an extra tuition that was not covered by TAP because my program included a special “e-rate”, thereby why I said “virtually no charge.” But it was worth it! And I was determined to push through. And, last summer, officially August 5, 2016, I completed my program.

During the spring of last year, though, while I was nearing wrapping up my program at UGA, the thought of leaving the MPA unfinished kept nagging at me. It got to the point it drove me crazy. I just couldn’t settle knowing I’d worked so very hard the first year and never got credit for it.

So I visited my academic advisor to find out how close I was to completing the degree. After reviewing what I’d taken, discussing the option of creating an individual concentration – thereby allowing the transfer of two of my UGA courses – and reviewing the remaining requirements, she showed me what was left. And circled: 4 classes and an internship.

“What? That’s it?” I was in disbelief.

“That’s all, Dani!” She was so supportive. I needed a moment to let it sink in.

I spent about a week or so toggling with the idea of whether or not I wanted to return. “4 classes. That’s two semesters. That’s not even a year. And I’ll be done.” … “4 classes.” .. “Just 4, Dani. You’re so close!”

I met with her again. I needed to know exactly what I was looking at. “What four classes are we talking about?”

The internship coordinators would not waive the internship requirement – oh trust me, I tried! – but they did agree to allow my job to count provided I do “something” in addition to my work responsibilities. Fair enough, I thought.

Of the four courses remaining, I should probably focus on getting the hardest ones out of the way first. I knew that if I was only one semester away after it was over, there was no way I wouldn’t finish.

After some deliberation, I hastily completed my re-entry application before I changed my mind!

My M.Ed was conferred in summer; I was back in classes in the fall.

And hated every minute of it!

I was grumpy, annoyed, tired, and uninspired. It was, hands down, the hardest semester I’d ever had. I can’t tell you how many times I cried from being completely and utterly tired. I studied so much I stopped getting invitations to go out from friends – I was always studying. At least when I was working on the M.Ed I was in a relationship and had the supporting help of my partner to handle things like walking the dog and picking up groceries. But now I was very single, with a very stubborn tendency to not ask for help. It was hard, y’all. Hard. The material was dense. Perhaps if I’d liked the information, comparatively like I did in the M.Ed, it wouldn’t have felt so challenging. I always felt like I was pushing a boulder. Uphill. In socks. Right, picture that. On top of that one of my instructors was… well, let’s just say I didn’t have many kind words to say about him. But, because I know the instructor’s place, personality aside I recognized he needed to teach me something, and I needed to learn it. Or, at the very least I needed to be able to duplicate his teachings to a fair level of understanding on the exam. I spent countless hours studying, and many more in his office for one-on-ones. I refused to not succeed. But there were many moments I questioned my sanity. “Why am I doing this again?? Just to say I did?” But there’s something about a challenge to me… I have to be able to say I gave it absolutely everything I had before I can admit defeat.

So. I got through it. More than got through it – I closed that semester out with 2 Bs! Not my best work, but honey I finished and that’s all that matters, dernit! Besides, there’s no Honors recognition in graduate school. Over-achievers.

So, here I am, in my last semester. And I did it just right. This is by far my easiest semester, of both my graduate programs! Y’all. I have resumed an active workout life, social life, and started this blog! I couldn’t possibly even think of an extra anything in the past nearly 4 years. Imagine that.

It’s in the bag lol I’m so checked out. If senior-itis were a thing you could get at any level, I have it bad. I’m still working, don’t get me wrong. But I’m so not working hard. I already know the minimum grades I need on all my assignments just to get a satisfactory grade! I made an 85 on my first assignment in one class. She gave the class the option to revise for a better grade. Guess who did NOT resubmit anything. Mmhmm.

This thing is in the bag. And I’m not “giving up,” I’m just enjoying the fruits of (literally) my labor. I strategically built the last 2 semesters to go this way – struggle up front, then ride that thing on out. I completed my internship over the Thanksgiving break, my final requirements being a 10-page paper and a group discussion.

Graduation is May 5.

When I tell you Cinco de Mayo this year is about to be more than tacos and tequila, you just don’t understand what I’m telling you!

I wrapped up this journey like it was nothing, but it’s been anything but. I’m thankful to ALL the amazing people I’ve had in my corner – encouraging me, reminding me what’s important, listening to my long rants, being a shoulder to cry on, walking my dog, hell, the ones who brought me dinner because I was so knee-deep in assignments I was forgetting to eat. My graduation celebration will be a celebration for everyone! I could not have done this alone.

I could not have done this alone. And we really never do.

So here’s to finishing what you start!

And if you need help finding your niche, I have the perfect life consultant to recommend you to. She holds a special place in my heart. She doesn’t it do it for a fee (yet!); she just genuinely is a good, smart, honest person.

At any rate, though, I’d like to close in saying: just #startsomewhere