Hi I’m Ri and back in 2016, my university’s bookstore posted a graduation cap decoration contest on Twitter and I won. Mostly because I was the only one who entered but I thought it was pretty well decorated. I even made a video about it. And this was the prize. A $200 custom university frame for a diploma I don’t have. Yep. That’s right, I technically don’t have a college degree.
Like most Americans, it was stressed upon me the importance of attending college. I know it’s not something I’ve talked about, mostly because of the stress and shame I’ve felt about my situation.
Growing up, I wasn’t the best in school. I was diagnosed with ADHD in the 3rd grade but it went untreated until I was 18 and even then, I was really bad with taking my meds. I graduated high school in 2010 and ended up going to a local community college. Thankfully, I got a scholarship because I did well on my placement test. A year and a half later, I was informed that I was taking the wrong classes to be able to get an associates degree in graphic design and so I wouldn’t be graduating in the spring like I thought. Then the Disney College Program came to my campus and that was it for me. For those of you who don’t know, back in the day you had to attend an in person presentation to be able to apply. I immediately fell in love and couldn’t focus on anything else. I applied and was accepted for the spring of 2012. That was the first time I would use disney as an escape from my problems.
While I was working at Disneyland, I thought about trying to stay on full time and go to school in Anaheim, but I ended up applying and was accepted as a Graphic Design major at Arizona State for the fall. At the insistence of my mother, I took out my first private student loan. I attended one whole semester, and hated it. There were a few contributing factors, but I was mostly struggling with my degree choice. So what’s a depressed girl to do? I applied to go back to Disney, and was accepted into the spring of 2013. Escape attempt #2.
Came back to school, changed my major and essentially had to start over. At this point, I was already feeling ashamed because by 2014, most of my high school friends were getting their undergrad. Plus I was one of the older students in my class and it was hard to relate to them at times. I was also living at home, about 37 miles away, and my anxiety and depression were at its worst. So what do we do, again? We apply to work for Disney. This time I could justify it academically because I was required to do a summer internship. The first two times, even though I took Disney University classes, didn’t receive college credit for them.
So I attended my 3rd Disney college program and received my Duck-torate. Came back for what I thought was my final year. Nope. I’m a few credits short by the time graduation rolled around. Thankfully, I had enough to be allowed to walk and honestly, the appearance of graduating was enough for me. Even though I didn’t actually meet the requirements, at least I was able to put on the gown and walk across the stage.
I’ve never lied about not having the degree in job interviews or anything like that, but obviously that has limited the types of jobs I was able to be considered for. At this point, I had 4 separate student loans, all for different amounts and interest rates. I did enroll in a community college to finish the math, I didn’t pass but it at least bought me time on paying back my loans.
Oh no, life is getting hard again, bet you can guess what I did. Yep. Disney Cruise Line. I remember asking the recruiter if I would be able to do online school while on the ship. She was polite about it, but basically said that wouldn’t be a good idea.
So by 2019, my loans finally caught up with me after I moved to Seattle. I was very panicked but ultimately, ignored it and have just been paying the minimum payment ever since. This year, my loans were sold off to another financial institution and I decided that it’s finally time to refinance. So I started researching and applied to a few different places, but because I don’t have a degree, they couldn’t approve me.
I have wanted to go back and finish. It’s been eating away at me for 5 years at this point. SO I applied to a local CC this week and will be starting summer classes. Not that milestones matter at this point, but I want to get my degree before im 30.
However, I wanted to make this video for anyone who has struggled like I have to finish school. Maybe you also walked with no degree and had to go back later. Maybe you haven’t gone back at all. I know you’ve heard that “everyone is on their own path” but I also know also that feeling of being “behind in life” is always there. You will still compare yourself to your peers. And it will bring you down, if you let it. I decorated my cap intentionally because I knew I wasn’t going to finish “on time”
TLDR; I’m going back to school
Thanks for reading & Drink more water