Friday, October 29, 2010

Reminders of Falls Past

I read the requirements for working in Korea and my heart sank, "A copy of your original diploma."  Well, although it seems like a simple requirement, it was one that opened the door to memories of falls past.

College was not the idealistic all American experience I'd dreamed of and when I was done - I was done.   It's hard to say exactly what tipped the experience over the edge.  Was it the murder, the rape of friends, the chronic illness, the professors slowly dying in front of my eyes?  It's really hard to say, but by the time it was over I couldn't get out fast enough.  When I dropped off my graduation paperwork I already had my ticket booked for London.

However, the woman who took my paperwork had other ideas.  Glancing at her computer screen she boredly stated, "You have two more classes to complete before you graduate." Stunned, I couldn't help but screech, "What the hell?  There is no way that's true. I followed my advisors class plan from the first day of college! There is no way I'm not graduating!"

She half-ignored me and poked away at the keys for a while, then stepped into the back of the office to thumb through some paperwork.   I ranted and raved into the silence.  Finally, she looked up and waived an old piece of paper, "Here it is, your Sophomore year you declared your major under the 1994 catalogue and there are two classes different."  Dumfounded I asked, "But is that what I wrote on all my other paperwork?" She thumbed through the file, "No, on all your other paperwork it says 1993."  She stuffed all the paperwork back in the file and came back to the front desk to tap away on her computer like nothing had happened.

I stared at her in silence.  After a minute I calmly said, "Listen, your holding a number two pencil in your hand right now and it's got an eraser on it.  I'm going to walk out of here right now and I'm never coming back so it's up to you.  Either I spend my life as a college graduate or I wasted the last four years of my life, it's entirely up to you," and I walked out.

It wasn't until over a year later that I learned that I'd graduated from college and it wasn't until I moved to Korea that I realized I'd done it with any sort of proficiency.  You see, when I walked off campus in 1997 and boarded a plane to London I did it because I was finished with college - not because I was finished with college.

In fact, when I sat down in that airplane seat I knew the following things to be true:
  • We were told that if we didn't walk the aisle at graduation we would not be allowed to graduate.  I called bullshit on this and never dawned a gown and cap.  Instead an open ticket to London and bought a new backpack. 
  • When I submitted my graduation paperwork the office clerk told me that - on one piece of paper my Sophomore year - I'd written down the wrong college catalog and I would need two additional classes in order to graduate due to change in requirements.  As I turned to leave I informed her she was holding a pencil with an eraser and she would decide if I lived life as a college graduate or not - then I left.
  • Only small handful of students in my major even passed their final Practicum and at that point, nobody had told me if I was one of them or not.
With this rattling around in my head, I closed my eyes let the airplane whisk me away.  I wasn't sure it was the right decision - but it was the only one I could make at the time.  Living in Nashville had exhausted me.  I was tired of the sexism, tired of the racism, tired of being an oddity and a commodity just because I was from a land far away.  So I let it all roll and took a risk with my future.  Walked away from my connections, job offers and friends, love and  - possibly - my education. 

Today I find myself standing on the edge of a new cliff with a similar view point, and once again I will jump - that is - as long as I can figure out what to do with my Diploma.

You see, a few years after seeing my diploma I found myself back home planning my mother's funeral.  With that funeral came a change in family dynamics that eventually lead to my father and I being contentedly estranged.  Something that, oddly enough, didn't cause any real issues until ten years later when I needed my Original Diploma.

Not wishing to mess with success I went to work trying to figure out how to apply for my E2 Visa without my original paperwork.  First I tried to get the school to issue me a new Diploma - they said they could do it but it would take weeks if not months.  So I went another route, I found that I could get a:
  • Request a Degree Verification printout - 1 Day
  • Have the school Notarize it - 1-2 Days
  • Have them send me the original Notarized Degree Verification  - 2 to 10 Days
  • Take said Notarized Degree Verification to the local UPS store, copy it and have them Notarize that it was, in fact, a real copy of an "Official" document - 1 Day
TOTAL TIME: 3 - 14 Days

So if you have trouble accessing your Original Diploma there are options.  You can still work in Korea and you can still have a wonderful adventure.  Don't let this little hick-up trip you up in this slow fall toward happiness.