The Hellhole

Tuesday, September 06, 2016

A matter of degrees

A few people have said that I should continue updating here as a way to work through everything surrounding Helly’s passing. I can’t promise a lot of updates, but I think I might have a few more things to say…

Today I picked up my diploma from Clayton State University (CSU). For the past four years I’ve been working full-time and going to school part-time in order to finish my bachelor’s degree. For various reasons I dropped out of college the first time around, and until recently I never really needed a four year degree. However, I realized that if I wanted to continue my career as a technical writer, or move into any other white-collar profession, I would need to be able to check the box that said “College degree - Yes.” It wouldn’t matter what the degree was in, it just mattered that I had a degree. CSU had a program that I could attend mostly online, and was fairly affordable, so that’s where I went. And for those not local or familiar with CSU, it’s a “senior unit of the University System of Georgia” which means it’s a fully accredited state university, not some for-profit degree mill. 

So for the past four years, during the week we would eat supper and watch Jeopardy together, and then I’d head back to the study to do school work. I generally took three classes a semester, and went every summer in order to speed up the process. Some nights Helly would sit on the couch and read or watch TV, and some nights she’d go back to the master bedroom and sit on the bed and read or watch TV. I always liked this, because from my desk I could just look across the hall and see her and talk to her. On the weekends I’d start on my school work earlier in the afternoon after we’d run any errands, and she’d nap or read or watch a movie.

This was not always without some friction. On a few occasions she got angry with me for spending what she thought was too much time on school, and not enough time with her. This especially happened if school conflicted with something she wanted us to do together, or had decided that we should do together and was telling me after the fact. And to be honest, there were a few times I used school as an excuse to get out of something I didn’t really want to do, like go to the symphony (I just find classical music boring). I always tried to be mindful of her needs, but I would also remind her that me being in school was temporary, and that the benefits of me having a degree would be better earnings, better jobs, and better opportunities for both of us in the long run (wow, it hurt to type that…). She was usually accepting of that, and I have heard from a mutual friend that she was actually proud of me for working so hard and doing so well in school.

So now I’m sitting here looking at a diploma that I worked very hard to earn, but instead of seeing the cost being all my hard work (and money), I just see the cost of the time I didn’t spend with Helly. I know that having the diploma will help me with my job prospects and open doors that would have been closed otherwise, but right now it’s hard to look at it without feeling some regret and guilt. As I mentioned in a previous post, finishing my degree was one of the things I was really looking forward to in 2016. And I was really looking forward to having all that time free again so that we could start doing some new things together. But right now it just feels like a hollow achievement.


  • If I had had to make the choice between classical music and studying, I would have been a much better student. I would used anything to get out of classical music events, too. I know you know this, but eventually you have to let go of the guilt because you didn't know your time together was limited and you were working toward your future...and you knew she knew that, too.

    I am sure that she would have the same regrets if it was reversed, but neither of you knew. I am also wondering if some of the time when she seemed less understanding, she wasn't feeling well, and maybe didn't even know it.

    It's a miracle you guys found each other, and I feel awful that your time was so short, but know you packed some great memories into 12 years. That X concert at The House of Blues, of course! ;)

    By Anonymous Nancy aka FlippyO, at 10:33 PM  

  • Alan: Thank you for posting this on Helly's blog. If each one of us knew what was around the bend in our respective lives, I'm sure we'd all spend our time differently.

    I'm so sorry that you and Helly only had a little over a decade together. Hang in there.

    By Blogger basil, at 7:58 AM  

  • I think I said this before, but however much it may have annoyed her at any given moment, she was proud of you for going back to school and thought it was a good thing for both of you. So she said to me when you weren't around. But I can imagine feeling the same way in your shoes.

    By Blogger Nancy H, at 3:48 PM  

  • Helly would take great pride in your diploma. I bet she would want to celebrate. She loved her celebrations of life's moments.

    I don't know who you have in your circle of friends, but I hope you can get together with a few and celebrate your diploma and celebrate Helly's love and support of you during those years of study. This would have been a moment she too would have gloried in.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 9:37 AM  

  • My husband and I offer you our condolences. Aloha from Hawaii.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 7:33 AM  

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