Why am I going to complete a Bachelor’s Degree this time around? Am I serious about completing a degree?
These were questions asked of me when I entered the UMF Office to see if I could return to the University to complete my work.
Let me tell you, dear reader, the story of my College Education since I started in 1999.
I had horrible grades at my High School, and I assumed that I had a learning disorder, though I was never properly diagnosed.
My GPA was barely passing. I worked myself to the bone up to the last day before graduation.
I passed, and got my High School Diploma, but just barely.
The only school that I technically qualified for with such a low GPA was CCRI(Community College of Rhode Island, Warwick Campus).
I attended school there for 1 year, choosing a Computer Science Major(because that was the next big thing, and I had been actively drooling over the salary figures for those with B.S. Degrees in CS, as seen on Job Hunting Sites over my 1990’s Dial-Up Internet).
But, as it turned out, I was having similar problems succeeding in College. High School was an epic failure unilaterally, and my first year of College showed me, distinctly, all the weaknesses that failure showed in me as far as the real world was concerned.
Programming was a passion for me. I had been training myself in QBasic in my High School Years, and even some Visual Basic. My focus in this was in the development of a Video Game called “Matt’s Lair”.
However, every Programming Class I attempted was a tragedy. I was struggling, and I didn’t have the maturity to ask for help from my professors.
There were only 2 areas at CCRI in which I excelled. Business and Public Speaking.
My plan at the time (1999-2000) was to get my Associate’s Degree in Computer Science, and then transfer to a State College to finish off a Bachelor’s in CS. Armed with the Degree, I would start a richly interesting life in the world of Technology that I saw exploding around me from every direction. Fortunes were being made, and I wanted to be part of it!
Heck, some people in my COBOL(Common Business Oriented Language) Class were being headhunted to help fix the Y2K Bug! One of my College Buddies told me a story, while walking with me in the halls, that he had already found a Job in the Computer Field without a Degree by Networking, something I had never heard of before. The world was just starting to lose all sense to me. A world turned on it’s head. But more on that later.
I was barely getting by at CCRI. My parents offered to pay for half of my tuition if I paid for the other half with money from my job at Shaw’s Supermarkets packing groceries and pushing carts. But I was growing increasingly miserable under these seemingly hopeless conditions.
The only real reason I wanted a Degree was because I saw many people without Degrees struggle greatly. Many needed to work 2 or 3 different minimum wage jobs just to barely survive. That struck me as a life of constant struggle, with no room for improvement or joy, at all.
Seeing my misery, I was picked up by a Marine Corps Recruiter. To this day, I wish I could go back and hang him by his toes over a crane at Niagra Falls and just leave him there to blow in the wind, screaming.
That seems a bit much, but I’m more of a Pacifist Daydreamer with Violent Fantasies than someone prone to Physical Violence. All my supressed rage comes out in my drawings and creative writing, but I have always genuinely sucked at violence, even in the Iraq War.
I was a Radio/Data Marine, and I never fired a single shot at the enemy during my tours. I didn’t need to. My role was Radio Watch and Ping Checks, as well as IT help in the C.O.C., making sure the Officers could Print.
Even in that Darkness; that emotional black sludge of war on the opposite side of the earth from home, swallowed in the reality that every moment could be my last, the men around me noticed something about me that they still rave about to this day.
I was smiling. I had found a way to shine a light of happiness and positivity, even in all that Destructive Chaos. My smile made no sense to them, but it raised morale. My Boss, Paul Keener, told my mother that they could not have made it without me. He is one of my references, and also the author of one of the 3 attached letters of reccomendation provided with this letter.
My favorite quote from him recently was this.
“Yes, it is a compliment. It is also the truth.”
4 years later, I ended up at The University of Maine at Farmington, where my Sister, Dr. Holly Chapdelaine Wess, had completed a double major, and would go on to pursue her doctorate.
After 4 years of Enlisted Life as a Jarhead, I felt even less prepared for college in 2004 than I did in 1999!
I had to take remedial classes in English Composition and Mathematics. I was struggling once again, and now I had PTSD and Depression from my Marine Corps Years that I didn’t even know about until I was diagnosed years later.
I lost interest in my classes, and started to work towards the foolish goal of moving to West Virginia to live with some people on the internet promising all kinds of ridiculous things.
I spent a year and a half in that cult, and escaped, making my way back home after being homeless for a while.
I lived in my sister’s basement, trying to get minimum wage jobs that would never last long. I felt even more worthless and depressed. My family got the VA involved and worked towards getting me a disability rating.
I am currently at 100% for PTSD and Anxiety, with an additional 40% for Traumatic Brain Injury that the VA is only recently proving through years of deliberation and debate in the courts, as well as medical testing.
I make enough money where I never have to get a minimum wage job again, which was why I wanted to get a Degree in the first place.
So, even though money is a great incentive to pursue a degree, my main purpose is to have a life that means something. Retirement doesn’t suit me. I need to feel useful, and I want to develop myself further without stopping until I take my final breath.
I earned credits at University of Massachusetts, Lowell.
I earned a Personal Computer Certificate from Quinsigamond Community College.
I spent 2 years majoring in Game Design Online at Full Sail University.
I am still without a degree, but I have spent nearly a lifetime trying to get one.
So, back to your questions.
“Why am I going to complete a Bachelor’s Degree this time around? Am I serious about completing a degree? “
There is a very good reason for me to smile at both questions at this stage in my life.
I have had the past year to grow as a person in Madison, ME.
I founded a Media Company called “Metaversal Comics” and this small town has become my “Accidental Business School” as a result.
In becoming more mature and self-aware, I began to look back on my life and realize some very important truths.
I always had a cloudy haze, drifting in my mind, that seemed to clog up everything I tried to accomplish for myself. The truth was that this cloud was my High Functioning Autism. My Genius.
In my independent research of what a Genius was, I became horrified. This was not something I wanted! I didn’t want to have a tragic life, not having my ideas acknowledged until years or even decades after my death! Genius is a mental illness! They die in prison, or in the gutter, forgotten in thier own time, regarded as failures until generations later.
But this explained a lot. I was never stupid. I just did not fit into the world. I was never meant to. Living in Madison forced me to live within constraints that boosted my Creativity Exponentially. I had become aware of that Haze again, but this time it was an asset rather than a liablity. The Haze meant I didn’t have to conciously think about every little item or module in a given problem. It was just solved by the Haze, like my Brain now had a Quantum Computing Option rather than the usual Serial “Flowchart” method of thought.
I published a 104 page book on Amazon called: “Strange Song: The Mad Rambling and so forth” under the pen-name “Mathias Bluestar Chapdelaine de Feu”.
One of my friends helping out in my Comic Book Shop read the print version, and began to regard me as a Genius, something I had never heard anyone say about me.
That was just the inspiration and confidence I needed to focus on my Academics through Independent Research. I became passionate about Academics for the sake of Academia, not the end result of a Degree.
In my heart and mind, I became a Scientist. Intellectually Curious in a Ravenous Manner. I started to own my own methodologies of thought, and teach myself what I wanted to know instead of relying on teachers or prizes to justify my work. I taught myself how to use my own memory! I had to. My educational foundation was complete nonsense, and I had no choice but to repair it myself.
I reworked and rebuilt myself like an Echo; built from the inside out. The idea of Neuroplasticity through Games and Play, a concept I picked up in my Game Design Major, offered further evidence that what I was doing was completely accurate and functional.
I am not married. I have no children.
I have healed my heart and mind so much in this small town in ways I never thought possible.
So, before your eyes glaze over at the rederick of an aging techie combat vet, let me finalize my point wth a Capstone.
A Degree is going to be great for networking, but all of my hard work over the years in pursuit of a Bachelor’s Degree has become both Cumulative and Exponential.
My intellect is Post-Doctoral, and I earned that bulked up mental muscle over years of independent research and fierce curiousity, in a decade of military retirement in which a Degree was more of a hobby to keep my mind and heart healthy and sharp.
I was not devoted to a degree back in 2004. But now?
The Cards are on the Table. I’m all in. I want to live on campus again, and really sink my teeth into this venture.
I seek growth. I am addicted to making myself better.
A degree is important to me because the the road to achieving it is a process of growth and development that can never be taken away.
I will always want more, and I will never stop.
-Matthew P. Chapdelaine