This past spring, May of 2012 to be exact, I finally graduated from the University of Alabama. This was a big accomplishment for me, not just because I did it while married and raising three boys, which is what most people seem to key in on. This was important to me because it was about keeping a promise.

I originally enrolled at Bama in August 2001 after graduating from high school; I withdrew in January 2003. I had just gotten married then and I was pretty burned out on classes, so I wanted to take some time away from school. When I withdrew, my mother made me swear to her that I would go back one day and earn my degree. I told her that I would. The plan was to just take a semester or two off and then return. But, as it always does, life happened.

About six months after we got married, my husband and I found out that we were expecting our first son. He was due in the early spring of the next year, so that was more time I would have to stay out of school. A few months after that, my mother became extremely ill. We didn’t know what kind of long-term care she would need, so my thoughts of going back to college were immediately shuffled off the back burner and shoved into the corner of some obscure cabinet in my mind that existed only to collect dust and forgotten knickknacks.

Time carried on, sometimes in fits and starts, sometimes dragging, and sometimes at warp speed. I started working to help ends meet, my mother passed away, our second child was born. One day I decided that it was time to go back. I started counting and realized nearly seven years had passed since I quit school. I went through the proper channels and applied for re-admittance. I secured financial aid. I registered for classes.

Then I found out that I was pregnant with our third child. But I was not deterred. I marched to classes and squeezed my belly into desks not designed with expectant mothers in mind. I passed out on the couch writing essays or reading assignments at one o’clock in the morning. Three weeks after finals, I gave birth to our newest little boy.

I passed four more semesters while mothering three little rascals. In my time back at school I made the Dean’s List twice and the President’s List three times. I earned a reputation with my instructors as someone who could be counted on to actually read the assignments, contribute more in class than the oft-heard, “well, I really liked it when…” comments, and turn in a paper that wouldn’t make them want to bash their heads against their desks with each new paragraph. Simply put, I worked my ass off.

In the end, I earned a Bachelor of Arts in English, cum laude. People often congratulate me, then ask what I’m going to do next, what job I’m looking for, so on. I honestly don’t know. I don’t think I’ve really thought that far ahead with any seriousness. I’m just still so thrilled that I have finally upheld my promise to my mother.