In a few days time, I will attend my graduation ceremony and receive the Bachelor of Music degree from ACU(Melbourne). A day that my I have thought about for the past 10 years, it all seems unreal that it is actually a reality for me. In order for me to tell you what this day means to me, let me take you back in time…..
In 2003, I moved to Melbourne, Australia with the hubby and 2-year old son. Leaving my parents and siblings behind meant that I was completely on my own. I mean, yeah I had the in-laws here in Melbourne but I hardly knew them and, as a young mother who needed a family to call on, I found it difficult to come to terms with the fact that dropping my son off to mum so i could go to work was never gonna happen. Suffice to say, it was hard to adapt.
Moving away from my ‘comfort zone’ meant that for the first time in my life, I was a stay-at-home-mum. Continuing with my lifetime role as a choir conductor/pianist for church was a MISSION! I had baby no.2 shortly after I moved here so I was carting my little kids around with me while leading choir practice and Sunday hymns every week. Hubby worked most Sundays, so during the weekly church service everyone got used to me conducting the choir and – if my little ones ran past me – I would quickly reach out one arm and yank them by the collar to stop….while my other hand was still conducting. I’ve also been known to give one of my kids a death-stare during hymn time (Once a Samoan , always a Samoan. And yep I still do it to this day, especially since baby no.3 ended up a REAL handful at church!!)
Anyway, over the years my parents were always asking “Lika, we know you are a busy, but when you gotta go in the university and doing the musika?” Ahhh THE music degree – yes I’ve been a musician since I was 4-years old and it had consumed my life for a good 30 years so there was no doubt that it was my calling in life. If music was a subject you could study online, then I would’ve gone to uni years ago. But alas, my duties at home seemed to be my calling for the moment so going to class during the day and developing my musical skills was just not going to happen – and also the fact that NZ Citizens are not eligible for a student loan in Australia so must pay their fees upfront – it was a hell to the no. (And did I mention that we were brokeass?)
In 2007, my mother decided to up the ante and constantly bring up the music degree EVERY WEEK on the phone. My eldest was now at primary school so I had 1 child at home with me. She never let up and constantly gave me the guilt trip “Lika…dont waste the kalegi” (talent) especially after she had worked 2 jobs to pay for my expensive music tuition in my childhood years. So, I bravely looked into the studying option, the daycare costs, the fact that I hadn’t played classical music for 10 years. I have to admit, I was shit scared. Scared of the costs and scared of failing subjects. But my mum was giving me the push that I needed to follow my dream…..
I started the degree Semester 1, 2008. My part-time job paid for the daycare bill with no change left. In the weeks leading up to it, mum was reminding me that I should organise myself and get my mind ‘busy’ and ready. Her advice was that if I was well-organised, then life was going to be okay. So, there was no time for lounging around and watching TV for hours, popping up to the mall for idle ‘window shopping’, sitting around all day doing nothing etc. My time was precious: I had a house to keep clean, kids to look after, a husband and kids to cook for and a degree to complete.
And so it began. The first week was a challenge: Every night I had to organise dinner (sometimes it was roast, sometimes it was toast), make son’s lunch and put into fridge; lay out daughter’s daycare clothes and pack her bag, layout my own clothes for work/uni next day, organise breakfast for next morning, get kids to bath/sleep, spend 2 hours studying then crash in my bed.
My mum died from a sudden asthma attack that same week. I didnt get my usual evening call from her on the Friday because well, God had decided that it was her time to leave us. I went home to NZ to organise her funeral with my siblings and my heartbroken dad. While I was there, I mentally gave up on studying music – how was I supposed to go back to Oz after all of this and find mental space to cope with the workload after losing the most important woman in my life, my 2nd biggest fan? (1st biggest is my dad).
Somehow I managed it. I returned to Melbourne after 2 weeks and studied my ass off like I was studying for a Phd or something. But my life was a daze after mum’s funeral, but dad’s words kept me going “Lika, finish the degree for your mum” So here I am. I gave up my social life to concentrate on this 1 goal and I couldn’t have done it without the support of my good friends in Melbourne and Auckland and the prayers of my family and church family. I finished my degree last year after 8 semesters of study, 1 funeral, 1 pregancy and 1 major life-drama. I guess once I realised how important this degree was to me and my family, I just kept going until I got that ‘Congratulations Rita, you have completed your degree’ letter in the mail.
To top if off, I also made the ACU Dean’s list for 2012 (as a top-scorer) and I will have the honour of conducting the graduation choir at the ceremony. How fitting that I graduate on the week of Mothers’ Day so I’ll be thinking of you mum at graduation! (Please help me not to trip on stage).
Thank you Lord for making it all possible. xx