To marry a lifeguard and have a sailboat: Those were Carol Hogan's high school dreams.
Once they came true, she had a new item for her bucket list: graduating from college. But it would be a long time coming.
At 78, the Blaine resident finally did it, donning her cap, gown and honors tassels to graduate from Western Washington University Saturday, Dec. 15, with a major in creative nonfiction.
"It's a very big thing," she said. "Now I can look at that list and I can check that one off."
Hogan started her schooling at El Camino College in California after high school, but left after about a year and a half to marry her husband, Bob, and start their family. She didn't realize then how important finishing college would be to her later in life.
"That's what you did during that time," she said. "It was in the '50s. You married younger and you had children right away."
Bob had been a lifeguard, and the couple spent five years building a 33-foot sailboat in their backyard in California. It was her dream come true. They set off with their two children, Robbie and Sharri, and sailed the Pacific for about two years, stopping in Mexico, Tahiti, the Galapagos and Easter Island before settling down to live in Hawaii in 1968.
In some ways, that time on the boat was Hogan's education: she used textbooks and the world around them to teach her children, and together the family faced storms and sickness on the water.
After they moved to Hawaii, she began a career as an outdoor reporter and photographer, eventually owning her own magazine and starting a public relations company.
But she still dreamed of finishing college.
"I always was self-conscious about the fact that I didn't have a degree," she said. "I thought to myself, 'I'll go back to school when I finish my career.' It was always kind of in the back of my mind."
She retired in 2000 and she and her husband moved back to California, but she found she "just got bored stiff" with retirement. She did some freelance photojournalism work and took a few classes in California in 2004 and 2005.
When she and her husband moved to Blaine in January 2006, she enrolled at Whatcom Community College. There, she went through the slog of math requirements - sometimes having to retake classes a few times before she passed - just waiting until she could transfer to WWU to focus on her real passion: writing.
She graduated from Whatcom in 2009 and started at WWU in spring 2011, enrolling in Fairhaven College and working toward her creative nonfiction major. She took classes in writing, editing, publishing and blogging, all working toward the completion of her sailing memoir, "In the Wake of Discovery: Two Adults, Two Children, and 25,000 miles on a Small Boat."
"Everything I chose was focused so I could concentrate on getting this book done, because I'm not getting any younger," she said.
As Hogan was nearing graduation at the end of November, she said she was already growing nostalgic for her time in college. She loved the support she received from younger students, getting to hear their ideas and share her experiences with them. She hopes she was able to inspire them to pursue their dreams at every age.
"I enjoy school so much," she said. "It's gotten to be a habit after eight years."
Hogan will miss the writing classes the most. But one thing she'll miss would likely surprise her high school self.
"I'm going to miss having the homework to do," she said. "Now I enjoy it. When I was in high school I never liked homework."
She imagined that graduation day would be an emotional one for her, capping off eight years of hard work toward a dream she'd written down on a list decades ago. Where she'll go from here, she's not quite sure. She's mulling graduate school and thinking of self-publishing her memoir.
"I kind of wonder what's going to be next," she said. "I'll have to pull that list out again and see what else I can check off."