When you’re in high school, you think you know everything. Atleast I did. I thought I knew everything I wanted, and if by chance I didn’t, well, I’m sure there’d be plenty of time to figure it out. Given this way of thinking, my first experience doing a semester at community college didn’t go so well. I was told it would be easy. In turn, my effort was lacking. Mostly, I came home from class and played Sims while eating cheetos, or practiced eye shadow techniques in the mirror as BBMak played on in the background.
A few days before Christmas, I received my first college report card: 2 D’s and a C. Ouch. Instantaneously discouraged, I abandoned my plans for college, resolved to move to an apartment in the city with my best friend, and spent a year doing various temp jobs. All of my friends were in school or getting their first real jobs, and once again the school bug bit me. I was living in a bustling city, my best friend was a theatre major and all of our friends were creative and peculiar and much more interesting than me. So what did I do? I enrolled in a very expensive art school, majoring in commercial interior design. How I came up with that one, I still couldn’t tell you.
Suffice it to say, though I love to Illustrate pictures or life-based comic books for my closest friends, and even create some of the most magnificent post-it doodles you have ever seen, a Fine Arts degree was not the path for me. Another disappointing report card was received, and although this time I could say that I did try my best and sweated my way through a semesters worth of arduous critiques, I threw my backpack into the closet and traded it for some sensible loafers and another temp job.
I was placed by a temporary agency in the business office of a healthcare system. Unlike most of my other temp jobs, my co workers were very friendly and welcoming. I immediately felt at home, and enjoyed learning new things about healthcare finance, a needed refreshment from my usual administrative or data entry jobs. When my 3 month assignment ended, the company offered my a permanent position and a wage increase. Of course, I took it gladly. This job would lead me to my longest break from college, and for awhile, I was ok with that.
Within a year I had received a promotion. Within 5 years, I was making a pretty decent amount of money for a non college graduate, and I saw myself growing with the company. I was assigned projects, I did presentations, I was even invited to manager meetings to present ideas. But life happened and my living arrangements changed. I moved further away from my job. Then the office moved further north, and I was spending 4 hours of my day on public transportation just to make it to work.
At the same time, my career moved to a speeding halt. I had been promised a promotion contingent upon my supervisor’s retirement, but she would subtly chat with me about how she didn’t want to retire; wouldn’t know what to do with herself. I’d stop by the local library on lunch breaks and pick up some senior citizen group brochures, send them anonymously to her via interoffice mail. I’d constantly ask about her many grandchildren, and how fun it would be to be able to care for them during the day. After awhile, however, I started to believe her. This woman would never retire. So I searched for jobs within the corporation, even talked to some of the directors of other departments. They all required one thing: a college degree. “ We know how experienced you are, how much you’ve done…” They’d say with a pitying smile, “ But without that college degree, Human Resources won’t even let me formally interview you.”
I took some online courses in Healthcare Administration. It was all I could do, what with me being on the train for most of my evening. I read studiously and posted my papers online. I got a few credits. I got good grades for the first time in my college experience. That wasn’t the problem this time. I won’t go into it here, but I decided I didn’t really care for ‘distance learning.’ Fast forward to 2 years later; I have a new job in a suburb close to home. I don’t have any promotions lined up. I don’t have a college degree. I don’t like working in a cube farm. I have passions, undiscovered, unexplored, vying to get out and do something with themselves. I could compromise with myself. I could finish a degree in finance, and move to a bigger cubicle. But now I’m old enough to know that’s not what I want, and I don’t have as much time to do it as I did 10 years ago. So here it is. My fourth, and hopefully final, attempt at higher education.
That's what this blog is about. The challenges an adult- yes, amazingly I’m considered an adult now, where did the time go?- faces when going back to school to finally fulfill their dreams. Maybe it’s an old dream you never thought you could achieve. Maybe your kids are in school and you have more time. Maybe some internal voice just keeps nagging at you. Whatever the reason, I know there are others like me out there. There has to be. I hope they’re in my classes, because I cringe at the idea of having a group discussion with an 18 year old while I struggle to find out if I’m going to look silly with a notebook instead of a laptop.