Three years ago, I remember feeling nervous and fearful about my return to the world of academia. After all, I had been dancing for nearly half of my life while working a full-time time job, and raising two children.
At 19 years of age, I left college to pursue my love for the performing arts and made the decision to move to New York City, dance, and not look back. Though I had fulfilled my desires as a performing artist, I was often reminded of the portion of my life that was not fulfilled…my education. As time passed, I began to develop a disdain for any paperwork that asked THAT question, “What is your highest level of education?” Begrudgingly I checked, “some college,” which would inevitably end with a sigh, or an eye roll. Over the years, I settled in comfortably in my incompleteness and developed a complacency in the daily details of my life. I worked, earned a pay-check, took care of home, and I did it all over again the next day, but with no true purpose.
Following my divorce, a tremendous shift occurred. I had to learn how to build myself up again. In this place of rebuilding, I wanted to rediscover who I was, and become all that I had desired to be. Better yet, I wanted to become all that I knew I could be!
The process of learning has always been one that I enjoyed, along with writing (can you tell?), being challenged, and problem-solving, but I knew the time would come for me to complete what I had started, and better refine the limited tools to which I had access.
Enrolling in school as an older adult has its pros and its cons, but it is my personal responsibility to myself to focus on the pros of this journey. Developing even more my sense of humor has proved to be a lifesaver in this phase of my life. Laughter has helped to propel me through some very stressful situations with a smile and a hint of grace.
Enter in story here —> I recall a time when a paper was due, that I, and about 50 other students had forgotten about and the deadline was in an hour. I frantically ran into the library, spotted a computer to work on, turned it on, and of COURSE it wouldn’t turn on (to think I imagined anything different). I found another computer, managed to get the paper typed and ready to print with minutes to spare. This overwhelming sense of victory flooded me. I felt like I had conquered time and pulling the paper together last minute cradled me in a blanket of pridefulness…until the darn paper wouldn’t print! O_o Students behind me at the printer panicked, and then I began to feel slightly panicked. The printer that had been working the entire time I had been in the library, is NOW experiencing technical difficulties? “Are you serious?” I admit, I became stressed a bit and started to feel the beads of sweat collecting in my pits (I know) and as I was and on the verge of waving my fists at the ‘Printing Gods,’ I realized there ARE multiple printers…I finally stepped back, analyzed the situation, looked at everyone stressing about a PAPER, and began laughing on the spot! The entire scenario that was unfolding in the library became too funny for words, I couldn’t imagine there not being hidden cameras capturing all of this comedy. Needless to say, I submitted my paper on time and got an “A!” All of that stressing ended up becoming wasted energy. Lesson learned!
My overall experience compares to nothing else I have accomplished in my life. Moments that I have begun to cherish like staying up late nights studying, indulging in my exam rituals (a new pack of gum, and a new pack of pencils), working on last minute papers, spotting those annoying classmates who
think they know it all, claiming that seat in the front of the classroom, and that first day of class when you see so many familiar faces from years of taking classes together that it feels like a family reunion…NOTHING COMPARES TO IT!
My appreciation for my education is so much greater as an adult. My time and efforts are not in vain, but purposed to better develop who I am. I also discovered that my learning doesn’t just end in the classroom, I bring those methods and ideas to the outside world, which has also become my institution for learning. My understanding of why a degree is needed, is much clearer. It isn’t just a piece of paper. It is what that piece of paper represents; the blood, the sweat, the tears, and it shows the world that you have ‘stick-to-it-ive-ness,’ and can complete what you started!
This post is very befitting for the present time. Three years ago, I would have never imagined that I would be less than a month away from graduating. Not only am I graduating, but I’m graduating from Northwestern University, a very prestigious and renown academic institution where one of my sisters attended and completed graduate school! While I pursue the road leading into the medical field, I have many, many more goals to accomplish, and hills to climb of which this present phase in my life has prepared me.
In all honesty, I could not have asked, or prayed for a better second chance for completing a major goal in my life! Hopefully this will encourage others to pursue their higher education and realize you are never too old to learn, or to return to the world of academia!
Stay encouraged for the road ahead and Live Simplistically!