Wednesday, August 24, 2011

back to school part 2

Last night we put Nell on the train to Seattle to start her senior year of college.  I'm sure she just went to kindergarten last week.  And I just got back from taking MadMax to his first day of eighth grade, his last year of middle school.  I swear I was still changing his diapers yesterday.  (He would kill me if he saw that.)  And I start classes next week.

The first day of school, more than any other day of the year, makes me sentimental, way more than the last day of the school year, when we're all so glad for it to be over that we can do nothing but celebrate.  I cried after dropping them off on the first day of school every single year until at least fourth grade-- usually I managed to wait until I was in the car, but one notorious year (MadMax's first grade), there I was sobbing in the classroom as the teacher did her welcoming spiel.  It was awful, and believe me, I wouldn't have done it if I could have helped it.

But I haven't done it in a long time, until this year.  It was too much-- both of them in 12 hours.  and Nell is a senior in college.  How did that happen?  MadMax, ever reticent, spoke only enough to cajole me into picking him up this afternoon so he wouldn't have to ride the bus, hopped out of the car, and was gone.  I don't even enter the building anymore.

I didn't sob, but I did get teared up.  I'm so lucky to have such great kids, and here they are growing up on me and pretty soon they'll both be gone.  OK, that's enough of that or I'm going to get all mushy again.

I start classes next week.  And since I continue to have readers who find this blog after searching for "back to school," maybe I will write a little bit about what it's like to go back to school in your 40s (because I was still in my 40s when I started, unlike my current advanced stage of fifty-ness).

I started out here locally at our community college about four years ago.  I'd taken the occasional on-line class, or six-week non-credit class over the years, so I wasn't completely unfamiliar with the campus.  I even taught spreadsheets (and DOS!) back when we first moved here almost 20 years ago.  So other than feeling like a dinosaur compared to the other students, it wasn't too bad.  I only took two classes that first semester (Chinese and a programming class).

I became the self-appointed den mother in each class after awhile-- the classes were small, and we all knew each other before long.  Of course, that was completely unofficial, other than teasing about feeling like the den mother, I never really said anything about it.  But it was a helpful idea for me.  It gave me a way to understand how to relate to these kids who were so much younger than me.

But the next fall I decided it was time for bigger things and started driving to our state university in UTown, two+ hours away. And that was completely terrifying.  In some ways it was worse than being a freshman, because when you're a freshman, there are several hundred other freshmen there feeling like neophytes along with you.  The next oldest person in my fall classes last year was 27.  And most of them came straight out of undergrad, so they hadn't taken much of a break from school at all.  It had been 25 years for me.  You should see my student ID card, which I had to have made the week before classes started:  I look like the proverbial deer in the headlights.

But if you're doing this, here is my best piece of advice:  hang in there.  Don't give up.  I can't tell you how many times I almost quit that first semester.  In fact, the only  thing that kept me from quitting is that practically every one I know was aware that I was doing this, and I was too embarrassed to quit.  My classes were very different from what I expected.  In some ways they were a bit easier-- the reading load was considerably lighter than it was 25 year before.  But in most ways it was much more difficult, because I had to learn how to deal with theory-- about which there will be more in the next few posts.

But I kept slogging along, because I couldn't let myself quit, and much to my surprise, I ended up with a 4.0 that first semester.  You just never know.  So.  Be brave.  You can do it. 

1 comment:

  1. Oh I totally got that way with all of mine too. Every. Single. Year. Now it's more about life markers, job issues, apartment moves, and relationship (or lack of) situations. But fall is still a strange time of year for me from all that conditioning.

    Great information on going back to school as a more mature student. ;)