Sunday, June 22, 2008

Back to School at 36!

Ok, I have a confession to make... I did not graduate from college. Not only did I not graduate, I never even really started. As soon as I set foot outside the doors of the hallowed halls of high school, I had made up my mind to start living as an adult - to make it in the world and pursue life as a genuine working stiff. Now that I look back on it, I'm reminded of that commercial of the little kids who share their dreams of the future... "When I grow up I want to file all day, I want to claw my way up to middle management, I want to be paid less for the same job. i want to be forced into early retirement."

I have to say that I've been more lucky than others who might share my same circumstances. I suppose I was at the right place at the right time, the stars were in alignment for most of my working career, and/or fate has smiled on me kindly. I have a great job, I love my coworkers, love the work, love the mission - but several months ago, my boss looked me right in the eye and said, "You're not going any further than this without that little piece of paper." (Really, he was not being mean, he was (is) a good friend of my husbands and was giving me friendly advice.)

Truth be told, I'd been wrestling with this issue for many years. For awhile I thought my path was to show the world that one could be quite successful without a degree (gasp!), like some of these infamous folks: Bill Gates, Walt Disney, Lance Armstrong, Thomas Edison. (For real! Lookee here!) And, perhaps I would have continued that way except for a few revelations that occurred all at about the same time.

First was my boss' advice. Second was my contemplation about being a writer and the fact that I'd most likely be laughed out of a publisher's office without some kind of formal education. Next was a dinner we had at a friends house and a discussion with a 55-year-old woman who was pursuing a master's degree in an area completely unrelated to anything she'd ever done before or any education that she'd ever had before. I was awed that someone so much older than me was making such a dramatic change in her life.

One of the last revelations was a sermon from our minister about
pleasure versus meaning. For instance, there are many things that are pleasurable, such as gazing at a stained glass window, but without meaning, the delight fades fast. So what was my meaning? What was my focus? Making jewelry, painting flower pots, gardening? I needed a direction, a goal.

The final revelation and perhaps the basic truth - I was scared. I was afraid of the results of a placement test after my miserable performance on the high school SAT's. I was afraid of the enormous cost. I was afraid of going back to school "at my age" and being in a room with tittering 20-year-olds. I was intimidated beyond comprehension. I found reason after reason for not even considering it.

But I finally came to a point where I had the courage to face all of it - I finally let go of all my fears in great rivers of meditation and the faith that God would take care of everything. Was I still nervous? Oh, yes, and just about turned around to go back right home on the day I had to take the dang placement test. And even though I stunk at the math segment of the test (not unexpected), I sailed through the rest... 97 in reading, 99 in writing! I cannot even tell you how thrilled I was after the aforementioned SAT scores. Honestly, I just about burst into tears standing right there in the testing room with the teens accompanied by their mothers (who were my age!)

So, I figure it will take about 8-10 years for this to all be finalized. Just about the time my daughter graduates from high school - won't that be a novelty? But, I'm kinda glad it worked out this way. I hope it will be a shining example to my daughter that it's never to late to pursue a new path in life. She will probably understand more about the college experience than others, having a mom going through it during her formative years.

I still don't know how I'm going to manage with working full-time at a pretty demanding career, a daughter with a packed social calendar, a home, bills, laundry, etc. But I'm blessed with an incredibly supportive husband and family, and I know we'll all be A-ok.

My first class starts tomorrow night. Stay tuned! I'll probably have lots of fun things to say about it...


Jan said...

I am so proud of you Sunni. That is such an awesome story and how you concluded on what you needed to do. I know that you will be able to do this and you will probably find a lot of pleasure in the process this time around.

I love how you really thought this through. That you recieved an answer through a sermon and listening to the spirit. Good Luck Sunni..

I'll be really excited to hear about your progress..

Frumpy Luv said...

This is so exciting!! Congratulations and I will keep reading to find out how it all goes!

Donna said...

I'm so proud of you, Jen, and I know you can do it!
You are an incredible person.
Good luck.

Kathleen Grace said...

Hi Sunni, I just found you through Donnas blog. I want to tell you go for it! I am 50 and still taking classes. Started college, stopped and got married thinking I didnt really need the degree. I have regretted it ever since. I finished my associates two years ago and am still picking away at a bachelors. If I could look back and tell myself anything it would be to finish school! Or even later, in my 30's, get back in there and get it done. My last daughter graduated last month and at 50 I feel like I am ready to start my own life. You will be prepared to do so with that degree. Dont let anything stop you:>)

Kari & Kijsa said...

What an incredible journey you are starting on! Best of luck...we know you can do it!

Have a blessed and wonderful day!

smiles, kari & kijsa

keeper of the chocolates said...

jen, i just read this. (i am so behind in bloggerland) but i am SO PROUD OF YOU! i am 41 and still have dreams of getting that 'little piece of paper), YOU GO GIRL!!! stay the course. it is truly worth it!


Sucar said...

This is fantastic news! I'm glad you are doing something so focused for yourself.

Sorry i've been so out of the loop lately. Karoline is through the first year and things are already starting to 'free' up. I miss your whole family terribly!