Never would it have entered my mind that I would be a 50-year-old college student going to college with my daughter. It seems like a miracle.
Let’s back up to 1976. That’s when I got married during spring break my senior year in high school. All I had ever wanted was to be a wife and mom. I had a baby girl when I was 18 years old – 10 weeks after my mom gave birth to my baby sister. Yep, that’s right! My daughter and sister are the same age.
In 1982, I had a baby boy. Shortly after he was born I decided to go to college. I enrolled, but was only able to take one or two classes at a time. After a year of working full-time, going to school part-time and juggling babies, a husband and a household I burned out. My grades started falling due to my exhaustion so I decided to drop out.
During the time I was going to school I became a medical transcriptionist. That was a very lucrative job at the time. I loved my job and it supported us nicely for a long time after my husband had been laid off his job of 17 years.
As the years passed, things changed drastically. After my divorce, I lost my focus. Hospitals no longer had their own medical transcriptionists. The work was farmed out to people in India, Pakistan and Manila. My pay was cut 40% in one fell swoop…twice. I couldn’t even make ends meet anymore. For eight years I wandered through life without goals or plans, achieving nothing career-wise, my salary falling more and more each year. Then I lost my medical insurance and sunk into a very deep depression that lasted nearly a year. This was completely unlike me. I had always had goals and always achieved them. Now I was lost. I felt helpless, at the mercy of a government who allowed my work to be sent to other countries where people who were way better educated than I were doing the work for a fraction of my previous price. This hurt.
Many times, I thought about learning a new career, but I’m 50 years old. Surely that’s too old…right? Wrong!
A couple of months ago, I was talking to my baby sister, Wendi, who is not a baby anymore. As a matter of fact, she has an 11-year-old and a 6-year-old of her own. Wendi told me she was going to enroll college at the University of Phoenix. She said my 26-year-old niece (my middle sister’s daughter) is working on an Associates degree in psychology there and she loves it. Wendi decided she wants a Bachelors in accounting. As that week went by, I couldn’t push the thought out of my mind. By the end of the week, I looked up the University of Phoenix. As soon as the web page loaded I clicked on their degree plans and there it was – my dream degree – communications. A couple of more days went by and I kept asking Wendi questions. Finally, I enrolled.
Not able to contain my excitement, I gushed to my daughter, Carrie, about my plans to get my Associates degree and then to continue on for my Bachelors and probably even more. Suddenly, I had a plan…I had goals. Immediately, things just started to fall into place. I knew exactly what I wanted to do. I wanted to write. Writing has always been my passion and is something I do every day as a hobby, but I had never thought about it seriously as a full-time career. As soon as I decided what I wanted I signed up on Associated Content and started writing away.
Carrie decided to join my niece, my sister and me at the University of Phoenix to get her MBA. She graduated from Texas A&M University in 1999 with a degree in Business Administration so she has been out of college for 10 years herself.
My niece started a little earlier than we did, but Wendi, Carrie and I began classes this week.
Carrie and I live together. This evening, we were each at our computers, reading and turning in assignments. Afterwards, we had fun chatting about our classes, our assignments, what we learned and how we are applying what we are learning to our current jobs and where we intend for this new knowledge to take us. This is such a special thing that we are doing together, and I feel so tremendously blessed to be given this opportunity.
Remembering back to my childhood, for the most part I was not a good student. I had no interest in learning then. I did my class work and my homework, but I never participated in class discussions because I was shy and thought everyone else must surely be smarter than me. I hated math and didn’t give a hoot about Shakespeare or history. The only classes I liked were music and Spanish.
When I went to college for that short time in my twenties it was different. History was still hard for me and I still hated math, but I learned how much I loved writing. It was with great regret that I dropped out.
Things are so different now. I have lived, and actually remember, more history than they teach in school. Math isn’t so hard anymore since I don’t have a teacher staring at me or leaning over me with body language that says I’m stupid and unteachable. It was math anxiety that was causing my learning difficulty, not the inability to learn math. When I am in the comfort of my own home, in front of a nonjudgmental computer with enough time to think and process my thoughts math becomes almost easy.
As I write this, I’m looking at my grammar and sentence structure. I know it’s not perfect at this moment, but I know that due to the writing classes I’m taking and the writer’s guild I belong to it will get better every day.
While a 50-year-old college student sounds silly to many people, I know I will have an Associates degree in July of next year, a Bachelors degree in 3 years, a Masters in 4-1/2 years and a PhD in 5-1/2 to 6 years, and God willing I’ll still have 20 years to be grateful for this amazing opportunity.
The only downside to this education is that I will have a mountain of student loans. I am trying not to be overwhelmed by that thought. Fortunately, the University of Phoenix provides me with a financial counselor.
Maybe I’ll get lucky and write a best-selling novel. Maybe I’ll start a successful business. No one knows what the future holds, but for the first time in eight long years I see a bright and promising future where I have only seen the fear of turning old and being a burden to my children before. Now I see the possibility. Now I’m free to dream again.