When you get to midlife, you start to realize a few things. Big things. For instance, how you’ve managed to bury insecurities so deep down, you didn’t even know you had them.
Like my doubts about doing well in school.
Maybe it’s due to the recurring nightmares I’ve had all my life, usually depicting some sort of general school-based anxiety like: not knowing there was an exam, not knowing any of the answers, not showing up to class wearing a stitch of clothing.
They say life is like a big school. We’re here to learn, make mistakes, then learn some more.
I guess. Whatevs. I wasn’t really paying attention and they said it wasn’t gonna be on the exam, sooooo….[shrugs]
I know I’ve got the making mistakes thing down pat. When I was first in college, over 20 years ago, I made the mistakes only a 18 year old girl could make: I blew off class. Specifically, chorus. Yeah, I was a rebel back then. I loved to sing, I loved to be in a choir. I didn’t love to drag my butt across a frozen campus to the late night rehearsals. My choral director informed me I would be getting an F because I missed three rehearsals.
No biggie. No big thing. Only that F would be forevermore the first grade at the tippy top of my transcripts. And it brought my GPA down more than a few pegs. Not than anyone ever cares about your GPA anyway, right? (I do)
So now that I’m back in college at the ripe old age of 42, pursuing another degree full-time, I was nervous. Petrified. We’re talking panic attacks on the drive to my first class. Would I be able to study? Would I remember how to take notes? How does a pen work? Will I ever get those old brain cells of mine to wake up again after being pummeled into submission by an endless loop of the themes to Jimmy Neutron and Spongebob?
I knew my anatomy class would be hard as soon as my lab partner leaned in to tell me this was her second time taking it. My professor started the very first lecture discussing the complicated idea of how our cells process energy and used terms like mitochondria and receptive mediated endocytosis. Halfway through the semester, nearly one-third of the class dropped the course because they were failing. These were students half my age and with twice my brain cells.
Fine, three times my brain cells.
I thought, I can’t learn this! What the hell is she talking about? I can’t figure this stuff out! I’m no good at science! I will get an F! I’m gonna fail, I just know it!
Then something shifted. I thought, aw, hell, what do I have to lose? One thing at a time. Just learn one tiny thing at a time, then the rest will snowball and I’ll finally ‘get’ it. I will. I can do this.
My first exam I got a C. Not great, but still I wanted to do much better. I had to do better, our degree requires we maintain a B average. So I studied hard. Harder than I ever did twenty years ago. I made sure I understood everything backwards, forwards, upside down and sideways. My next big exam, I got a 95. My professor even put a little red smiley face next to my grade. No gold star, but I was happy. My lab partner got a D.
She asked me what I got, then smirked at my reply and said,
“Yeah, I suppose I do,” I said, failing to hide my grin. And my fist pumps. And my sporadic cries of “YES!!” during lecture. And my gangnam style dance I performed out in the hallway later on during break.
Eventually, I mastered that material in anatomy. Me, a middle aged stay-at-home mother who thought she wouldn’t learn much of anything new ever again.
After finals week, I cringed as I opened up my final course grades on my computer. At the top of the list was my final anatomy grade. I got a D.
Just messin’ with ya. Making sure you’re still reading. But yeah, I got an A. I did it. I took that gnawing fear that I could never learn science and I kicked its sorry cytoplasm ass.
What did I learn last semester? I can start something and finish it. I can succeed even if I fail. I can dive headfirst into my fears and survive.
And the mitochondria is the powerhouse of the cell. Boo-ya!
Next up, jumping out of an airplane.
I doubt it’ll be nearly as scary as going back to school.
Note to my readers: I will be taking a bit of a blogging break over the next few weeks. Once I get back into the swing of studying again and can spare a few brain cells, I’ll start writing once a week again. I did ask my advisor if the college would consider offering the How To Effectively Blog Your Brains Out In 100 Easy Steps course but she said no dice. Happy Winter! I’ll miss you!