Turns out you can teach an old broad new phlebotomy tricks.

Welcome to my nightmare, kids.

Plaid student

It’s always the same thing every time: I’m sitting in a classroom full of students and everyone knows the material except me. The walls close in, my heart pounds and the flop sweats kick into maximum flopping mode.

My professor bears an uncanny resemblance to Sam Kinison in the 1986 movie, Back to School, while I’m Rodney Dangerfield, the bumbling old fart student. And I just know Sam’s going to call on me again.

Quick, what’s the answer?? Dammit, think, Darla, think! Is it angina pectoris or 1492? Oh, god!  I am going to die, right here, right now.


“Say it! SAY IT! SAY IT!”

I fight the urge to burst into tears, stand up and run away because I’m afraid instead I’ll faint, keel over and crush my lab partner to death. And none of us have taken our CPR course yet.

Is this a nightmare? Just a recurring bad dream?

I wish. No, this is my real life, people. Every day of the week. Why?

Because I’m a full-time college student.

I’m twice the age I was the last time I was in college. The only difference now is the reason I’m acting bewildered in class. Back in my 20s, it was due to all the ganja (involuntary second-hand inhalation from my roommates, of course).

Now it’s due to early-onset senility/foggy-perimenopause-brain/not-knowing-any-of-the-goddamned-answers-anxiety.

And the ganja.

(I kid — I get high on life.)

But hey, on a positive note, I’m continuously forced to face all of my big fears during this fall semester:

  • Fear of meeting new people.
  • Fear of learning new things.
  • Fear of medical terms.
  • Fear of phlebotomy.
  • Fear of not knowing the definition of phlebotomy.
  • Fear of drawing blood from my lab partner’s arm.
  • Fear of not remembering new things I learned ten seconds ago — like how to stop blood gushing from open wounds in my lab partner.
  • Fear of speaking in public.
  • Fear of being called on and drawing a blank, turning red and mumbling, “1492?”
  • Fear of burping in public due to extreme nervousness due to speaking in public.
  • Fear of burping the answer “1492” just to impress the cute guy in the back row.
  • Fear of realizing cute guy in back row is only 24 and therefore young enough to be my son.
  • Fear of cute 24 year old guys calling me “Ma’am” and asking me if I need help crossing the street.
  • Fear of doing math.
  • Fear of doing math in public.
  • Fear of inhaling too much second-hand ganja smoke from the dorm party I went to the previous night.
  • Fear of professor Sam Kinison catching me eating an entire box of Twinkies during an exam or chugging PBR from my coffee mug, then making me do complex fractions on the board in front of the entire class, while simultaneously burping and drawing blood from my lab partner’s arm.
  • Fear of him ever reading my blog.


It’s all pretty overwhelming and scary, this learnin’ stuff.  It doesn’t help that the girl in the purple shirt in the above photo is Miss Know-It-All McSmugerson.  God, I hate her.

But I thank my lucky stars I have you guys here to complain and vent to.

Just tell me what the answer is.

Please. Or this might happen to me and it’ll be all your fault.

What’s your recurring nightmare? Are you afraid of not knowing any of the answers? Or do you have fears of going back to school?  If not, or if you DO know all the answers, I will pay you big money to sit in my classes for me. Thanks.

104 thoughts on “Turns out you can teach an old broad new phlebotomy tricks.

  1. You’re doing great, Darlflopsweata – don’t worry. You’re my hero for putting yourself through this, and even knowing that phlebotomy is a real word! It is a real word, isn’t it? Or are you just messing with us?

    I see you cut the sleeves off the plaid jacket – smooth move both for style and ventilation.

    (Have I told you lately that I LOVE your Photoshop wizardry? I do.)

    1. Hey, I’m the first comment! Because I’m sitting at my computer waiting for a webinar from the Centers for Medicare Services to start that will explain everything I need to get straight about Obamacare in the next 10 days. Somebody just SHOOT ME NOW!

        1. I am closing this distracting window right, damn now because the bureaucrats at the CMS have already been talking for 10 minutes and I need to pay close attention if I want to fall asleep really quickly and get my hour nap this afternoon. zzzzzzz

      1. Oh, really? My oh my they have high expectations. Only 10 days, eh? My professor (who is a doctor and doesn’t just play one in the classroom) is already bemoaning the changes with Obamacare. I suppose in a way it’s good I’m just starting out knowing nothing about the insurance side of things. That’s next semester. Yay.

      2. Peg, you can learn everything you need to know about Obamacare by reading my latest post. Although I must warn that once you read it, “Obamacare” will become your answer to Darla’s question about your recurring nightmares.

    2. Well I thank youm but I learned from the Master of Paint, and that is you, Pegcasso. And yes, I had to go with the plaid t-shirt due to all that flippity-floppity sweating goin’ on….

      I’m in my fourth week now and thankfully the sweat is gone, now it’s just fear of my heart exploding from the stress. But I’ll be all right. Just gotta keep on phlebotomizing on….

  2. You forgot “fear of spitting on the cute guy while trying to say phlebotomy” — that’s the one that gets me every time.

    You’ve got those youngin’s smoked, Darla. Don’t you worry, missy.

  3. I wanted to tell you this Darla — yesterday I had an infusion. They had trouble starting it and the nurse said they had to call Cruella. CRUELLA deVILLE?!?!” But I like puppies … Her name was actually HUella. Now, sadly, she has a new name around the old infusion center. Don’t know how that happened. It’s a shame really, because she was very good.

    1. Aw, that is a shame! No Cruella?? Sorry you had an infusion. My brother just had a hernia operation last week and his main concern was the old shaky nurse putting in his IV. Nevermind the fact they were about to slice into his groin area.

      1. Your brother is a mighty unusual man, then.

        The infusions are wonderful. They make me feel good. Really, really good. (I’m not kidding) But I was a wee bit nervous that Cruella would skin me. But she was actually really good and got my IV done in no time.

      2. Oh, I am so happy to know the infusions actually do some GOOD for you! (How in the hell did you put your font in BOLD in that reply?? I’m taking a computer course and still haven’t learned this cool trick…)

  4. I never feared going back to college. I fear I wont retain it and it’ll be a huge waste of money for me.

    Although speaking in public is right up there with the fear of dentists I have.

  5. Melanie

    I’m afraid I’ll never know why everyone in that picture has their hand raised with their index finger pointing up. As if knowing the answer isn’t enough they gotta go and throw that “I’m number one” finger up with it. Show offs.

  6. My daughter had a nightmare this morning when she heard the wolves uh dogs next door howling for no reason except maybe the full moon, which means it is actually my neighbor as a werewolf. She dreamed that the wolves could walk through walls and they were coming after her. So my point. I have nightmares of nice people.

  7. Twice the age = twice the life experience x more perspective. Yes? Christ, I know what would be going on inside my head if I went back to college. I’d feel like a dirty old sod. That’s what I’d do with a great opportunity like that. Use it to feel bad about myself. My ninja skill kick in.

    1. Yes, that’s me! Dirty old sod. Wrinkly ol’ B. It’s a huge slap in the face when I try to chitchat with everyone in my class and I realize to them, it’s like hanging out with their mother. I still feel 20 on the inside though and that’s what really sucks.

  8. I am so impressed that you even thought about going back to school, let alone actually DID it. See, I like to drink during lunch too much to ever be able to retain any information past noon. Not really, but I DID go to lunch with some colleagues and we drank. More than we should have for people going back to work.

    Wait, what were we talking about again? I forgot . . .

  9. I went to law school when I was 30 and felt pretty out of place, so I imagine your pain is much more excruciating. Wait, I was going to write something encouraging and helpful. Dammit. Um, I got nothing now, sorry.

    I have a recurring dream where I’m in front of thousands of people before a concert and only when the curtain rises and all eyes are upon me do I realize that I don’t know how to play the guitar or the words to any songs. What do you think that means??

    1. Your story does give me a bit of hope, Don, thank you. I suppose it’s good no one can guess my true age in class, except I keep bringing it up all the time so the kids will feel sorry for me and carry my books.

    1. Yeah! I mean, if the professor would set up the classroom like we’re on a Jeopardy set, I’d probably start buzzing in like crazy. “I’ll take Diseases That Might Kill Me Slowly” for 1,000, Alex.”

  10. Hang in there, chick! You’re doing it. My recurring nightmare is not making it to class on time (or at all) because I’m lost in the hallways, or I can’t remember my schedule. Another recurring nightmare is not making it to watch (to work) on time on board ship. During one of those dreams, I was a mother, working on a ship, and I had my kid. My constant worry was trying to find someone to watch him while I was at work, and there was no one suitable.

    One just plain weird dream I had was driving the ship up the Columbia River, towards Portland, OR. But the river got smaller and smaller until it was just a stream, and the ship was left high and dry. We put ladders over the side and climbed down to the grassy ground.

    Actually, during high school (except for the years when Mom was busy going crazy, screwing up my life), I was pretty much one of those geeks who knew the answers; except in history- boring! Some times I got tired of raising my hand and not getting called on, so I would stop raising my hand for a while. I know, pathetic. But, I have to say, it took me until I was 28 to get my first, and probably last 4.0.

    If your test is multiple choice, pick C.

    1. I have another recurring dream about my old job at Yankee Candle. There’s this huge line of crabby tourists, mostly old ladies. They all start throwing their candles in my face and demanding their money back. Then I panic and the cash register jams. Actually, this happened in real life more than once.

      The raising hand thing is interesting. I’ve noticed the kids in my class do NOT raise their hand at all. They just blurt stuff out. It’s really weird to me because I was conditioned to raise my hand. So I still raise my hand and the professor is always a bit startled. I make it a huge point to talk a lot in each class, I make comments, ask questions….this is because talking in public is a HUGE HUGE HUGE fear of mine. It seems the more I do it, the easier it gets and the less anxiety I feel, so that’s a good thing.

      Thanks for the test tip, always pick C. I’ll remember that.

  11. I don’t know any of the answers (and I faint at the sight of blood) but I’ll be happy to take your exams for you for the low, low price of a lifetime supply of coffee and Twinkies.

    I think it’s awesome that you’re back in school. It takes a lot of courage. Keep up the good work!

    1. Oh, thank you so much, Jackie! I will pay you in Twinkies/java for sure. Apparently, having a tendency to faint at the sight of blood doesn’t mean you can’t become a medical assistant. The one man in my class announced on the VERY first day of lab: “Hey, just so you guys know, I will probably throw up when I draw blood out of your arm.” I made a mental note to myself–do not pick him for my lab partner.

  12. You already know the terror I experienced going back to school. I always sat in the back row hoping no one would notice me. And then, it happened. One day, a male student called me “ma’am.” I definitely felt out of place surrounded by young twenty year olds. That, and I never wore short shorts to class.

    By the way, Miss Know-It-All McSmugerson, has nothing on your mad PowerPoint skills. I’d like to see her design a custom background for a photo.

    1. This is the thing–I sit in the way back in every class. Mainly because I can see the board better. I have horrible far-sightedness and it’s getting worse by the minute. So my professor said the first day of class, “Don’t think because you’re sitting in the back I won’t call on you.” Yikes. So now I make it a point to talk a lot in class so he won’t call on me.

  13. My recurring nightmare is that someone is in the room watching me sleep. The last time I had it, I dreamed that I threw my pillow at the figure in the doorway. When I woke up, my pillow was in the doorway. Spoooooooooky!

      1. You’re so wise. Wish you could come here and handle this spirit as you seem to know what you’re doing. All I want to do is ignore it or write about it… Now go do your homework!

  14. You go girl! When I went back to college at 35, I found that the kids either though I was so cool for going back to school, or they didn’t care and just ignored me. Apparently they either love it or hate it. So just hang out with the ones that love it, it is a much cooler group anyway 😉

    1. Good advice. I’ve noticed that too. My computer courses, no one really even notices I’m there (and that’s kinda nice) They kids in these classes are straight outta high school. In my medical classes, it’s more of a good mix of ages, I have a couple other classmates older than me even, so we tend to stick together. The younger students are very accepting of me in these classes too. They laugh at my lame jokes so it’s all good.

  15. I can take care of the public speaking part for you. As I’ve gotten older I’ve become inexplicably fearless about that. Of course I won’t know what I’m talking about, but hey, it’s a grade.

    1. That is so true, Oma. The more I fight my fear and speak in public, the more I realize that hey, I actually will NOT spontaneously combust from the anxiety. Also-hardly anyone is really listening to me anyway.

  16. Ah look! Another similarity! I’ve gone back to school this year too! I’m doing a Masters in Education, I’m doing the full time course, but I’m still doing my job. The classes are in the evening. It’s not too scary so far because I work at the same uni where I’m doing the course, and I’ve been working there since 2002, so it all feels familiar, plus there are all ages in the class so I’m not the only oldie! Good luck to us Darla! 🙂

    1. Whoa. You go, V! A masters?? And you’re working? You are the bomb diggity. There is a student in my class who is taking a full course load and working a full time job at a nursing home. I am in awe. I can barely handle just being in school right now!

  17. You’re doing it….you’re really doing it! Not just sitting around talking about it. Polease as a mother of 2 college students you are the freaking Yoda of these classes. Your classmates might be able to text at the speed of lightening, but they can’t use words with vows and shit…seriously Darla look in the mirror and tell yourself that you are the BadAss student who is on a mission to Carp the Effing Diem out of this class!

  18. I learned late in my academic career to always try to sit in the front row, dead center if possible. That way, I feel that the professor is speaking to me directly to me. My lack of decent peripheral vision prevents me from seeing the rolled eyes of my classmates when I ask yet another stupid question. The professor, who is fairly adept at hiding the looks of contempt and pity when faced with my idiocy, knows better than to ask me to answer any questions, since I’m obviously on the wrong chapter most of the time. Instead, he focuses on harassing students in the back rows who may or may not be sipping PBR’s out of their Big Gulp cups.

    1. you are so right, Dave. I made the mistake of sitting in the very back (because I can’t see a blessed thing) and he continuously picks on me. He completely ignores the ones in the front row. Next semester I will make sure to sit front and center (I have the same professor next year, too)

  19. Is it wrong that I kind of love your outfit in the first picture? Can I wear that to the next dorm party?

    I’m so proud of you. School + blood = the stuff Freddy Krueger has nightmares about. As you know, public speaking is a biggie for me, too. I wonder if I’d be more confident in that plaid shirt?

    1. I know, as if speaking in public wasn’t bad enough…now I have to draw someone’s blood in public? After this class I’m sure I’ll feel like I can do anything. The only way to build confidence is to face your fears (over and over again).

  20. Snoring Dog Studio

    Oh, dear – just remember this one thing: They’re all as scared and nervous as you are. Oh, and this other thing: They’re all naked under their clothes. Seriously, you’ll be fine. You’re still there, doing the work and showing up. Going back to school after a long absence isn’t for the fainthearted, so you have to pat yourself on the back for that achievement! I hope the cafeteria food is edible, by the way.

    1. Thanks, Jean. That is exactly what I tell myself, the others are probably just as anxious as I am. Except for that one in the purple shirt who seems to know the answers for everything. There’s one in every class.

  21. 1492! Hahaha. Isn’t that always the answer?

    Here’s some hope for you: my mom who is over twenty years older than you went back to school last year. She went out for coffee with no fewer than three of her 20 something classmates this summer–at their request. They love her! And I’m SURE they feel the same way about you.

  22. The answer to all of life’s questions is “42.” (Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy”)

    I remember this time all too well – except I never had to draw blood on any one. Thank heavens. Chin up, Darla. You’ll be fine. Just pray your professor does not read your blog. 🙂

  23. My recurring nightmare is that, suddenly, all Republicans become completely reasonable, and I will have nothing to write about. My actual recurring nightmare, back from the time I did comedy on stage, was that my group is doing a show before the audience, and I realize during the show that we forgot to write the second half of the show, and we’d have to wing it somehow. It’s really quite similar to your the nightmare of having to answer the professor’s question when you don’t know the answer, except my nightmares didn’t involve drawing blood.

    1. Oh, you do give me hope, Tar! I’m happy to hear you’re not in full-out panic mode anymore with your job. I am finally reaching a state of semi-panic mode. I feel a bit anxious at the start of class, then I realize, it’s no big thang and just chill like the dudes in my class, yo.

  24. I am so impressed that you are going back to school!!! I would be feeling exactly the same way you are feeling. The pressure of appearing smarter because of being older, etc, etc. Starting today, my recurring nightmares are going to be about you and your experience! AY! 🙂

  25. It’s so awesome that you’re doing this in spite of your fears. I would feel much the same way. Except I couldn’t actually do it. It hasn’t even been that long since my school days, but the thought of going back…it’s nightmare-provoking!

    1. Thanks, Lily. I have to overcome so many fears every single day, but the good thing is, some of those fears are fading the more I force myself to confront them. If I actually graduate with a degree next spring I will be stoked.

    1. Thanks, Val. It’s funny though, I’m realizing I didn’t really know what I was made of until I stopped being so scared of life. I’m starting to like this new me. But no one wants to be like me, then they’d have to drink PBR and burp in class.

  26. My recurring nightmare? I am standing in front of a classroom of PBR-sipping students who are all imagining me standing in front of the classroom in my underwear (and black socks). I have blood dripping from both arms and as I am getting weaker and weaker I try to croak out “Pop Quiz”. Miss Know It All in the front row has asked me 17 questions designed to make me look foolish (as if that could happen!! Did I mention I was out of clean underwear and was wearing a pair of my husband’s boxer briefs? Did I?) Anyway, I have to keep handing out paper towels to the sweaty old broad hitting on the young kid in the back row. She keeps burping when I call on her. (Did I mention I am old enough to be some of these kids’ grandmother? Did I?)

    When the cute guy in the back asks to leave because he is not feeling well, I tell him to stop imagining me in my underwear and he’ll feel better. He replies “1492” and I fear he is guessing the year I was born. While walking to the board to write tomorrow’s horrifying assignment (yes, you will have to read multiple chapters and answer the questions) I trip and fall flat on my face. As I lie there in a pool of blood, the students step gingerly over my carcass on their way out of the room. Miss Know it All quips “nice underwear” as she flips her hair and steps over me. With all the strength I can muster I reach out and grab her ankle…

    1. This is the best comment I have ever read on my blog.

      Y’know, I never really thought of what the professor has to endure every class. How do you guys do it?? You deserve the highest salary in the world.

      How are you doing, Katy? Back to your old self? SO good to see you around!

      1. Almost every day I am in terror, just for a few minutes, before class starts. Am I ready? Did I put on underwear? Deodorant? Will my voice do its crazy high/low Tiny Tim/Johnny Cash thing? Will I snort if I laugh? Pee my pants if I cough? Fart when I walk? Almost any catastophe could befall me, but once I get going, it is all smooth sailing. It is like a loooooooooong stand-up routine. Sometimes I’m funny, sometimes crickets.

        I do have a Miss Know it All in my class, and nearly every day she plays a few rounds of “Stump Ms. C”. So far, she hasn’t. I would not be surprised if she has an accident in the parking lot at some point in the semester…know what I mean?

        I am feeling lots better, but still tired. Working 2 jobs at the moment and trying to stay out of trouble, although I can’t really see the benefit of that.

        1. Hey, my voice also does the crazy Tiny Tim/Johnny Cash thing! At least when I’m speaking in public, it’s never boring for the audience. My voice also cracks a lot, too. Nice, huh. The farting when I walk thankfully doesn’t happen as I get all that out of the way on the way to class.

          I would love to have you as my professor. I really appreciate a good stand-up routine.

  27. I used to have the pretty typical recurring academic nightmares: not remembering my locker combination, showing up late for the final exam for a class I forgot to attend all semester, going to school without any underpants, and getting lost on the first day of class. Have I covered them? Now I have nightmares about my exhusband. I long for the no underpants dreams…

  28. I can’t decide if I’d enjoy doing phlebotomy or not. I think I would, but maybe not. All those whiny patients afraid of blood and/or needles.

    I have many recurring nightmares, many of which involve the usual school anxiety stuff…I cut class all year and the final is tomorrow, or I find out I can’t graduate because I failed all my classes. Then I have others where I have to get to the airport for a flight and I’ve got about 5 minutes before the plane takes off and I still haven’t gone through security and then my boarding pass is missing or I’m put on the wrong flight, etc. Fortunately my insomnia means I don’t have those dreams too often. So I’ve got that going for me.

    But enough of that, you didn’t mention the most important thing: do you have any hot professors? Show some leg and some cleavage and you should be fine. That always worked with my professors. One of them gave me an A for it. She was nice.

    1. I agree, I think I’ll enjoy stabbing…er…I mean pricking…um….I mean drawing blood from patients. But I might not enjoy their crying and bitching and complaining when I do it.

      I’ve also got raging insomnia going for me! Must be our mid-life-peri-menopause bullshit rearing it’s hot flashed-ugly-head? I wake up several times a night every night. This might be why I’m so grumpy?

      I WISH I had a hot professor. I have three, two are middle-aged women and one is a man who is probably younger than me, but he reminds me of Nicholas Cage. So no cleavage-flaunting for this chick. Sigh.

          1. what’s really great is I tend to fall asleep during my pharmacology lecture instead. I suppose I don’t REALLY need to learn about correct drug dosing, right?

            Well here’s to us maybe finally getting some goddamned sleep once we hit menopause.

          2. Eh. 10 milligrams, 100 milligrams. What’s the dif? They’re small quantities. At menopause we can sleep AND wake up in pools of our own hot flash sweat. So we’ll have that going for us.

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