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How Going Back to School is Like Jumping Out of an Airplane

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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,

“You suck.”

“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.

Maybe.

Someday.

I doubt it’ll be nearly as scary as going back to school.

MITOCHONDRIAAAAAA!

MITOCHONDRIAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA!!________________________________________________________________

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!

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Too School for Cool: College Revisited

Well it’s official, kids! I am a student again. I just registered for my fall semester classes. Now all I need to get by is a hot plate, an economy-sized box of Ramen Noodles, a bean bag chair, and a giant bong.

Oh, wait. I’m not 21 years old anymore.

[sigh]

Well, looks like I’ll have to give up the noodles.  (Trying to watch my sodium intake.)

I am about to start a full course load for my associate’s degree. Last time I was in college was um…oh…about 20(cough) years ago. Wish me luck. I’m hoping I don’t end up at the geek table in the cafeteria. Or a jock saunters over, calls me Old Lady and knocks my tray to the floor, leaving me sobbing and covered in oatmeal, raisins and weak Earl Grey tea with a twist of lemon because it really helps settle my stomach and keeps me regular.

So far, I’ve only gone to my new student orientation, but I’ve already noticed how different things are this time around.

For three solid hours, I listened to the dean and an English professor tell us not only how to study, but that we had to study if we wanted to get a good grade. I know! I was as flabbergasted as you. Next they informed us that, yes, we have to show up for our classes. And take notes. Then they showed us how to take notes. Finally, the dean announced (I kid you not) we actually had to buy the books for classApparently, in the past some students thought this was an option.

What? Where? Why? Hey, isn’t it enough I showed up here? What?

It was all I could do to not let out a huge snort of disbelief. Seriously? Have we come to this? Students these days have to be told how to be students? Why can’t they just cut to the chase and hand us our final grades on the first day?

And they say our country is in trouble.

But for once, being an advanced age is on my side. I can already see how my college experience this time around will be very different.

Going to College:

THEN: Statistics class at 8 am? Fffft! Let’s blow it off and get drunk!
NOW: Statistics class at 8 am? Perfect! I’m already up at 5 am so why the hell not?

THEN: Eh, who needs to take notes? I can retain all the professor’s lecture just by using my half-assed listening skills!
NOW: Wait, slow down….I need to copy this word for word or I’ll never get it. What did you say after “Good evening, class, let’s begin”?

THEN: Dude! Let’s get wasted!
NOW: Now children, don’t waste this opportunity. We need to apply ourselves academically or we’ll never land that job in a few years.

Things That Have Changed Since Last Time I Went To College:

  • The chairs seem to be smaller.
    Or my butt’s bigger.
    I think I’ll go with the chairs being smaller.
  • The blackboard up front looks fuzzier.
  • The blackboard has been replaced by some bizarre space-age technocrappola PowerPoint nonsense gobbly-dee-gook.
  • The dean is my age.
  • The professor could be my son.
  • All of my fellow students look so young, they resemble Justin Bieber.
    When he was a baby.
    Inside his mother’s womb.
  • Instead of going to the library and looking up stuff on card catalogs, we are expected to have our own laptops and utilize this new-fangled thing called The In-ter-net.
  • I find all the professor’s lame jokes hilarious and actually laugh out loud at them.
  • I want to study.
  • I will study.
  • I will pay attention during class. Too much attention. I’ll even make eye contact and nod my head to whatever the professor says, like we’re in this together.
  • I will be raising my hand and asking annoying questions all the time.
  • I will answer all the professor’s questions by doing my best Horshack impression.
    (RIP Ron Palillo)

    OOH! OOH!OOOOOHHHH!
  • I will never blow off a single class because I know I’ll be paying for this with interest for the next 10 years.
  • Whenever the professor mentions “the real world” or “real life”, I’ll glance at my fellow 18 year old students and shake my head because they really have no freaking clue, do they? None. But I do.  I know about all about “real life” crap to last a lifetime.
  • I have become that ‘know-it-all old lady’ student I used to roll my eyes at when I was young.
  • Ramen noodles taste like chicken-flavored dishwater when you’re not stoned.

If you went to college, did you study or blow off class? How many pounds of Ramen noodles did you consume? Will you go to my 8 am  Anatomy class tomorrow and record the lecture for me because I have to go to this party tonight, but I swear I’ll do the same for you next week?

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NOTE TO CONSTANT READER:

Just an FYI, (don’t you hate it when someone starts a sentence with ‘just an FYI’?) in case you’re wondering in the future where I am…I am either in class or studying. Or passed out in a rather large bucket of Ramen noodles. I hope to post on my blog once a week in the meantime. But if the rest of you could just stop blogging until say, December when the semester ends, that’d be great because there is no way in hell I can keep up with all the brilliantly funny and touching posts you people crank out on a daily basis. Thank you.

Catch ya latah, alligatahs.