The New Adventures of Old Darla

Going back to college at my (ahem) advanced age has been quite the eye-opening experience.

I’ve learned many valuable things, like the medical term bradycardia actually does not mean when one’s heart rate goes up upon seeing Tom Brady’s tight end.


Also, never open your eyes during ‘eye irrigation’ practice when your smirking lab partner comes at you wielding a eyedropper full of questionable fluid.

And — I suppose it should go without saying — never get caught in the bathroom stall etching a crude image of your lab partner with a giant arrow over their grotesquely inflated head and the words: Suck It, You Brown-Noser Poopy Head!!!

Oh, and never argue with your professor when he deducts three points off your pharmacology paper because you think whopping cough is a real ailment that strikes people who have inhaled too many Burger King Whoppers. (Damned spell check never works.)

But aside from the above lessons, the biggest thing I’ve learned this time around?

I’ve changed. Yeah, turns out I’m not the same wild-n-crazy chick I used to be in my days of misspent youth.

  • After listening to a few young classmates whine on and on about how they can’t find time to study for the big exam:
    Old Me: Day-um! I know, right? School’s a bitch! High-five!
    New Me: Are you serious? What, you can’t find time because you’re too busy uploading stupid youtube videos while your mom does your laundry and serves you Yoo-Hoo with bendy straws and triangle-shaped bologna sandwiches with the crust cut off? Try studying while taking care of an entire household, two hyper little kids, an elderly mother who thinks Dr. Oz is speaking to her through her smoke alarm, AND a husband that sits around and watches reruns of Married With Children while falling asleep with his hand in his pants. Yeah! Then we’ll see how much time you have to study, bucko! That’s right, I said bucko, bucko! Now just run along and go tweet yourself to death, kids. Oh, and in case you’re not pickin’ up what I be layin’ down:
    #boohoo #growthehellup #beingoldblows #IHeartRichieCunningham
  • While walking by the group of ‘cool’ kids huddled together outside the school taking a smoke break:
    Old Me: Yo, whassup? Need a light? Man, school’s a huge suck-fest, amirite?
    New Me: [scowling] For shame! [knocking cigarettes out of their hands] You guys realize that cancer stick’s gonna kill you, right? But it won’t be quick. Oh hell no. It’ll be a slow, agonizing death where first your lungs will turn to cottage cheese, then you’ll start coughing up blood until finally you’ll end up gasping for every breath for the rest of your days. But by all means, keep on tokin’ it up, morons! See if I care!
    #blacklungdisease #COPD #YouSmellLikeAnAshtray
  • After someone asks me if I want a hit off a bong at an off-campus party:
    Old Me: Hell yeah, duuude!
    New Me: Hell yeah, duuuude!
    (What? It’s for medicinal purposes.)
    Besides, I gotta fit in with my peers somehow.
    #hash #didnotinhale #DoritoLocosTacoFoodBaby

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.

Guest Post

How Movies Teach Us

Let’s face it — the only time you ever learn anything worthwhile in life is when you’re watching a movie.

Here’s just a sampling of lessons I’ve learned:

  • Never fall asleep with your hand between two pillows.


  • When floating in the frigid ocean, find a bigger door.


  • If high school’s social injustices are bringing you down, just dance. It’ll be okay.


The last one was from one of my favorite teen-angst movies, The Breakfast Club.

Or as I like to call it,  The One Where Judd Nelson Goes All Punk On Emilio Estevez’s Ass.

Thoughtsy, from the hilarious and Pop-Tart-y blog Thoughts Appear, has often bestowed upon her readers the lessons she’s learned from movies in her brilliant series, Movies Teach Us. 

And dude, I was like, totally stoked to have a chance to write about  The One Where Ally Sheedy is Super Disgusting.

So listen up punks, because you’re in detention now–
click on this link —> The Breakfast of Champions

…and maybe you’ll learn a few things from The Breakfast Club.
(If you’ve learned any other lessons, be sure to leave them in the comments.  I could use all the help I can get.)



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


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.



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!

Humor · Top Lists

Top Eleven Things That Tick Off My College Professor

11) When I raise my hand to ask her to repeat the last thing she said.

10) When I raise my hand to ask her to repeat the thing she just repeated–only this time, louder.

9) When I raise my hand to tell her I have to go pee.

8) When I then pause to say, “Wait a second…oops…nope. Huh. Guess I don’t have to go pee after all. False alarm. Carry on.”

7) Whenever I find the lecture boring, I light up a cigar and start knitting a sweater.

Yes, dearie…a flash drive is a small storage device that plugs into a computer’s USB port…fascinating…please…continue…

6) Midway through a lecture, I interrupt her with my best grumpy old lady voice, “Yeah, yeah, yeah. Blah, blah, blah. Is this gonna be on the exam or what?”

5) When I pass him a note that reads:

Pssst! Is this gonna be on the exam?
Please Check Box: YES, NO or MAYBE.

P.S. If your answer is maybe, can you be more specific?


4) When I say, “Y’know…I’m very close friends with a certain Mr. Ben Franklin, if you catch my drift….and Ol’ Benji here thinks it’d be swell if I got an A on that upcoming Lab Exam.” Then after digging around my pocket, I lay a penny, my grocery list and an old moldy Sucret on his desk.

3) That I regularly show up to Anatomy class wearing my skin-tight body suit of the major organ systems.

2) That I have the words: PASS ME tattooed on my eyelids.

This might work as well.

and the number one thing that ticks off my professors…

1) Whenever I’m in the midst of an intense exam and don’t know the answer, I bust out my kazoo and start skipping around the room, singing, “Pump-pump pa-pump, pa-pump pump-pump pump-pump…PUMP YOUR BLOOD!”

(it’s a shame Fonzie never shows up to convince Teach to give ME an A+ though…)