I never thought I’d be going back to school to finish my college degree at age 54. In fact, I really never thought Id be finishing it at all.
“Don’t do it unless you absolutely have to,” my daughter warily cautioned me a few weeks ago when I told her of my plans to return to school. At 34 she’s currently studying for her masters degree in biology, and she pretty much hasn’t left the house or had a shower in about 8 weeks. She has a 17-month-old whom I pick up early in the morning three days a week so she can have time to write her papers. The other two days he goes to daycare. And, still, she sent in her last two papers over a week late and hasn’t been out of her pajamas since September.
This scares the crap out of me. When I start classes next semester, no one is going to pick up my toddler and take care of it all day. Of course, I don’t have a toddler, but that’s not the point. I have a husband. I have a house. I have an ailing mother. I have a driveway that has to be shoveled. And I have a feral cat. And I have a sneaking suspicion my daughter’s planning on pawning her kid off on me every chance she gets after her classes resume.
Oh hell, I might as well throw in the towel now and be done with it.
It wouldn’t be the first time — I’ve thrown in so many towels on my college career I could fill a post-game locker room. Which explains why I’m 54 and still don’t have my degree.
Looking back: I remember the moment I received my acceptance letter from the University of Wisconsin. It was a “probationary” acceptance, but an acceptance nonetheless. It was 1977. I was a divorced mother of two young children, ages two and four. No one in my family had ever attended college — I don’t recall the word “college” ever being uttered in our household while I was growing up. But, I’d been told by a few people here and there that I was smart and should go to college — so I applied, and got accepted. Holding that letter in my hands was one of the most thrilling moments of my life. The only thing standing between me and my degree at that time was potty training my daughter, as that was the only prerequisite of the University daycare center my children were to attend while I attended classes. You never saw a kid get potty trained so fast — Freud would have had me horse-whipped.
After completing two years, I got remarried and put school on hold to help my then-husband with his newspaper business and raise my children. In the early 90’˜s I went back again, but then finances, and another divorce, forced me to drop out again. Then there was the semester I got sick three times. And the semester I dropped out of algebra — twice. One towel here another there.
It’s been a bumpy road to that degree. And a long and winding one to boot.
But, here I am, about to mosey on down that road again. Except this time I’m referred to as a “returning” student, and there’s a whole special department that looks after old people like me, staffed with kind people who call you regularly and basically remind you that you enrolled in school, and are ready to help you with anything you need. I sure could have used these people a few decades ago when I was dragging two pre-schoolers up to campus three days a week, and had to take them with me back when students had to stand in line to register for classes, pick up books, and apply for financial aid.
Hmm — maybe they wouldn’t mind watching a toddler for a few hours while I attend the returning students orientation, as I have this dreaded feeling I’ll be babysitting that day.
You can follow Crystal’s back-to-school adventures on her blog at www.grannycoed.wordpress.com