I’m a creative girl with a wild imagination, and I’m no stranger to hairbrained ideas. And that is one of the fun things about being creative. Sometimes an idea actually works! Such was the case when I decided to return to college to get my education degree… long after 30. So if you’re asking yourself is it the right time to go back to school? This ones for you.
Why was this a hairbrained idea? First, there was this delightful little thing called a mortgage. These anonymous people wanted money on time every month. That was followed by that whole “I like my car” idea and other fun things like heat, electricity, and hot running water. And one more funny little tidbit. When I finally got into the thick of this pursuit, I had two small kids: a 6-year-old undiscovered Disney princess, and an infant son with a plethora of breathing issues. Nevertheless, the creative in me figured out a way to quit a pretty lucrative paycheck and pursue this dream of becoming a teacher. After all, this was the new millennium and women can have it all, right?
I tried the brick-and-mortar route. I spent hours in traffic driving to and from classes filled with the young, the restless, and the catatonic. This was the closest community college and the cheapest accredited program around. Plus, it facilitated keeping those mortgage people quiet. Reality? Relentless traffic, thoroughly inconvenient course schedules, relying on babysitting grandparents, and professors randomly not showing up the day you were wracked with guilt because you left your sniffly daughter. The constraints of time, geography, and stereotypical northern lack of courtesy finally wore this mom to a nub. But I wasn’t about to give up; just detour. So I got another hairbrained idea and moved my family from my entire life in Connecticut to Fayetteville, just because I saw someone pray over their dinner at Texas Roadhouse (that’s another cool story).
Once we moved here, I opted for online college. This is the point where you’re probably thinking, “That would be so much easier.” Perhaps you have visions of a well-rested mom putting her children to bed, sitting down with a cup of chamomile tea, and working on a degree at night, right? Uh, not even close.
First, you learn quickly where mute is on your laptop. Need to watch a live lecture while your daughter wants you to sing along with her as she watches Barbie in the “Princess and the Pauper?” Easy. Mommy listens to lecture when Barbies in movie are talking. Then, when it’s time for us to sing the duets, I mute my lectures to sing, because Barbie-Anneliese simply does not sing without her sister Barbie-Erika. (I mastered that soundtrack and still got an A in Classroom Management.)
Mandatory collaborations with professors were always scheduled during dinner and bedtime. Always. Which is coincidentally the same time my son got jacked to Jupiter from his nebulizer treatment. My kids always come first, so the nebulizer got cranked, followed by the need for serious activity to combat the albuterol. Solution? Bubble-wrap dance party! I would roll out the bubble wrap, sit down with my laptop (microphone muted), jam some G-rated music on the TV, and the kids would dance for a good half hour. Time to contribute and suggest I was in a quiet and studious environment? Freeze dance, kids! By about the eighth time you do this, you learn to time the gunshot-like pops and freeze dance episodes like a boss. The kids snickered during my presentation? I blamed unruly neighbors.
Then, you have an affair… with your crockpot. Growing up in a gardening family, I did what I could to stay off the funky-nugget meal train, especially because my youngest was so hypersensitive to everything, especially processed food. I bought veggies in kid sizes so that they could play chef without sharp objects. And sure enough, before naptime (also known as APA citation time), the kids would put together baby potatoes, snap peas, baby carrots, frozen corn, etc. Voila! Home-cooked dinner for a couple nights and three more credits down, baby.
Other things had to fall by the wayside. That whole “I’m gonna lose the baby weight” still hasn’t quite materialized (Jupiter-boy is now eleven). I gave up matching any socks in my household since 2006. Admittedly, the deep and serious cleaning happened only when someone uttered the dreaded words, “I’m coming over,” especially if it was spoken by my mother, or worse, my mother-in-law at the time. Growing herb gardens, learning golf, scrapbooking, and sleeping remained pretty low on the priority list for years.
The end result from juggling toddlers, textbooks, and tenacity? Success. I showed my kids that education means something. My kids would celebrate with me when we would cross another class off the list, and we ate ice cream for dinner the day my Georgia teaching certificate finally arrived. For over six years and two back-to-back degrees, they saw me living and learning, which has led toward a wonderful and rewarding career in education both as their mom and as their teacher.
If you are someone who is contemplating going back to school, please convince yourself why you should do it. You are not “too ______” (fill in the blank) – I promise you. What you live and what you learn are gifts that can never be taken away. There is truly no better inspiration than an educated woman who lives and learns to control her own future.