The Decision to Restart College
Thursday, January 10, 2013
For the past few months of last year, I was in a bad place mentally. I was depressed about where I was in life, and it seemed like all of my carefully placed plans were unraveling. I felt completely helpless, and it sapped my enthusiasm.
All things considered, I am fortunate. I have a husband who loves me unconditionally, and his job is able to support us while I am out of work. We can live on one income, but I am not someone who enjoys being at home full time.
Having only one income makes me feel very uneasy in an era where yearly lay offs are the norm rather than due to extenuous circumstances. We are doing ok now, but what if my husband lost his job, was disabled, became sick, or even worse?
This happened to my FIL's mother. His father died when his parents were married just 10 years, and she was left to raise three children alone. This was in an era when there were fewer economic opportunities for women, and fewer government safety nets. She obviously made it, but it was a very hard road.
My husband has the same concern. He wants me to be back to work so that we can save more for retirement faster. And so I wouldn't be destitute if something should happen to him. We have life insurance, but it isn't as secure an option as being independently capable of supporting oneself. I find the concept of life insurance to be terribly morbid, as well. I couldn't enjoy life knowing where it came from.
As many of you may recall, I am still working on my bachelor's. I've been working on it - slowly - over many years. I had difficulties finishing school for various reasons.
The main reason that started a cascade effect was I had the bad luck of getting chicken pox when I was 19. Chicken pox? How weird is that? I consider it a lightning strike. It was my freshman year of college. It is a very serious illness when you are older. I was sick with a 103 temperature for 3 weeks.
Hindsight being 20/20, I should have withdrawn from the semester. I had a perfectly valid excuse. However, I believed that if I worked extra hard, then I could make it up.
I recently went through my old college papers because I am in process of transferring my credits to a local university. I found my papers from that period. Before I got sick, I was doing very well. After, my grades plummeted. My A's and B's on exams turned into C's and D's. I was not able to recover the ground I lost.
Unfortunately, I carried this with me through subsequent years and classes. I was struggling, and it began to effect my confidence and self esteem. I eventually pulled out because I was afraid I would get kicked out, and then the option to go back would be lost to me.
I chose to work so I could pay my bills before the debt sunk me, too. Luckily for me, computer science is a field where I have been able to do well with a partial degree. Without a degree, though, I lose out on opportunities for permanent, more stable employment. I pick up temporary contract work, which has cycles of high and low. I was able to pay off the debt I incurred, which put me in a stronger position to chose my path.
Dave Ramsey is right, folks. Debt is slavery. Debt will force you to take and keep jobs that you don't enjoy. It steals years of your prosperity, as every dollar you make belongs to someone else. If there's one thing I recommend to improve your prospects in life, stop earning a wage for your bank.
Now that I have a supportive husband who can hold down the fort for the time being, I chose to re-enroll in college. I had a fair number of anxieties about it at the end of last year, and quite a few humps to get over. I have actually continued to take classes a few at a time over the years, so I'm not exactly at square one. However, since it has been many years, the local university I applied to made me take a series of placement exams before accepting me. I aced the exams, but the next hurdle was my transfer credits. A lot are still in process, but I was able to get enough settled for me to start.
Then there was the anxiety that I am in my 30s going to school with young adults almost half my age. I had a brief moment of mid-life crisis. "Why didn't I just finish the first time? I can't believe I'm still doing this. Is this what my life was supposed to be?"
Eventually, I came to peace. I realized that I am in my mid thirties. I have more than 25 years left in my career. Perhaps this is a better time for me to finish than years ago. Technology is a fast moving career, and having a more current graduation date, plus real world experience, actually might place me in a stronger position.
This first week of class has proven all of my anxieties were entirely in my head. There are a number of people at school who are the same age, or older, than me. I thought I would be weirded out by being one of the older people in class, but I've actually spent more time reflecting on how badly prepared I was for college when I was 19. I've found my classes to be easier with real world experience in my hat. I finish my homework an hour after it is assigned, instead of the night before as many years ago.
I wondered what professors might think of non-traditional students like myself. My professors, at least, seem to be very receptive. We're likely to ask questions, and get our homework assignments done on time. We want to be there.
It seemed that fate, or God, or whatever you might believe in, wanted me to experience life. That experience has humbled me in ways that I could not have imagined.
Now that I am making progress again, I've found my enthusiasm for the future renewed.