Monday, January 29, 2007

Broader Focus

Monday morning - 10:50 a.m. In ten minutes the first class of my last semester of undergraduate studies begins. It’s been a long time coming. This coming June will mark 26 years since my high school graduation. Twenty-six years. At times it seems like just yesterday and at others it feels like a lifetime has passed. To say that I am somewhat reflective is an understatement - sometimes I sit in amazement when I think about the series of events that landed me here - right here, right now.

School has been a relatively solitary activity for me. At least, or especially, since attending Sacramento State it has been. Obviously, I am significantly older than the average undergraduate, but there are some from my generation. But it’s more than that… I have several friends (outside of school) who are much younger than I am, it doesn’t seem to matter. It’s more to do with purpose. I am not here to establish or augment a social network. I have one that I am more than satisfied with. I am here to obtain a degree - that’s it.

Perhaps my age does have something to do with it. Of course there is maturity and experience to consider - qualities that can only be acquired through living a certain number of years. But there is a time factor as well. In addition to attending class and keeping up on my coursework, I have other responsibilities - time consuming responsibilities - such as fatherhood and maintaining a household. Although these and other responsibilities put a great demand on my time, it’s not even the type of time I’m speaking of.

It’s more like time left. I am motivated not because I don’t have time to do it all (I think I have proven that I probably do), but rather that I used up more than 25 years of “career building” time. I have to work fast; I’m playing catch-up. If I want to be, for instance, a syndicated columnist (AP reporter, NY Times writer, novelist, fill-in-the-blank), I need to be either damned lucky or damned good. Since I don’t believe I can count on luck that only leaves one option. I need to work three times harder because I do not have the time to be wishy-washy. I need not only good grades; I need to get this stuff.

This doesn’t mean I’m some kind of recluse on a campus of more than 30,000, it means I am focused. It doesn’t mean that those who incorporate the “party” scene as part of their academic experience are doomed to failure. Many, maybe most will strike a balance and get through without incident. I have academic relationships outside the classroom with many of my classmates and more than a couple of my professors. They are not, however, part of my social group. They’re not precluded - I simply don’t have the time.

13 comments:

kenju said...

It is very commendable that you realize the need for an education and that you are determined to get it - even when you are older. When I was in college, there were many people in an older age group (30-45) who were finally able to get an education. Some were on the GI bill. They impressed me with their singlemindedness and motivation to not only get their degrees - but really learn in the process. I always thought they would be the people who appreciated their college classes a lot more than those of us who were in the party set. Good for you!

Lee Ann said...

time flies, doesn't it!

Jennifer said...

I'm another one of those "back-to-schoolers". I am not the same person that I was when I went to college the first time back in 1989. I have a reason now to work, to want to succeed, to push myself. I love school now, where I didn't years ago. I love learning new things and using them in my life. I think that sometimes it's just a matter of it being the right time. I am one of those that firmly believes that being 18 doesn't make you a great college candidate. Having a goal in mind and a plan to get there no matter what the cost is what it takes.
Congratulations on your final semester. I have about three more years to go...that's just to get my RN degree...and the big picture includes a Certified Nurse-Midwife degree, which will add another couple of years. However, I finally woke up to the fact that I was simply surviving life, not living it to the fullest. I have jumped in with both feet to realize my dreams and accomplish them, to have the best, most fulfilling life I can have :)

Anna said...

Mike,

I think it is great that you are back in school and see that need to finish. I have one semester left of college. I had to stop because my daughter was born. That was 13 years ago. I can't believe that time has gone by so quickly. As time went by...I haven't gone back but got married and expanded my family. I really would like to go finish.

If I did go back I think I would study photography. I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life at 19...no clue at all. Does anyone really know a that age?

Way to go on your last semester!

Snaggle Tooth said...

N there goes that 10 minutes... Degree-School was much the same for me, I had zero socializing time, n was always rushing home for the kids.
Good luck n smooth sailing thru your last sem!

Badoozie said...

well, there are good points and bad points to being a non traditional student. I found the wealth of knowledge from a life lived, to really help when it came to writing papers.

as for hanging with those peeps...well...uh....no.

K said...

I was always a "a little from column A, a little from column B" person...and managed to graduate university with distinction and have some drunked stories to tell my grandkids (or perhaps just other drunk people).

Good job hun. June is just a few months away....

Justin said...

I think it's great that you're in college and determined to learn. Since I'm only 22, I'll say that my first 2 1/2 years or so were wasted. At least, educationally. It took a little time to get past the "party phase," and realize that I had to buckle down and actually go to class and study.

Maybe some of us should have to go out into the work force before we get a chance at college. It would probably make those first couple of years more productive.

I think when you get to the point where you want to learn, as opposed to partying or even just making-the-grade, you can excel and have fun with school.

Sarch said...

Mike you're thinking right.

It will be amazing to see where those tracks "leading out of the frame" take you.

Congrats on your last semester my friend. By the way, you're not behind...you're right on time in your life's plan.

Lady Flare said...

been 21 years since I graduated....almost...21..

there's a really big story after this event...I wish I could tell it entirely...or even part of it..a story that still goes on till today...

I did the same thing Mike..got married..had kids..was holding on to a teaching job in the morning and several times in the evening while at the same time finishing my degree..then getting extra units to qualify for a certain teaching position...then..then..sometimes...out of tiredness I'd stop and stare and say..just a few more months...then breathe deeply...

I'm sure you'll be an even greater success..

but more than that...you're an inspiration to your circle of influence...

CyberKitten said...

I can heartily recommend going into education 'late'. I think that the more mature student [grin] does get more out of an education than the youngsters - and not just because of the need to make up for 'lost time'. Maturity has a quality all of its own.

I graduated from University when I was 26 and did tend to hang around with an older set of people than was the average.

In my 40's I completed a part-time Masters degree though I wasn't anywhere near the oldest person there - he was in his 60's.

I still have the educational itch which doesn't really get enough attention from the odd day course.. so I'm planning on doing a second Masters this year. I find that its so liberating to have the money to follow my interests like this. If only I could afford to keep on doing this for ever.... [grin].

Good luck with your Final's Mike - though I doubt that you'll need it!

Wordnerd said...

I've been having a hard time posting comments here, but I have been coming around.

Good luck with the last few months -- I think all your life experience is going to make you one hell of a journalist!!!

utenzi said...

You and I tied when going at Moogie's site, Mike. But I lost by a nose so here I am at your blog. Hi! Michele sent me.

I graduated high school one year further back than you did, youngster. It does seem amazing that HS and college were soooo very long ago. Of course you're back in school now, and close to the end, Mike. Congratulations on getting there!