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Going Back to College

I am new to this site and found it very interesting ... so here is my first article.

I just finished my first year back to college in over twelve years. It went well and my grades are better than my first semester. It was a bit of a change—I was in the workforce for many years and in many different jobs. Eventually I settled into a job as a painter. At first, I enjoyed it, making decent money with only a two-year degree that had nothing to do with the field I was in. In the beginning, it was fulfilling. I was the only woman in the crew and I felt as if I was breaking down social norms of where a woman was “supposed to work.”

After a while, I had gotten tired, literally, of the back-breaking work and applied for a different painting job that had less to do with dangerous chemicals. I basically became a glorified cleaner. No more museums to renovate or exciting places to go, but the job was easier, slower paced, less money, and although the benefits were great, there was also no more traveling.

The down side was, my job felt unimportant; all I did was repair and paint walls of offices that people left behind in disrepair or wanted a new color. It did not matter how fast I was anymore or even how good I was. I still worked with all men but occasionally had the chance to chat with the women in the office. One day, one of the men I worked with was happily exclaiming he only had seven more years before he retired. It made me think that, if I stayed, then I would be there for over thirty years until I retired. At that point, I did not think too much of it, but on occasion I would say to my co-workers, “There is no way I will paint for thirty or more years.” Even though I had no intentions of quitting or finding another job or even being able to go back to school, I stayed in my unhappy job as a painter.

I felt deep down I had so much more to offer and had so much more to learn. I still owe money on a student loan from over thirteen years ago and now I have another loan, with more to come. I don’t mind paying student loans for the rest of my life because what I had learned (and what I am learning now) is almost priceless. (Even though it’s not and it’s expensive.)

I also have an illness that holds me back from certain things, so college has had its challenges.If I did not have my illness, I probably would have never had the chance to go back to school. I lost my job due to my illness—but in a major way, it was a blessing. Now I am studying a major I have a passion for and picking up where I left off many years ago. I always said to myself, “If I ever had the chance to go back to college, I would do better than before,” and it is true.

There are no distractions as far as guys, parties, and making friends. If I do make friends, that’s great, but that is not why I am there—I am there to learn. So now, I am surrounded by nineteen- to twenty-somethings and I never thought the age difference would be that different—but it is. Life experience changes a person and it has made me a better student with a lot to offer a class. Even if I talk too much or show up every day—sometimes too early to class—I don’t care what other people think. No one is going to stop me from my goal. The younger kids joke around the professors about leaving class early or canceling the class all together and I think, “Why? I want to stay; I want to learn ... I want to be here.”

There is a difference in our age and our ideas on life. I am proud of my age and what I have learned in life outside of the classroom. Education and life lessons are both very important. My dream would be to stay in school as long as I can to obtain the highest degree I could get. My husband, on the other hand, would like me to get better, graduate, and get a job. I am going to try to stay in college as long as I can. In the end, I don’t really care how much money I make or how much my loans will be. I will find a way to pay my loans off in the end—but for now, I have realized for the first time in thirty-something years that there is so much more in life to learn.

The reason it does not bother me about how much money I could make is because I will be doing something I love in the end. Nothing is better than getting up in the morning and going to do something you love to do. I have had jobs that had made me cry on the way to work. It is a horrible feeling: dreading the place you spend forty hours or more per week of your life. I would rather make less money and be happy than make tons of money and be miserable. No matter how much someone’s student loans are, a person has to come to a place within themselves to realize what a gift it is to learn something new.

I believe there were times when I thought I heard it all, seen it all, and that was it. It is not true. Sometimes life can be like living in a fog, but I have noticed since I have been back in school that the fog is lifting. I see things in a different way now and want to learn more. Maybe I will end up paying my student loans until the day I die—but it is worth it in the end.

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