Twenty years ago, this past week, I embarked on an adventure that completely changed my life. These two decades have been packed with incredible joy and intense pain (2013 was one for the books), and an abundance of every possible emotion in between, as well as an enormous number of (on-going) learning opportunities - that have combined to create an entirely new, unrecognizable, and ever-evolving me.
It all began in the summer of 2001 when I came to the abrupt and uncomfortable realization that Kenzie, my youngest, was headed off to Pre-K while their brother, Ian, began 2nd grade, and I would have no children at home. My primary role for the previous seven years had been "at home, Mom." The questions started piling up. What was my assignment now? How would I fill my mornings till Kenzie got home at noon? (I knew boredom would drive me to make some pretty awful choices.) In essence, what did I want to do when I grew up?
The dusty sixteen-year-old Fashion Design and Fashion Merchandising Associate's degree laying at the bottom of my cedar chest was obviously not serving any purpose. So with all the accumulated wisdom of an almost 37-year-old, I decided to go back to college.
It was surprisingly easy to enroll. I don't know the reasoning, but the SUNY Potsdam Office of Financial Aid guided me through all the paperwork for FAFSA, and I was able to matriculate without paying a dime. I did get a loan my second semester to buy a new computer and my books. (I had been using a clunky, hand-me-down desktop with Windows 95 and dial-up that continuously crashed. The day it lost a ten-page paper while I tried to placate a fidgety, unhappy four-year-old was when I purchased the fancy new Dell.)
Going in, I had no idea what to major in. I like reading so I chose English Literature. Most of the credits I earned from my Cazenovia College degree transferred. However, my first semester still consisted of several 100 level classes required for a Liberal Arts degree - one being an anthropology class called Bones and Stones. Another of the five classes that Fall was within my chosen major. It speaks volumes that I do not remember the exact name of that class - all I know is that I despised it. The professor was a pompous A$$, and the material was beyond boring. It really is any wonder that I continued after that first few months - because I also had a math class designed for those who needed it to graduate but suck at it. It was literal Hell.
On the other end of the spectrum, I adored the Anthro class and the professor. A few weeks into the Fall (right after 9/11 - yes, that happened that year too), I went to her office and asked if I could switch majors. She was delighted to take me on as an advisee, and I was thrilled to discover my passion for studying people (past and present), solving problems, and writing.
My point? (I have two.) 1) It is only when humans are truly interested in a topic, subject, or idea, that they engage, learn, and grow. 2) I was incredibly late to the game. I drifted through my twenties, taking on meaningless jobs that in no way used my Fashion Design Degree, stayed home during my early and mid-thirties to raise my children (who, to be clear, are my heart), and then went back to school. Despite hitting a stone wall - hard(!) - (thank you, 2013) and changing direction a few times - I finally discovered my life's work.
Yes, as the Steve Miller Band reminds us, "time keeps slipping, slipping, slipping...;" nonetheless, new beginnings and fresh perspectives can occur at any time. I am the perfect example - as long as you are breathing, are willing to work hard, and have an open mind - it is never too late to explore all the possibilities.
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