Growing up, I didn’t have a very easy time at school. I used to go into panic attacks during tests, which caused both my 1st grade and 2nd-grade teachers to judge me as a kid who just didn't study. Things got better in 3rd grade when I had a teacher named Mrs. Hanley who would bring me up to her desk and talk to me about the material. I didn’t realize it at first, but she was quizzing me and verifying that I had studied, I was just a bad test taker. However, things got worse with each subsequent grade. It didn’t help that at home, I was blamed for bad grades, and not encouraged. Eventually, I gave up. By not trying, I wasn’t disappointed. As a result, I developed really bad study habits. As in, I didn’t study, barely did homework. I became satisfied with any passing grade. I was convinced that was all I was capable of.
Things got worse in high school. I assumed I’d do badly in most classes. If it was something that was of interest, like English and writing related, I did fine. It wasn’t work. Math was my biggest obstacle. I was okay with math when it had numbers in it, but once they started asking me to find the value of X, I couldn't understand Y. It didn't help that my high school messed me up. They had put me in a remedial class when I should have been in Algebra 1. Then when I passed that, instead of putting me in Algebra 1, they put me in Algebra 2. The policy was if you failed 1, they'd put you in 2 and if you passed, they'd change your 1 grade to pass. 2 built on 1, so if you passed 2, maybe you absorbed enough in 1 and it made sense now. However, as I hadn't taken 1, I was screwed. It didn't help that, being lost from the get-go, I insisted that if Train B hadn't caught up to Train A since my mother was in high school, it never would.
Eventually, I did get into a community college. I once again struggled with some classes, but I aced others. I managed an Associated degree, got a job and that was that.
Did I have regrets with regards to school? You betcha. Like so much, it was impacted by my complete lack of self-confidence. I was convinced I wouldn't amount to anything, and that nobody cared. I didn't walk to the stage to accept either my high school or college degree. I felt embarrassed by my scholastic performance. I didn't graduate on time, but I did graduate. I was sure nobody in my family would want to go to either. I'm pretty sure I was right about that. After all, nobody in my family even asked if I was going to attend graduation. It was just assumed I'd take the diploma and go on with my pathetic life.
Things have changed somewhat since then. I got married to someone who told me I was smart, and I could do whatever I put my mind to. She didn't pretend that if I had the potential to be a math genius, but that I could learn it if I stopped insisting the answer to every mathematical equation was 8. (It's the perfect #). I've helped to raise 2 extremely intelligent daughters, who have not only succeeded in school but exceeded and surpassed any expectations. I say they got their brains from their mom, but maybe it was possible I had something to do with it. I've become a published author, and learned the craft well enough that I've been able to give a few workshops on writing. I started to see a therapist. He asked me why not go back to school. My answer was quick. Why bother? To invest that kind of time and money to get a four-year degree just for the accomplishment and a chance to walk the stage? It didn’t make sense. I have a day job that doesn’t really care about my degree. I hate it, but it’s a decent paying job. As far as novels, does anyone care if the book their reading was written by an author with a 4.0 masters or if they were a high school drop out?
But I started to think about it. If I’m honest with myself, I didn’t think I could. It was unreal, going back to school in my late forties. I’d had my chance, and I’d blown it.
I started to think about what I was going to do once I was through with my day job. I've been there for 23 years. I can retire at 30, but then what? What if I got my degree? Could I become an editor? Could I get my masters and teach creative writing?
So earlier this year, I decided to look. At first, I tried to find someplace local to take night classes, but it didn't seem like there was any place that would give me the classes I needed to get a degree in English. Then someone suggested Southern New Hampshire University online. They offered not only the English degree but one with a concentration in creative writing. In a moment of insanity, I applied. Then I got accepted. I literally was enrolled on a Thursday and started the following Monday. Intro to Lit. It was a rough start, but I earned an A. I’m now in my 2nd semester, Lit 200, Critical Approaches to Lit. So far, so good. I’ll probably flunk out next term when I take the required math class, but we’ll see.
This time is different. I still worry that I can't, but I'm determined to prove that I can. I'm having to learn new study habits, such as opening the books and doing my homework, but I'm putting in the work. Not a day goes by that I'm not putting in the effort. My grades matter to me.
And this time, when I earn that degree, I will walk the stage. And the family I have today will be there to cheer me on.