Use it or lose it: your brain, that is

Going Back To College

by  Carnie of Carnation Way

I made the decision to return to school just a little over two months ago. I had spent all of 2009 in a serious funk/depression. Daughter and I had always been extremely close (how could we NOT be? I quit a career to stay home and raise my only child), and she was with a guy that was having a negative influence on her. He had a crappy family life and was very anti-parents and his negativity rubbed off on Daughter. All of a sudden I was the enemy. I’m ashamed to say that I didn’t handle it very well.  However, I got to the place where I realized my relationship with my daughter was never going to be the same, and I had to move on with my life. But what to do?

I have always been geared toward the medical field. I had been an EMT and a medical assistant in the past, but neither of those jobs appealed to me anymore. Really, I was afraid of making the wrong decision. At the age of 43, I didn’t want to start down a road, using up precious time and money, and then realizing it was a road I didn’t want to be on after all. I became paralyzed and couldn’t make a decision. Finally, one day I sat down and just wrote down what I love: helping and taking care of people, animals, English and literature, writing, psychology, old people. After much thought I realized that I indeed had a strong desire to pursue nursing, but I was denying it because I had no confidence that I could do well enough in the math and science courses to make it into the program. I thought about what I would say to Daughter–or anyone for that matter–if they came to me with the same mindset and concerns. I would tell her, you have to try.

I was really nervous about returning to school. My last college class had been in 2001 when I was 35 and still had a brain. Nine years later I thought I was fooling myself thinking I could go back to college and succeed at my age, to do well enough to be considered for one of the few highly coveted slots in the nursing program. With the support of Husband, I decided to go for it.

The cut-off for applying for the nursing program that begins in the fall is April 1st, and  I know there is a strong possibility that I will not get in.  Rather than feeling like I had nothing to work toward, I decided to have a Plan B: a Bachelor of Science in Gerontology from the State University. I am in the process of applying to that college now.

In the meantime, I am over the “deer in the headlights” feeling I had for the first month of classes. I never thought I was going to memorize where my classes were, and taking sixteen credit hours has been a huge adjustment.   Things are settling down a bit now, and I can really feel my mind creaking back to life. Truly, those brains of ours are “use it or lose it” creations.

  • Barbara

    Congratulations and good luck! I’m an yet another hiatus from my pursuit of a degree – I’ve been chipping away in spurts for thirty years. I started back again three years ago after a LONG break and it didn’t hit me until I had parked and was walking into the building just how long it had been. Thank goodness some of my kids’ friends saw me and said hi and there were a couple of other “old” ladies in my class. It got easier day by day.
    My current hiatus is due to lack of funds – we’re paying for three kids to get through college right now. But I’m not giving up! I’ll be back!
    I hope you can get it done in one fell swoop!!

    • Carnie

      @Barbara, I am inspired that you have kept up the pursuit of your goal all these years. Like you, I was really nervous the first time I walked through the college halls after so many years away, but was pleasantly surprised by how many middle-agers were there along with me.
      Thank you for sharing your experience with us!

  • Lia

    Carnie, I returned to college to complete my degree when I was your age. It was one of the best experiences of my life. Ignore any negative voices in your head (and really, really tune out anyone else’s negative voice). You have made wise choices, particularly in having a second plan. Just do what you love and you’ll do well. Good luck. (I’ll be following your blog to see how it goes!)

    • Carnie

      @Lia, I am so happy to have found Midlife Bloggers. I have been greatly encouraged by reading stories of other women who have been where I am. It is wonderful to read that finishing your degree was a great experience for you. Thank you.

  • Duchess

    Oh, go for it and good for you. Either Plan A or B sounds sensible and you’ll be using your brain. You are exactly right — at whatever age you are (and 43 is young!) you have to try.

    We look forward to hearing how you get on.

    • Carnie

      @Duchess, I loved reading “43 is young!”, ha. I appreciate your encouragement.

  • Laura

    Congratulations on such a big step. I love that you have planned it out w/ a fallback. I recently made a big change, leaving a job to stay home for a little bit to write. It is scary but I find satisfaction in listening to myself and honoring my own needs.
    No one else is going to do it for us!
    Please let us know how this goes!

    • Carnie

      @Laura, I’m glad you had the courage to take off some time to write for yourself. I hope it brings you great joy along with the satisfaction.

      ~ Carnie

Previous post:

Next post: