I'm a law school drop-out. It's true. I went to law school, a million years ago now, finished my first year even. But, the first day of my second year I was sitting in Corporations (the study of how companies form, grow and eventually take over the world, within in the confines of the law, that is) and I thought, "this isn't it." You know what I mean when I say "it," right? That thing we're all looking for, that we're confident exists, that we assume is just beyond the horizon. I didn't know then what "it" was for me, but I KNEW, without an iota of doubt, that it wasn't law school and it certainly wasn't growing up to be a lawyer. So, I left that class, went to the Dean's office, packed my life in my little blue Toyota and drove away.
That a was a watershed moment in my life. For a decade before that moment I had planned to go to law school and become a lawyer, and suddenly, there was no plan. And, I'm a planner. I'm not a hyper, can't adapt or deal with change type of planner, but I like to have a general idea of where things stand and what's next. And at that juncture in my life, I didn't. I was confident of two things as St. Louis disappeared behind me. 1) I had made a difficult decision, but it was the right one. And, 2) Although I didn't know what the near future would bring, I knew someday I would go back to graduate school.
That someday is today. Today, and for the last seven weeks, I am a graduate student. With a little, okay a lot, of encouragement from my husband and ridiculous amounts of help from parents, siblings, friends and former professors I jumped through all the hurdles of applying and was, miraculously I think, accepted into a graduate program. I'm studying democracy and governance, which is a new field for me. I've devoted my entire academic and adult life to the study and practice of American government, but I thought trying something new would be interesting and challenging. It's both and I love it. Never mind the fact that I am more than 10 years older than almost everyone in my program, and all the other programs too, for that matter. Or that I have kids and a husband and a mortgage, not exactly the description of your average grad student. Forget the fact that when I'm not on campus I play tickle monster and make cookies and finger paint. I'm a bonafide grad student.
It's hard, being a mom and going back to school after so long. But, here's the thing about me, I adore school, always have. I thrive in the classroom. I crave the orderliness of assignments and tests and finals. Maybe that is the result of being raised by teachers and knowing they spent their days teaching not just us, but other people's kids too? In my experience, school is easy, compared to life. Life is messy and complicated even if far more rewarding. But, as much as I enjoy the predictability of being a student, I love the perspective that time away from school, actually living my life has given me. I don't care about the grades, not really. I just want to learn the material, enjoy the experience and come out of this feeling like it was worth the sacrifices my little family is making.
I took a midterm last night, my first midterm in 13 years. I was nervous, panicked even. I studied, of course. Not as much as the non-Mom student of my former life would have, but I was prepared. It didn't matter though. I read "midterm" on the syllabus the first day of class and the panic set in. Despite my very managed expectations (a B- is passing), I could not suppress the dread I felt about getting back on the bicycle of formal education. What if I froze? What if I've forgotten how to be a student? What if I crash and burn? Gasp! Horror! And then, inevitably, there I was, blue book in one hand, exam questions in the other. One deep breath, read the questions, pick up the pen and pedal. I did not pop a wheelie or catch air, but I also didn't biff it. It was, well, just like riding a bike.