Thursday, March 27, 2014

Going Somewhere

Insert trite saying here, such as "life is a winding road" or "the only constant is change" blah blah. I got some news, that I was loathe to tell anyone because, obviously, then everyone will know. And judge, cheer or jeer. And of course there is the huge barnacle that all perfectionists carry - what if I FAIL? and everyone knows it. But I am going to share this because there are a lot of folks who think, in regards to making big changes, something like: "it's too late" or "I'm too old" or "that's too scary". But, it is the example of some lovely women I know that have made those big leaps and sacrficies that inspired me to do the same. So, in the spirit of encouragement here ya go: I am going to college.

Let me back up and revisit the moment, at our big HS senior party when I won some sort of drawing. On the entry ticket you were required to write your name, and where you were attending college. After spending 12 years in the Catholic education system, not going to college was unthinkable. Even the slower kids and slackers were going somewhere. They drew my name. "Shelley Anderson!, " he read. "Shelley is uh.....going nowhere." A cheer went up in the crowd. I felt for a moment like a hero - brave enough to make a decision that quite a few wanted to make, but didn't have the courage to because of family pressure. But I wasn't a hero, just a kid who knew herself. The reason I didn't go? I am a practical gal - I simply didn't have a dream. (sort of like the anti MLK Jr. "I don't have a dream..." ) Why waste money and time, just because I was "supposed to"? I never liked doing what I was supposed to, so I didn't. And I don't. I rarely regretted the decision. Perhaps only in those odd moments when groups of strangers were trotting out their credentials. And I had none of my own.

But this isn't entirely honest. 90% of the reason I didn't attend college after High School was because I couldn't think of anything I specifically wanted to pursue, that would lead to a decent career. The other 10% was fear based. I graduated in the top 20% of a pretty smart bunch, but deep down - I didn't think I could hack it. The truth is that, besides a natural propensity for language, I kind of felt like I was ...well - dumb.

But things change. I've had 17 years out of school and 9 years out of the workforce, to look after my gals. And a lot of time to think. I've been some amazing places, and done some confidence building and worthwhile things in the last decade. Staying home to raise a family is admirable and worth doing. But I find in myself, that my contentment is inextricably linked with advancement and achievement. I am satisfied most in life, when I make progress. I want to work. I want to gain knowledge. I think I kind of NEED to.

So a few months ago, when I felt a call in my heart to pursue a particular profession, I had to make a decision. Keep on doing...not much. Running my non-profit, writing for a little extra cash, hanging with my kids in the summer. Or do the really poop in your pants terrifying thing of go to college so I can have...wait for it - a CAREER. That is insane to even think of, for a girl who has had more low end jobs in 8 years than most would have in their lives. College.With a bunch of kids. And face down the algebra demons, and the chem lab ghosts. And the field I've chosen, it couldn't get much worse, really. I HAD to pick the thing that was like insanely HARD to do. I've had several admissions reps tell me not to BOTHER. Don't try. (WHO says that?!) Isn't there something else you want to do? This program, is not just hard to get into, it's damn near impossible. Good grades are not enough. Why don't you try something else? Good God, could it get any more gut clenching than that  for someone who suffers from high levels of anxiety?

But though they made me tear up a little and get down for a moment, I had made up my mind. I would try, and risk failing, because I want a better life for me and my family. I am 34 years old. I have not sat in a classroom and taken notes in 17 years. But, as my buddy Josh says: I have to take my life to the Next Level. I am not going to stagnate here. I want more. Everything I've done up until this point has been a stepping stone to the thing I fear most - taking a risk and possibly finding out, for real this time, that I am not good enough. I hope I will find the opposite. But my willingness to TRY is a huge win for high anxiety self doubting perfectionists everywhere. If it isn't too late for me - then it's not too late for you either. We only get one shot in life...blah blah etc etc. DO something.

Godspeed.

2 comments:

Jonathan Hoyle said...

I only wish we had been in Rochester to be able to encourage you and tell you how much I admire your strength and motivation. For the short time I have known you, I have always felt that college could be a wonderful resource to you, with your already marvelous creativity, writing and thinking abilities. I know it is cliche to say, but it is true for you. To add on about how “proud I am of you” also seems a bit patronizing, so let me just say I wish you the best of luck.

Mary went back to college after being away for many years, and it is extremely difficult to go back to being a student after being a “grown up” (or whatever society calls it), and the challenges can be intimidating. But Mary did it, got her Bachelor’s Degree in Communications while her first husband helped try to help cover any bases to make that happen. I firmly believe you can do this.

EJ said...

Your blog reminds me of a favorite quote from George Eliot(Marian Evans) you probably know, "It is never too late to be what you might have been."
Good Luck at school and becoming what you might have been.