Now that I’m nearing my forties, and, of course, my friends are doing the same, I am watching some of my lifelong (or close to) friends contemplate the idea of going back to school to further their education. One of my best friends whom I’ve known for nearly 23 years decided, as a young girl fresh out of high school, to get married and start a family. She’d always wanted to do the motherhood thing, and it came naturally to her. She ended up divorcing her husband when her daughter was young and began waitressing in order to support her family.
Time went by. Her daughter grew, and my girlfriend continued working in one or the other restaurants in South Florida. Money is good in this profession if you are in the right place, and she did well, but time has taken a toll on her physically and the trays that she once lifted easily are now starting to hurt her back, while the constant walking and bending are torturing her knees. Now, my friend who is nearing forty is considering going back to college so that she can work in a field that is a little less harsh on the body.
She’s nervous about the challenge, though. She’s been out of school for nearly half of her life and has done what she is doing that entire time. She knows waitressing, and restaurants, and the service industry. This is her comfort zone. So when she called me the other day and announced that she’s considering giving up the college idea and sticking with what she knows, I wasn’t surprised. Yet I could tell by the tone of her voice that she wasn’t very thrilled with this.
I know there are others of you out there that are in the same position. Some of you may have gone to college when you were younger, chosen a field that really doesn’t excite you any longer and want to make a new start doing something else. Others of you may have skipped the education when you were younger in pursuit of different things-traveling, marriage, raising a family- and now you want to go back and do what you didn’t get to do years ago.
I remember reading a Dear Abby column when I was younger, and the gist of it has stuck with me since. The writer said that she would love to go back to school but that she would be X number of years old upon graduation (and the X was somewhere in the forties or up). Dear Abby answered, “And how old will you be then if you do not go to college?”
I told my friend this. And then I told her that anytime we make a change and try something new we get scared. At least, we should. Change is scary. The first time you drove a car, had a baby and walked into a new school/class/job was scary. Going back to college when you have been out of school for over half of your lifetime? Scary, scary scary. As it should be. But, I told my friend, if we ran away every time something scared us we’d spend more time leaving than going.
She called the next day and said she had decided to start with two classes and see how it goes. Get her feet wet, she said.
If any of you reading this post are facing the same type of decision that she is facing, this is my advice: Get to the nearest college, pick up a catalog, and sign up for a class or two. Just a few. Just to get your feet wet. Who knows, once you start taking classes you might find that you want to submerge yourself. You might even enjoy it! And if you are worried about how old you are, and how old you’ll be when you embark on that new career, just remember that you will be that old one day anyway, so why not enter that age doing something that you really like to do?