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I am 40 years old, and I am beginning a journey that most start at 18 or 19, and it’s absolutely fucking terrifying. Not just terrifying, no, that doesn’t do it justice. I cannot find the vocabulary to describe the level of fear I feel without the quantifying and wildly versatile “fucking”. Let’s see if I can break this down for you. I have spent periods of time homeless. I have been shot at, both randomly and deliberately. I have been mugged at gun point twice. I have been in a house when S.W.A.T. kicked the front door in looking for someone else, and I almost got shot. I have been stabbed by a girlfriend and by a stranger, separate occasions. I was once intentionally hit by a car driven by a friend, looking at you Brother Bear. The thing that scares the hell out of me, is going back to school.
Out of all of that I guess the question is, is it necessary? Is it necessary to put myself though everything involved in getting a degree at this age, or in fact at all? I think it is, for me at least. I need to prove to myself I can do it. Whether or not it is for you, I guess that depends on what you want out of life and what makes you happy. A large number of people get through life perfectly happy without a higher education. Some never get the opportunity, and some absolutely love working with their hands. This doesn’t make anyone any less intelligent, everyone has to walk their own path and they have their own reasons. If it weren’t for changes in my life in recent years I would never even consider making the attempt. I just didn’t realize that such options were open to me, and even when I learned that if I really want it, that there are ways to do it, I still waffled.
I want to, but I’m already 40 is it worth it, it will be great for my career, but will it really, and back and forth. Back and forth. Right up until this very point, I doubted. But. While I was looking for resources to reference for this post, I found this page. On it are anecdotal stories of people that went back to school at an older age. Most of them are actually quite a bit older than I am now. In Nancy B. Irwin’s story, who went back to get a Doctorate in Clinical Psychology, she stated that you have to get used to answering the question, “How old will you be when you finish?” Her answer was, “The same age I’ll be if I don’t finish!”
That struck a chord with me. It wasn’t till I read that that it occurred to me. Depending on work/school schedules, it could take me 4-6 years to get a Bachelor’s. Whether or not I go back to school, those 4-6 years are still going to pass. Deep in the back of my mind I worried that the time spent at school would keep me from accomplishing other things. That it would feel like I wasted it. Realizing that the time would pass with or without me changed the way I saw things. Not that I didn’t know that time moves on. I was taking it for granted. Sometimes common place things are so commonplace that you forget that they actually have an effect on you. Driving is only driving, until you’re in a car accident, then it’s a dangerous act that must be taken seriously. Until you get used to it, and it again becomes commonplace for you. Walking at night is no big deal, until you’re shot at for the first time.
The realization of Nancy’s statement was like a shot across the bow. It woke me up, if for only a moment. Wouldn’t I be better served working my way up in a new job for those 4-6 years? Gaining experience and cultivating contacts? Experience has taught me no I wouldn’t. That without a degree, they will only let you climb so far. Spending time climbing a ladder to nowhere. That would truly be a waste. There isn’t anything I could do better with my time, than spend it bettering myself.
From what I can tell, that graph right there is pretty damn close. I’ve been walking the line of High School Diploma’s earnings for a few years now. If that’s the case, then not jumping on the opportunity that has been given to me would be idiocy. By no means am I saying that everyone should go back to school. Everyone’s life goes differently. I’m doing it more for the chance to prove that I can, than I am for the career path it may offer.
After she received her degree, Nancy B. Irwin, PsyD, C.Ht. wrote a book about the challenges of going back to school at 44 after being a stand-up comic for so many years called Your-Turn: Changing Direction in Midlife. Everyone knows that writing is my passion, that’s how this blog started in the first place. Maybe one day I will also have a book about the changes I’ve made in my life.