Friday, October 24, 2008

Back to School?

A few days ago, Austin came to me with a proposition. Well, not so much a proposition as a thought that may or may not ever come to pass in this lifetime. But still, something we should talk about.

He had been looking at our finances, and came to the conclusion that we should try our darndest to cut something else out of our budget. Wheee! I’m going on nine months without a haircut, and I don’t remember the last time I purchased a piece of clothing. But I’m up for an adventure, I guess.

I started thinking about the food budget. There really isn’t any need for us to consume sugar, eggs, dairy, or meat. We can be quite happy on carrots and cornmeal. (Stares into space, horrified at these thoughts)

But this isn’t what Austin had in mind.

Austin wanted me to think about going back to school.

I know what you are thinking. Silly Austin, school costs money! You can’t go to school to save money!

But he went on…

You see, I have student loans. I started college right out of high school, as most moronic youth of America do. Forget the idea that university is for the best and brightest; today’s college experience is yesteryear’s high school or apprenticeship. But I digress. I don’t want anyone telling me that I’m not the best and brightest and should therefore just take on a technical job, say, answering phones. It just wouldn’t be very fair, right?

I do hope you catch the irony and sarcasm that drip from my words like honey from a comb. Oooh. Honey is good on biscuits.

Ok, so I went to school to learn more about the fascinating worlds of English Literature and History. And then I had to drop out to make money. And then I went back. And then I dropped out for a semester to get married. And then I went back. And then I dropped out again to have 34 children. And then I went back.

The student loan people were very nice to me. They gave me thousands of dollars that not only paid for my books and fees, but also allowed my children to poo in upscale diapers. However, the kindness wasn’t to last. Shortly after my (I’ve lost count) stint in formal education, the money whores began to hint that I should pay them back. It didn’t matter that I obtained not a single degree or even a fabulous career that would allow me to pay back the $87,459.23 I owed them. (Not a real figure at time of publication, but perhaps will be in the future)

Enter the fabulous school loan loophole.

If you are enrolled in full-time education, your loans become deferred. As in, you don’t have to pay them. At least until you fail, have another child and have to drop out, or win the lottery.

Despite the fact that I would be adding to our overall debt, I would be alleviating our monthly expenditures by several hundred dollars.

Not to mention…

GOING BACK TO SCHOOL!!!!

If you have had to listen to me whine for more than ten minutes, you are aware that I very much would like to go back to school. I am two short semesters shy of getting my degree. After that, it would be just two long grueling years that might stretch out to five years of working towards a Master’s. I started an idea notebook a few years ago about possible thesis topics. I’m still caught pretty equally between a few of them, and I don’t know how I will one day pare it down.

I love the idea of learning, of opening secrets shared from one scholar to another. I want to memorize the happenings of history; I want to recognize the portraits of great leaders of the past. And I want to join their ranks eventually, leaving something for generations yet to come.

Still, first I must jump through the hoops to get there. And lately, school really does feel like a hoop. In my mind, I am a fairly intelligent person who loves discussing and reading and even writing papers. But with kids and bills and one car, getting back and forth to school seems like a chore. I’m just going to go; I’m just progressing to progress. I don’t feel the leisurely creak of the mind’s wheels as they ponder the meaning of a text. I want to take the time to really enjoy the learning process, but in a week crammed with Sunday School snack coordinating and remembering to ‘enjoy the moments of life’, I have to admit that it falls through those proverbial cracks. Somehow the mix of American approach to higher (and lower) education and my own inability to put life on hold while I sit with a textbook in the Belmont courtyard has turned college into a series of hoops.

A college education, as my father would say, is nothing to sneeze at. I hate this phrase, as I have a very vivid imagination and I don’t like bodily functions. Keep your sneezes to yourself and the world will be a much better place. You might explode, but we do have population control to consider anyways. And why would you sneeze upon any sort of nonmaterial item such as an education?

But I do understand what the Wise Old Sage means with the sneeze quote. Despite my feelings towards the decline of the American educational system, I cannot reduce the centers of learning to mere hoops. And really, I only call it such because I am being elementary in my assessment. I really do want to go to school. I want to get back in the game of hating professors, loving professors, and skipping class to have a fantastic debate with the Class Brain. I guess what I’m saying is that I’m jealous of the hoop jumpers. I want to jump.

So as Austin attempted to lay out a plan that didn’t involve childcare or who would make dinner or how I would physically arrive at the school’s location, these thoughts went popping through my head, followed closely by these following hysterics:

I will be 27 by next semester, if I could even get enrolled that quickly. This makes me one decade older than the incoming freshmen. I cannot even tell you how strange this is. I know I’m out of touch with today’s young adult crowd.

I don’t watch television. Not because I don’t like it, but because I would rather pay for other things. I have never seen an episode of Whatever Is Popular At The Moment. This means that I only know famous people if they have been famous for more than eight years or if they grace the covers of magazines that line the racks by Target’s check-out. And even then, I don’t look at the mags that much anymore. They just make me hate my legs or wonder just how much sex other people are having. Cosmo makes me think that I’m as prude as a Puritan. All that to say, I don’t know who So and So is.

I also don’t really listen to the radio. I have my ipod and some discs, but the radio thing doesn’t really work for me. It might be related to my problems with concentration. As soon as they start talking, my mind wanders and then I wake up miles later wondering why I’m driving towards Franklin. Also, the radio stations in Nashville are not to my liking. There, I’ve said it. I might have said this before…I truly don’t remember. Mentally, I’m on my way to Franklin.

My clothes. I’m not exactly a fashion guru. I figure that when in doubt, jeans with a black shirt and black shoes should work. I used to own only black clothing. I had the nickname Morticia for awhile. It wasn’t because I was dark and sinister or secretly cut my arms with a razor blade. Not that those things weren’t true, but it was really more about my lack of fashion direction. And to be cool now, you have to know how to wear expensive looking clothes that don’t look expensive or vice versa and pair them with ugly slouchy shoes that were popular when I was in the 5th grade and remember to mix and match layers of delicate and chunky neck baubles. My lovely and so very elegant friend Codi tries to help me, but I cannot imagine how much I frighten her with my clothing choices.

I’m a bit of a socialphobe. I have a really strange version of this phobia. I still don’t understand when it will go off sometimes. Meeting new people can be fine one minute, and the next I cannot look the New Scary Person Who Is Judging Me in the eye. Eye contact really seems to be an issue for me. I seriously wonder if I have some sort of disorder. Sometimes I have to scream inside my head to keep looking at someone’s face so they won’t think I’m a freak with a socialphobia. Alas, I’ve unveiled the ugly truth.

I’m not cool. Please don’t think I’m making fun of myself. It is just a fact. I am 5’7, 112 pounds, and I’m not cool. It used to torture me that I wasn’t born cool. Now I just kind of accept it. There’s always that group of effortlessly cool kids in school, and I know that they don’t just clog up the lower levels of education. I’m sure they are still hanging on at the doctorate level. You know…they are witty but nonchalant, they are pretty but not haughty, they are smart but not brainy, athletic but never smelly, do you know what I mean?

Combine my lack of fashion sense, my slight social phobia that gets magnified in a classroom, my total ignorance of what is going on in popular culture, and my factual uncoolness…and I’m still nervous about going to school. It feels no different from the first day of junior high. In fact, it feels decidedly worse. My parents told me it wouldn’t be that bad, but it really was. It staggers the mind, actually. Horrible, horrible junior high. Legal torture.

Austin was staring at me, his lips moving and eyebrows wagging energetically. I had the feeling that I had tuned out…

It turns out he was lauding the various fine points of going back to college. And he also wanted to know my thoughts.

To my surprise, I talked not of My Rapid Heartbeat Condition That Acts Up When Profs Call My Name. I didn’t say that I wasn’t cool enough to talk to those students who were in junior high when I was having my first child.

I was glad to find that my real thoughts were actually about the educational experience.

While I do so want to get back in the tutelage of great minds (or minds that have been tenured and cannot be questioned), I really don’t want to go back until the timing is perfect. I’m well aware that no time is truly perfect, but I think I can reasonably argue that timing can be wrong. And this feels like wrong timing. When I go back to muddle my way through the biology class that I have put off for 9 years now, I want to loathe it for its own sake, not because I’m wishing I could be there to pick Moira up from school. I don’t want to hate myself for giving away the days that could be spent cuddling Sabra while she is still small enough to want to cuddle.

I know that my kids are young, and that every stage presents difficulties. But I also know first hand how hard it is to have parents in school. There is a larger price to be paid than the hefty tuition. Trust me, I know…kids learn to share their school day secrets with their friends on the phone and not with Mom on the way home. When parents are busy writing papers and doing homework, kids pour their own dinner into a cereal bowl and sit alone on the couch. Moira is already beginning to shut me out of her inside jokes, boyfriend information, and fears of invisible bears. All too soon, Sabra won’t want to paint my fingernails with crayons or feed Charlie real Oreos.

And though I want that diploma, and the knowledge, and the satisfaction, I strangely want something else more.

I want to see my girls.

In a few short years, they will both go off to school (hopefully with a lunch) and stay away for eight hours while I try to fill those same hours with phone answering or blogging, or maybe even going back to college. The time of indulgent cartoon watching and goldfish sharing will be replaced with early morning before school breakfasts and evening homework dates. And though one is not ‘better’ than the other, I don’t want to miss a phase that is oh-so-short.

I’m pretty sure I’ll get to finish my degree(s) and hate/love my professors and engage in world-changing discussions. To admit I feel this way….well, I feel like a feminist sell-out. But I own the decision, which feels good. I’m just not ready to go back to school yet.

Right now, I’m needed to help Moira break her invisiblebearophobia.

1 comment:

Stargazer said...

I think your thought process makes a lot of sense. I sincerely hope that when the time is right, you know it for sure and enjoy every moment of school...again. :)

BP