At the tender age of 42, I became something most of my high school classmates were at 18.
I tried this once before when I was 29, at the height of the tech boom. However, it was The Tech Boom. I didn’t need no steenkeeng degree. All I needed was a computer and a lot of caffeine and baby, I was going to be rich.
Go ahead. Ask me. How’s that working out for me?
Anyway, several contract jobs and years of pizza delivery later, I wound up at BigHugeCo. I do all right for a community college dropout. I went from being horrendously in debt to being a landlord who is horrendously in debt (but this time manageably so).
Still, things have changed. You can only handle so many hard drive crashes, printer failures, and spyware removals before you really decide to sell all your worldly goods, pay off all your debts, and go sell flowers in airport concourses with a shaved head and Gandhi robes.
So I decided to get a new skillset. I already build web pages from time to time, so putting some paper behind that to give me cred on my resume seemed like a good idea.
Besides, I’ve changed addresses twice in the last three years, and wives once. (And let us never do the divorce thing again. Even amicably, it sucks.) I also have a stepson now. It seems if I’m going to tell him how important a college education is to his future, I need to back those words up with deeds.
So I am now a middle-aged freshman. A lot’s changed since last I went. I’m taking three classes this term. Only one of them do I drive to school for. During summer, I will never have to set foot on campus. Is it because I’m going to a trade school on a par with one of those colleges that advertise excessively?
Well, no. It is a two-year college, but from there I go to either University of Cincinnati or Northern Kentucky University or (should I win the lottery) Xavier. And looking at their curriculum, a good chunk of their classes are online.
Online works great for history or some technical classes. But I’d never take a math class online, not when you need an instructor to show you why two-plus-two-equals-four when you keep coming up with seven.
It’s odd going to nightschool. Most of my fellow students are adults. And I’m not even the oldest person in some of my classes. Both my Basic and Intermediate Algebra teachers seem immensely relieved that the youngest person in their class is 23. Well, last term, there was one girl from Russia who was 18. One. Remember when the older guy was the odd one in the class?
My current teacher is also a high school teacher. All day long, he likely has to argue with 15- and 16-year-olds as to why they have to factor polynomials. Instead, we say, “Can you do problem 17 for us?” And so he does it. He goes from a roomful of kids with raging hormones to about 25 people who treat algebra like really tough sudoku.
I know I’ll be nearly 50 when I get my bachelors. I may even get a humanities masters after that. Forget the doctorate. I’d be nearly 70, and I’m not spending the rest of my life as a student.
For now, though, it’s just what I needed.