Monday, December 19, 2005

A Little More About Me

I am currently entering my second semester as a junior at California State University, Sacramento as a government-journalism major. My plan is to graduate in the spring of 2007. Beyond that – who knows? I am in an unusual but hardly unique situation in that I am a 43-year-old undergraduate. How I got here is a long story, one that I will not go into here. Suffice it to say that the “school of hard knocks” is alive and well. I will, however, go into some of my formal educational experience because it took some time to get through my freshman and sophomore years. I titled this blog to reflect the 25 years it took to get here…”The 25 Year Plan.”

I graduated high school in 1981. My grades were mediocre at best. I put little to no effort into achieving high marks and never really cared all that much. As my profile states, I somehow had this idea that my life’s purpose would just become apparent and that any discovery on my part was unnecessary. I just kind of went where the wind blew me and therefore didn’t explore my strengths, my talents or my desires. Upon graduation from high school, I had no idea what I wanted to be when I “grew up.”

Despite decent SAT scores and a GPA that would have been accepted at a number of schools in the California State University system (not to be confused with the University of California system which would have required a major miracle on my behalf), I did not apply. Of course I regret this decision – to a point, but it is history now. I did, however attend some classes at the local community college. It is quite apparent in retrospect that I took the same attitude I had in high school with me. I lasted 1 trimester, although I had achieved passing grades. I just didn’t “feel” it.

A couple of years later I had reached a dead-end in my life. I was 20, unemployed, living at my parent’s house and felt pretty much worthless. Towards the end of the summer of 1983, my parents once again encouraged me to attend college – away from home. Their offer to support me in my educational endeavors was still open so I applied and was accepted to San Diego State University. SDSU is a very large school with a student population at the time numbering somewhere around 35,000. And I didn’t know one of them.

I spent two years at SDSU and have very little to show for it. I had joined the local chapter of a very large national fraternity and spent a huge amount of time on anything but school. At the time, SDSU held the dubious distinction of being Playboy magazine’s #1 party school in the nation. (I’d like to think that I contributed my small part toward this cause.) More importantly, I still did not have any real direction in my life and was there, not for myself, but for my parents. I just could not or would not commit to the work necessary to be successful in college.

Over the next 20 years or so, I attended two trade schools, and three other community colleges. My success in these endeavors was remarkably better than my previous forays into the world of higher education. I was actually enjoying school and interested in what I was learning about. Oddly enough, once this excitement about school became part of my overall attitude, it made little difference what I was studying – I loved it all. And my grades reflected it.

Fast-forward: Fall, 2003. After an extended absence from school, I enrolled at American River College, a community college in the greater Sacramento area. How I ended up in Sacramento is a story for another time but I will say this much: I was not all that thrilled to be here. Because it had been so long since my last experience with school, I was to take three assessment tests: Two in english (reading and writing) and one in math. I was shocked by the results. As a result, I was allowed to enroll in an english writing honors class. That semester also produced my first (and to date, only) 4.0 GPA. More importantly, a skill I always possessed but never embraced was beginning to emerge – writing.

Although my major had changed two semesters into my community college experience, my sense of purpose and direction never did. My goal also expanded beyond anything I had imagined when enrolling at ARC. I was originally there only to earn an AA degree. Upon entering my third and last semester, my goal was journalism and nothing less than a BA degree would do. The credits from those three semesters plus those scattered throughout the last 20+ years allowed me to finally – almost 25 years after graduating high school – enter Sac State as a junior.

So here I am, winter break midway through my junior year, just turned 43 and I have never been happier. It’s been a long, rough and winding road. Would I do it differently if I could? Perhaps, but I’m not so sure. If what has happened got me here and here is where I am happy, joyous and free, why would I want to change anything? Rhetorical sure, but also moot. I’m cool, but I wouldn’t wish this path on anyone.

So I have about five weeks of “free” time. What a concept. I check the school web site often, watching my grades trickle in (five 3-unit classes, 2 A’s so far) and explore this new blog thing. I think I like it; it gets me writing. No matter where my life takes me next, writing will be an integral part of it. I wouldn’t want it any other way.

Mr. Althouse


mysickmind said...

Hey Mike, here's a logo for ya... I'll be making a few more... if you need to know how to use in your site, I'll be happy to let you know

Logo 1

Bar L. said...

Man, I am impressed. Good for you.

blair said...

Hi Mike,

Wow! That is quite a story! I can totally relate. I was always an average student myself in grade school, and the teachers would always say, "She doesn't APPLY HERSELF." Was too busy being social and dreaming about boys. I did the Community College thing as well. Very similar background to yours. I did manage to get into a profession where I am making 6 figures, but I still feel like I should get my degree. I always peruse the College brochures when they come in the mail. I pick out some courses I would like to take, and then decide I just don't have the time.

Glad I found your blog! You have inspired me!


scaredofu said...

I totally understand your journey as I finally reached my destination several years ago. I really enjoy your writings and hope that I can continue to enjoy. Good luck and study hard! The end of schooling is near!

carmilevy said...

You define tenacity and drive, Mike. You are living proof that striving for more is something that never has to end.