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.