Sunday, April 29, 2007

A Blast from the Past

Blog Author's Note: The following was written in December 2005. It was my second ever blog post. Titled "A Little More About Me," it was an attempt to explain where I was and what I was doing. A lofty goal, I know, but still a noble attempt. Much has changed since those heady, clueless, naive days of yesteryear, but the newness hasn't worn off.

As much as I wanted to edit this before re-posting it, I did not. I was apparently more lax (or less obsessive) about proofing when I started blogging. There are a few minor errors that are driving me crazy - of course. Additionally, some minor details and have changed slightly. I can say that blogging as frequently as I do has improved my writing noticeably... something I didn't notice until today!

For your pleasure...

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


carmilevy said...

Thanks for reposting this, Mike. You're proof positive that persistence is a virtue we would all do well to adopt.

kenju said...

Carmi said what I was going to, Mike. You are to be commended for your persistence.

ZoeyBella said...

Well written. Nice to be able to 'travel back in time' and then see how well things have worked out. :)

MaR said...

Very interesting, Mr. A. and congrats! My friend finished med school in her early 40's, after 3 kids...
Michele sent me this morning :)

Bobkat said...

You are obviously a tenacious person, you just lacked direction until now. I can understand that, as I never knew what I wanted to do when I 'grew up' either. I now know that I would like to change career (again). It's just a case of getting there!

Thankd for sharing this. It's great to get a past perspective on your situation.

Shephard said...

Seems like something was always driving you toward education... you just hadn't found your niche of interest.

I also think the 40's are great. :)
Michele sent me.

kenju said...

Michele sent me back to say good night, Mike.

Snaggle Tooth said...

I actually remember reading this the first time!

I'm still here, so know the writing has certainly grown well on you.

The Harbour of Ourselves said...

all i can say mike is that i am glad to have stumbled by your life via this blog - your writing is so thoughtful, insightful and provocative - it's always a place i return to


X said...

I started reading some of my old blog posts when I found out someone else was doing's fun to see how we once were and how much we've changed! :)