What Going Back To School Taught Me.
Today was my last day of classes as a student. The last day! I'll have six weeks of papers and finals ahead, and then spend the summer writing my dissertation... but today, at 4:00pm. my French class finished and my time to sit in a desk as a student came to an end. I can't believe how quickly it went when I look back, but at the same times- there have been a lot of mornings when I heard my alarm go off and I had to drag myself out of bed to face the day ahead.
In some ways- it hasn't been that bad. For starters Masters in the UK are only one year. This means two terms with eleven weeks of class each, and now I have until September to crank out a dissertation. (And baby?)
But in other ways, it's been really hard. Work! School! Toddler! Commuting on the Central Line everyday while pregnant! To be honest, it feels like a party day for me today thinking that I can do the rest of my papers and writing at my schedule and at my home.
After being "out" and in the "real world" for almost a decade, I realized few things upon returning to school. So here are a few things I'll always remember about going back to school at the ripe age of 30. (Or maybe I won't, so it makes it a good idea to write them down here.)
WHAT I WAS REALLY TAUGHT GOING BACK TO SCHOOL At Thirty.
1. I cared a lot more... AND a whole lot LESS.
At this stage of life, I'm here to get a degree. Not be homecoming queen... which lets be honest, I never was before either so it does help with expectations. I want to do good, and at the same time- I'm way less worried about school than I was before. In my time between graduating college and getting my masters, I've grown up a lot. I know why I'm getting a degree, and I know that regardless of how the year ends up- my life is on track. The emotional game of it is gone.
2. YOUR PROFESSORS ARE NORMAL PEOPLE, TOO. (AND THEY'LL LOVE YOU!)
When I did my undergraduate, I elevated professors in my mind to this untouchable level. They knew everything, they thought I was stupid and my questions were a waste of their time to do more important things. But now? Well, I guess I just know too many people that are teachers... and, more importantly, I became one myself. I've realized teachers aren't necessarily experts, but mainly just passionate about particular subjects. (And sometimes, they just got assigned to a particular module and are hacking through it... just like you.) This makes me want to engage with classroom discussions, takes the pressure off assignments (just do what the assignment asks and stop making it a head game. It actually isn't that hard!) and if you ask for help- most of them would love to offer it.
Another thing is... being a bit older makes me feel more inclined to chat with professors at times than your classmates. They'll remind you of your friends and colleagues... because, many of them will be around the similar ages. And the good news? They'll see you that way, too.
3. BEING 30 SOUNDS REALLY OLD TO PEOPLE IN THEIR 20's
I didn't walk into class the first semester and announce that I was married, a mom and pregnant... because that would be awkward. I just kind of did my thing. In fact, I just had fun with people in class and as I got to know them dropped in bits about my life as they came up. The moments when they realized I was older than they were by about five years, and married... and had a baby... and was pregnant, it was awesome. The look of shock and horror thrilled me every time. They genuinely felt bad for me and it genuinely made me laugh. I would have never been able to convince my 23 year old self how great life would be at 30... so I get it.
4. YOU WILL WORK SMARTER THAN YOU EVER DID BEFORE.
If you've ever had a crazy job or boss who demands last minute projects be assembled within an evening, all I can say is that a class assignment that has clear, written expectations and a deadline that is weeks out will seem like a luxury. You'll ask the questions you need answered so that you can produce the work you need- rather than remaining silent like you may have when the phrase "Any questions?" was offered in years past. You'll realize the value of your time in a new perspective, and you'll have become a squillion times more efficient.
5. EVERYONE WILL LOVE YOU... While SIMULTANEOUSLY NOT Actually CARE ABOUT YOU.
You'll get along with everyone, because you live above the drama. You won't have the time to be tooling around for hours before and after class, so you won't be as bonded or have the chance to have conflict. You'll just be the nice person that floats in and out of class, has their act together because you're there to learn and not socialize... and just generally get on with everyone. Though don't expect them inviting you to hang out on the weekends once they find out that you're a mom.
I left school today feeling that weird "Last Day of School" feeling that I hadn't felt in ten years. I forgot how excited, relieved, and sad you can feel at the same time on that day. All my friends awkwardly said goodbye with finger-crossed promises that we'd meet up at some point over the months ahead as we write our dissertations. It was one of those moments when everything was still normal and the same... but you knew was about to be over for good. There won't be a "next year" or a time when we'll all be in the same space together again. This was it. And maybe it was because I'm thirty and have lived a bit more of life at this point and have learned just how special those moments and friends end up become to you in life, but it made me a bit sappy.
I'm so thankful for the chance I got to get my Masters. It really was a dream come true, and I'm thankful to my teachers who were just SO kind. My classmates for teaching me how to do all the tech stuff I feel incompetent to do... but mainly for Tyler for not only putting up with me during this C.R.A.Z.Y. year, but championing me through it. (The man greeted me with bubbles to celebrate tonight- what a guy!)
*images original to Aspiring Kennedy