Lauren Jonik is our featured guest blogger for the Love For 30 Project this week. Lauren shares her story about deciding to go back to school in her 30s and the journey she experienced. Lauren also shares some tips for the woman that wants to gain the courage to go back.
If you are interested in joining The Love For 30 Project, please email me for all the details at [email protected]
Photo by: Lauren Jonik
It was a simple question that my English professor had posed to the class. Diminutive in size, both her voice and ideas made up for in power what she lacked in stature. However, the response elicited by a relatively innocuous question held the class in stunned silence as the outspoken young man who sat in the row behind me loudly blurted out, “You should have your whole entire life figured out by the time you’re old. Like thirty-five.” Before my professor’s stunned expression could register, the self-assured student continued, “You know, when you’re her age,” pointing his long arm directly at me. The entire class fell into complete silence. If a pin would have dropped it would have echoed a loud roar compared to how quiet the room became as both my professor and classmates waited to see my response. As one may be apt to do in uncomfortable situations, I began laughing and corrected him. “I’m not thirty-five.” I was, in fact, thirty-two.
It was true that in a class full of students who could not yet legally purchase alcohol, the fact that technically, I was old enough to be their moth—, er, older sister, I did stand out. I dressed differently, I carried myself differently, I spoke differently. But, like them, I too was pursuing an education. My motivation, however, was informed by having lived through my twenties, having been in the working and dating worlds and now possessing a profound desire to set something right that had not been possible for me when I was the age of my classmates.
When I decided that I was going to pursue an English degree from scratch as an adult, I realized that the path was going to be one of many twists and turns, that it might set me back financially and that it would mean that it would be necessary to acquire new and superior time management skills. I was undeterred. Once I had resolved to formally befriend Mozart, Freud, Euclid, Shakespeare, Voltaire, DaVinci, and Monet, amongst countless other great minds, I was granted access to an inner well-spring of determination that refused to run dry. And, while my life changed dramatically in many ways since the start of my educational endeavors, my commitment to finishing what I had started did not diminish. In fact, it proved to be a deeply grounding force in my life during other non-school related transitions. Along the way, I have learned several key lessons that easily could be applied to pursuing an education, embarking on a new career or starting a new business.
Get Clear on the “Why”
When I first was making the decision to return to school as an adult, it was a series of small decisions that paved the way for the larger ones to come to fruition. Possessing clarity within eased the challenge of every hurdle I faced. By knowing “why” I wanted to attend school, I could discern “how” to go about it more effectively.
Commit to Your Focus
Once I set things in motion, I made a commitment to myself to follow through. I resolved that if I had come as far as I had, it would be foolish to quit in the face of obstacles. Being determined to move through the process of becoming and being a student in the context of an adult life prevented me from getting “stuck” in the sometimes complicated details of doing so.
During my first semester, I found myself sitting before a computer in the school cafeteria in the early evening. I had gotten an email about an event that night from a friend, but instead of choosing to attend and spend time with friends as I might have before, I glanced out the window and noticed a stunning sunset and realized that I was exactly where I needed—and wanted—to be. The seeds of the joy of academia were beginning to take root within me.
Build Your Team
There are some students who, perhaps due to their age, find authority figures intimidating. While I have possessed a healthy and humble respect for my professors, I have not feared them. After all, we shared the same goal: that I will leave their classes more educated, more enlightened and more engaged in the world. By turning in my assignments on time, by asking questions when they arose and by bringing to their attention pertinent issues related to my success in the class, I demonstrated that I respected their position. In turn, I always have been treated with the same respect—and in more than a few instances, have had professors go above and beyond the call of duty to ensure my academic progress and future.
Make It Manageable
Being an adult means having the adult responsibilities of managing your own emotional, physical, spiritual and financial wellness. In addition to having classes to attend, assignments to read and papers to write, I still have had bills to pay, laundry to do, food to buy, relationships to nurture and health and wellness to consider. Finding a balance for me has meant prioritizing. It’s meant saying “no” and setting healthy boundaries. It’s meant accepting that I wouldn’t be able to everything I might like. And, it’s meant managing my time differently. Books were read during my commute on the train. Ideas for papers were conceived in my head while washing my clothes at the laundromat. I learned the importance of making good use of my time.
Celebrate Each Milestone
Last but certainly not least, I’ve found it is helpful to celebrate each milestone reached while moving forward through my education. My time in school has passed more quickly than I first anticipated and though I’ve been going part-time, it has been an incredible journey, one which has given new shape to my thoughts and new focus to my desires.
The power of education lies not in the facts one memorizes or merely the list of books one has read, but in the way that a mind is transformed and learns to remember not only what has been, but what is possible. In this way, an education becomes timeless—no matter how old you are when you begin.
Lauren Jonik is a freelance writer and photographer in Brooklyn, NY. Her love of story-telling manifests through both words and images and she especially enjoys capturing the essence of a person, place or idea and distilling into another form through her work. Her photography may be viewed at: www.shootlikeagirlphotography.com She invites you to connect with her on Facebook and Twitter: www.facebook.com/shootlikeagirlphotography and www.twitter.com/shootlikeagirl1