Or, better yet: How I spent 38 years allowing my belief that I was dumb to hold me back.
The first full week of January brings another facet of my growth – I enrolled in College. Pasco Hernando State College to be exact. I’ll talk about the primary reasons here, as much as to walk through my thought process as to document the occasion.
I graduated June 6th, 1984 from Gobles Public High School in Gobles, Michigan (pop. 851) with what I thought was a class of 42 (but recently found out was actually 60.) I don’t much recall walking across the stage to receive my diploma, just heard my name and I ran to shake Tommy D’s hand before he changed his mind. I do remember thinking that I’m glad that it went alphabetically instead of by grade so I wouldn’t be #43 (a story I’ve carried with me for 38 years.)
As I got back to my seat I also remember thinking that I was looking forward to taking time off from school because well, kids that got a lot of C’s in their classes, had double-digit “absences” and a record 48 tardies over 4 years, and marginal scores on their ACTs didn’t have much opportunity to go on to anything but maybe Community College. If only I had been just a little better at sports!
So after a year of kinda wandering, going through two J.O.B.s, I did just that; I enrolled at Kalamazoo Community College. Because of my mediocre ACTs I was required to take remedial Grammar and Mathematics. During the entrance test, I was faced with not knowing what a dangling participle was (which literally haunts me to this day.) I promptly dropped out and joined the U.S. Air Force. And spent 38 years thinking I was dumb…
…fast forward to last fall. I was told that if I wanted more opportunities and more money I had to get my degree. It didn’t matter the college I chose, online or on campus, full- or part-time, but I had to get that second piece of paper if I wanted to advance. I went from being adamantly opposed to scared to death that my academic history would repeat itself.
Reluctantly, I started researching online colleges – there was no way I could work full-time, be a part-time hockey coach, and go to school in person. I also had to find a school that Pasco County BoCC would offer tuition reimbursement. Private colleges like SNHU, WGU, and Full Sail were 100% self-paced and online but weren’t “approved.” I didn’t want to go into debt to get a raise!
So with my list of qualifying nearby colleges – St. Leo University, University of Central Florida, and Pasco Hernando State College – I started my application process. First stop: I had to request my High School transcripts. I was sure they were in a storage room somewhere, tucked into an old dusty metal 4-drawer filing cabinet, near the back of the drawer where C-grade students were kept. Yet, the part-time receptionist found my transcripts within minutes of my request and sent me a copy, much to my chagrin, stating my grades were not as sucky as I previously thought!
To be clear, I wasn’t going to get into Harvard, but, I wasn’t last in my class, either. (Cue the hypnotic, spiraling tunnel visual)
What I had heard all those years ago – that I was behind 42 other students in my class – was not what the transcripts said at all. Let’s do the NEW math: There were actually 60 kids in my class and I was ranked 18th! Meaning my grades were “better” than 42 other students. Granted, my attitude back then sucked and I was an athletic snob, but I wasn’t the C student that I thought I was all those years. In fact, my GPA was 2.849 – a B-! What a difference that would have made to an 18-year-old from a family that had, up to that point, no college graduates.
So tomorrow I’m excited to become a #57YearOldFreshman at PHSC on my way to a degree in Political Science, 38 years in the making. Come, join me on this adventure!
Todd: Combine patience and persistence to learn new things. That’s what Einstein used. If you want an inspiring read, get a copy of Barbara Oakly’s book: “Learning how to Learn”. Google her name to find more about her. We are from Kalamazoo, Mi. and you sold us a condo in Beacon Woods so we could become snowbirds. Jeannie Hay referred us to you. Best of luck to you. Tom Riley.
That brings back memories. Maybe I’ll see about joining you.
Inspiring reflection. Oh if we had the experience of a 58 year old at 18, our perspective would be so different. Sounds like this new chapter will fulfill a goal you didn’t believe was possible. Congratulations on moving forward.