This year, back to school takes on a whole new meaning. For the first time, there’s no bus schedule (well, a different bus schedule), PTA night, fee night (replaced by a big tuition bill), teacher meetings etc since my youngest is now off to college. Since we moved out of the suburbs before the ink on his diploma was dry, we now live in the city within shooting distance of the university. His yellow school bus is replaced by the city bus to campus, and on the first day of school he called in a panic because he didn’t have the $1.75 bus fare. Different worries, for sure.
But the boys are not the only ones back to school. After swearing I’d never ever go back to school, guess who has her backpack packed this Fall?
Part of me feels crazy for doing it and a part of me feels I have no choice but to follow my passion in positive psychology. After being out of school for 20 years and having written hundreds of exam questions for thousands of students, I’m going to be on the receiving end of voluminous reading and writing assignments, uninterpretable test questions, vague academic assignments, and unreasonable professors. Turnabout is fair play.
I can’t wait!
However, I am noticing that, like re-entering the dating scene after a 20+ year hiatus, things are different now after the early 1990’s since I’ve been a student. I admit I’m having a bit of a culture shock with the re-entry as a student into the education system. There’s the online course management system, there’s a discipline I have no formal background in at all, there’s students that are 20 years younger than me (though many of us are mid-career), there’s the distance element to this program, and it’s a fancy-schmancy private school (with accompanying sticker shock) when I’ve always been educated (and worked) in public institutions, literally my entire life.
I’m also continuing my day job since it is an executive graduate program where we meet in person once per month, with online interactions in-between. So, my 20 years of experience juggling commitments will be an essential and useful skill for me to be able to manage both full-time programs. I have also picked up other skills over the 20 years I’ve been in the work world that will hopefully help offset the disadvantage of being unable to devote 100% of my time to the program, such as critical thinking, writing, and a great deal more wisdom than in my 20’s.
Even the logistics of taking notes is different. Do I use my iPad, my laptop, paper/pen? Just for some perspective, I didn’t get a personal computer until graduate school and it was the Mac II, with 1 MB of memory. Post-It notes and email became widely available only after I started my job in 1993. I actually used to take notes using a fountain pen, which back then was quaint. Today it’s positively pre-historic.
I liken the re-immersion into the modern dating and graduate student world to an Epcot Center roller coaster ride: scary, exhilarating, fun but also interesting and delightful. Positive psychology teaches us that stimuli that are enjoyable but not challenging (eating chocolate, watching TV) provide positive emotion that is short-lived, but those that also challenge us will provide growth and long term enjoyment. I’m already enjoying the ride!