A few weeks back, when my birthday was happening, I had a whole post started about how I hate the women’s-magazine trope of “life begins at 40” (or 50 or 60 or when you die). I still hate that.
Milestone birthdays are interesting to me – they mark an arbitrary amount of time passed, yet people ascribe huge importance to some of them (18, 21, 30, 40, 50, etc). For the most part, I have done the same.
I turned 40 last year and celebrated by spending a lovely week in the desert. I’m decidedly NOT a desert sort of person (I require trees with leaves and seasons and the occasional snow, regardless of how much I might bitch about it), but I spent my 20th birthday in the desert too, and both 20 and 40 marked huge changes in my life path.
At 20, my desert weekend helped me find the strength to leave a… let’s call it “unhealthy” relationship and put the fractured pieces of my life back together. At 40, my desert week helped me look back on the previous 20 years and see what picture those puzzle pieces turned out to be. Apparently it takes me 2 full decades to get my shit together, so my 60th birthday should be amazing. Maybe I’ll trek solo across the Sahara or something.
So while I wouldn’t say “life begins at 40,” now that I’m a year away from that I might say that my extremely prolonged adolescence ended at 40. I got rid of a lot of things and relationships and people who weren’t having a positive effect on me. I changed tracks but I wasn’t sure where this train was headed.
Now I know. About two months ago, I contacted all three universities I’ve attended and requested my transcripts. I knew that they weren’t stellar, but they weren’t as bad as I’d feared. I got all three of them and then spent a day just looking at them and making a bunch of decisions.
Before I could talk myself out of it, I re-applied to Rutgers. The application was disappointingly spare: who, where, when. That’s all. No room for me to explain why, at 41 years of age, I am trying to go back to school. No room to explain why I left in the first place and the things I’ve learned about myself and the world since then. No room, really, for bullshit.
And that’s the theme here – there is no more room for bullshit.
So I submitted this very disappointingly spare application and then I waited. AND WAITED. And… waited. I have discovered a remarkable amount of patience in my advanced age. I waited. The answer was either going to be “yes, come back” or “no, sorry, die in a fire,” and there wasn’t anything I could do about it either way, so I waited.
I was really starting to get fed up with this whole hippie notion of leaving it up to the universe when I got the email. “HEY GUESS WHAT YOU CAN COME BACK.” Oh! Okay. I was at work, and while I was processing this news, I logged in to Facebook to announce it to the world (because nothing happens in life until you tell Facebook, right?). Before I could post anything, I saw that Prince had died.
That put rather a damper on my day, to put it mildly, but it was kind of a good thing in that I could put all of my “holy shit” feelings in THAT basket and be more rational about this whole college thing.
My acceptance at Rutgers is conditional. I had to call and make an appointment with an academic advisor before I could do anything else, so the following Monday morning, I did just that. I knew if I put it off any longer I wouldn’t do it and come September I’d be all pissed off at myself for it. So I did it and got an appointment for the following morning.
[Imagine nuclear meltdown klaxons here] OH GOD WHAT HAVE I DONE THIS IS GOING TOO FAST.
I freaked out about it for exactly one day, then I went to my appointment. The first question out of the Dean’s mouth was “why are you here?” A HA! YES! BULLSHIT TIME. Except it wasn’t: I told her all the things. I told her about my first attempt at college and the barriers I
bumped up against crashed into at warp speed. I talked about my 2nd attempt and how well that was going and how I thought it would be fine when I transferred to Rutgers but it was NOT fine and things went badly from the get-go. I talked about my ADHD and the anxiety/depression I have ALWAYS had that I now know is 100% related to it. I talked about where I personally failed and where I was failed. I talked about Jillian and how her diagnosis led to my diagnosis and how both of those things led to a radical re-shaping of our personal worlds. I talked about the programs of study I’d abandoned and what I was planning to do instead and why.
She listened. You’d be surprised at how many people don’t. But the Dean listened to my story and re-activated me as a student on the spot. I still have the conditions to fulfill, but I have so much more knowledge and so many more tools now that I didn’t have before. I also have enough credits for a minor in both Music and Linguistics.
I go back in the fall.