After twenty years, I'm back in college.
In 1990, I started college on a substantial scholarship. My life choices got in the way of studying, and I blew my scholarship within a year. I tried, off and on, to finish what was originally a Communications degree, but I never quite got it together. There was a lot of wasted time and money before I finally gave up, choosing to live my life with DH. With the divorce came the realization that I would have to take care of myself long past the point of alimony or child support.
So as of last month, I'm back in school full time, enrolled at a local technical college to pursue a degree in Paralegal Studies. Queen Frostine has said for years that I'd make a great attorney. Given my attention to detail and my dogged curiosity, she thinks I'd be especially well-suited for the mechanics of the law life. In my old life in financial planning, I spent a lot of time reviewing complicated estate and human resources documents, and I thoroughly enjoyed that process. Writing Persona Non Grata brought entertainment law into my realm, and I ultimately finalized my divorce pro se (without an attorney).
Being a paralegal seems like the natural and logical next step.
But being back in school is weird. When I was a college student in my late teens and early twenties, work/life balance was about little more than fitting classes in around a boyfriend or getting wasted. Now at 41, I have not only my schedule of on-campus and online classes, homework, and real work, but also my sons' school and social activities to contend with. And now DH has moved 300 miles away, which means I have the boys for the vast majority of their time. Plus somewhere in there I have to take some time for me, to relax and socialize with my own peers and get recentered so that I can take on the constant demands of this life I am trying to rebuild.
The schoolwork thus far isn't terribly hard, though math is kicking my ass harder than it did when I was 18. The courseload for this first semester includes some pretty interesting (and sometimes infuriating) introductions to sociology, humanities, and the law. All too often I am fascinated by some random thought in a discussion group or textbook and find myself off on a tangent, researching the fundamentals of space law or Goffman's dramaturigcal perspective.
And now with a brilliantly gifted 8th grader who is naturally inclined to the same slacking I was in middle school, I am paranoid about his life choices. I've always said I didn't care what my children did for a living, as long as they were happy. While I know that my prior choices led me to the place and time of having my sons when I did, I am also painfully aware that we are in a financial bind in part as consequence of those choices.
Had I applied myself and finished my degree when that was supposed to be my main priority, my life would be very different. I might be better prepared to handle the financial fallout of divorce in my 40s, but I also might not have had these children. I probably would've gone on to have kids, but Max and Tricky could only be who they are because they were conceived and born at their respective moments in history.
I can't get caught up in what might have been or should have been; I live in the here and now, both as a result of and in defiance of my past. All I can do now is work my ass off to provide better opportunities for my kids but also for myself. This is part of learning to take care of myself in a whole new way.
When it feels overwhelming, I have to remind myself that this won't last forever. In the same way that the boys will age and grow—bringing an end to child support and the necessity of complete financial self-sufficiency—I will age and grow, getting through this process and reaping the rewards that I can on the other side.