Confessions of a Non-Traditional Student

It was a dark and stormy night in the little village of Coldwater, Ohio, when the young widow determined she had one of two choices. She could continue working low paying jobs and surviving on Social Security benefits, or she could step out of her comfort zone and investigate the possibility of a secondary education.

A local community center offered evening classes in *Word Processing, where our widow enrolled and completed the classes with enthusiasm and determination. However, upon completion of the Word Processing classes, she found herself still unable to secure gainful employment. Determined to improve her lot in life, she pushed forward and endeavored to take her secondary education one step further.

One bright and sunny afternoon she drove to the neighboring village of St. Mary’s and visited the branch campus of Wright State University. There she met with an advisor who showed the widow the educational opportunities and financial assistance available to a women in her situation. The adviser concluded the interview with, “So, what do you want to be when you grow up?”

With her head spinning and the front seat of her rusted out 1980 Chevette strewn with registration materials, our widow drove home with an entirely new outlook on life. There was a whole world of opportunity out there and she wanted a piece of it. “What do I want to be when I grow up?” she pondered.

Arriving home to her twelve-year-old son and nineteen-year-old daughter the widow discussed the possibility of her entering college as a part-time student. The twelve-year-old son’s reaction was, “Mom, don’t you think you’re a little old to be going to college,” and the nineteen-year-old daughter shrugged with a “Whatever.”

After much research, soul searching, and discussions with her advisor, our ambitious student of 42 determined she would enroll that fall, not as a part-time student, but as a full-time student working in the faculty offices. And so, she began her educational journey at the branch campus, majoring in Social Work. Three quarters later, she completed her Associates Degree in English at the little campus by the lake. (Even at the ripe old age of 42, we often change our major.) That summer she began French classes at the main campus in Dayton, Ohio, and in May 1993, our widow earned her B.A. in English and Professional Writing, walked with her class, and graduated with a 3.8 GPA.

As you probably have assumed by now, I was the widowed mother of two who became a non-traditional student at a major university at the age of 42. In addition to earning my degree, I received an amazing hands-on education in computer usage. At that time PCs were only beginning to run in Windows with a mouse. That is correct, up until 1991, all PCs ran in DOS (Disc Operating System). Only Macintosh used a mouse, and only geeks used a Mac. (Yes, I admit I was a PC snob.)

Through the years I have been blessed with computer training opportunities offered though my employers. I have been blessed to learn new software programs and to advance that knowledge through subsequent employers and positions.

Now, my writing career has opened a plethora of opportunities to learn. This past year I completed the two year Apprentice course of study with the Christian Writer’s Guild and intend to begin the Journeyman course of study next year. I have attended several writing seminars, numerous lectures at our ACFW meetings, two Christian Writer’s Guild Conferences and am registered to attend my third in February 2011. I have attended one National ACFW Conference and one Colorado Christian Writer’s Conference. The classes at these conferences are informative, encouraging and keep me on track with my writing. I hesitate to mention the numerous books on the craft that I lug home each time I attend a conference.

Thanks to my education and training, today I have a good paying job that I truly enjoy, but a job that I hope to retire from in eight years when I begin my career as a writer and public speaker. With the Lord’s blessing it may be sooner than eight years, but that will depend on my success as a writer and speaker. As you can tell from my late entry into college, I seem to be a late bloomer, and it takes me awhile to get things right. (I didn’t learn to swim until I was 30.)

I intend to be a lifelong learner, and I advise anyone of any age to do the same. It keeps your mind alert and functioning and makes you a much more interesting individual.

*For those unfamiliar with a Word Processor, it was a type of stand-alone office machine that combined the keyboard text-entry and printing functions of an electric typewriter with a dedicated processor – like a computer processor – for the editing of text. Word processors usually featured a monochrome display and had the ability to save documents on memory cards or diskettes. This was 1989, and personal computers were in their infancy. Even the Commodore was only recently available to the general public.

Advertisements