I used to have grand ideas about my education. When I was a kid, my mom took me to see Notre Dame (South Bend…not Paris) and I was in love. The old buildings, the manicured lawns, the stadium, the latin, it all just oozed this idea that moguls, and leaders, and world dominance were born there. Or somewhere like there.
In high school, I decided on the University of Iowa. Admittedly, I came to this decision shortly after the cute older guy down the street enrolled there. After several visits, however, it was clear that Iowa City was in fact the place for me. I applied and spent months begging and pleading with God that I’d get in. I was so proud when I received my acceptance letter. I was equally devastated when we received the financial aid numbers and it was so much more expensive than schools in Minnesota or in states with which we had reciprocity (how on earth do Iowa and Minnesota not have reciprocity with one another I ask you?!). My parents and I decided on a liberal arts university in St. Paul and the rest is history.
The rest is history…that’s funny. The rest is actually a string of sordid tales that miraculously both a) left me alive , and b) brought me to this exact spot in my life. A spot with which I’m incredibly happy and satisfied.
Failing and being asked to leave college after four years was not part of my grand plan. It was embarrassing and I was ashamed. I threw myself into my work, a maneuver that most certainly shaped my career but at the time made me feel like a loser, and a few years later I returned to school to finish my degree.
I can honestly say the day I walked across the stage to receive my B.A., ten years after I started college, was one of the best of my life. Closure! Relief! Pride! The end of feeling ashamed! It was truly remarkable.
But it wasn’t enough. I graduated, I did the work, I put in the time, but I did not stretch myself academically. I didn’t impress anyone with my talent, my smarts, or my abilities. I got by. To be clear, at the time it’s what I needed to do to get done, but I knew I was capable of so much more. And I felt like I needed to prove it.
So I took the LSAT and I applied to law school. The day I received my acceptance letter to law school, I was living alone in my condo, and I remember standing in my kitchen holding the letter for a long long time. It was printed on lovely, creamy, watermarked letterhead. The words felt like validation. I knew I was smart. I knew I was capable of more. I knew someone besides me would figure it out someday. I hung that gorgeous letter on my fridge, enrolled, and subsequently backed out of going.
Over the past several years, like so many others, I’ve struggled with what I want to be when I grow up.
I’ve struggled with whether I really should go to law school, or if I should do exactly what I’m doing, or if there is something else out there for me. But I’ve gotten sick of lamenting about it here because…I’m 38…it’s time to either figure it out or stop my bitching and moaning. I’d like to spend the next 50 years doing something I enjoy and love. I do not want to spend the next 50 years searching or grasping at straws. That sounds like purgatory to me.
Over the past couple of months I’ve taken some classes and something has become increasingly clear. I really want to learn. I want to get better. I want to be criticized and encouraged. It’s not about wanting to be in 100-year-old buildings with latin wisdom carved into the door frames, although I still do have a soft spot for beautiful old college campuses. It’s about wanting to move forward with tools and more knowledge than I have now. And, if I’m being completely truthful, it’s a teensy bit about redemption.
I’m awaiting news. Sitting on the edge of my seat. Refreshing my home and work email inboxes every
ten four minutes. Jumping from my car to eagerly check my mailbox before I’ve even put it in Park. Do people email or actually mail news of this nature these days? I don’t know. Patience is not my strong suit. But I’m hopeful and excited about what my future might hold. I feel like I’ve come to some sort of understanding about what I need to do, the basics of what it needs to entail, that failure will most certainly be part of the mix, and that there is in fact a path to travel to get where I want to be. Instead of this illusive future that used to float out there with no clear way to access it. It’s exciting and nerve wracking.
So I wait. For maybe the first time it’s not the title it will give me, or the sweatshirt bearing the name of a prestigious institution that I’m jonesin’ for. I’m dreaming about learning, and practicing, and most importantly doing.