Mixed in between the crayons, pencils and other standard elementary school supplies I bought in August, were a couple large multi-subject notebooks, a pack of gel pens and pastel highlighters. I remember putting them in the cart thinking I would need them and best get them now while everything was on sale. Such an adult thing to do isn’t it? At the time I was only guessing at what it would be like to go back to school myself and feeling a little excited about it.
I still couldn’t believe I was going to do it. When I graduated with my degree many years ago I swore I would never go back to school. I had worked full time all through college and it took much longer than four years as a result. At times I was so over it all and how long it was taking I wanted to give up. Not everyone has the opportunity to go to college directly out of high school and I was one of them. Yet I knew a degree was a necessity for better jobs and opportunities so I did what it took to secure it. It was one of the most grueling things I have ever done too. I swore I’d never do that again either.
Never say never right?
I thought I was losing my mind when I bought up the idea of doing this at all but the prospect of what it could mean was louder than the insanity. Or so I hoped that was the case. Here I am less than two weeks from starting a new degree program sweating like it is the middle of August in high humidity. I’m nervous about it. Not so much about the classes I’ll be taking but the how to balance it all in my life. What am I going to do when my son gets sick and needs me? How am I going to do all this when I have to travel for work?
What was I thinking?
As I pulled out the supplies I bought for myself a few months ago I find I am panicking some at what all this now means. Not only am I going to take time from my life and family to work on this but I’m also going to pile up debt for it. Am I going to be able to find a job that gives a return rate for this investment? Is this the right thing to be doing at this point in my life? Menopause and college go together right? We’re already losing our minds so why not? Damn having passion and interests, this is what it gets you! Damn ballcap wearing Tony Robbins energetic messages of inspiration telling me not to settle in life too. Damn all those podcasts and books telling me to live my best life. It’s all well and good until you find yourself registered for school and box of textbooks arrives at the door.
That was it though. I had struggled for the last few years at work and was burned out. I didn’t give a damn anymore about my career because I had been knocked down too many times to count at this point. My ideal job was best described as a refuge out of the spotlight where political drama was minimum and I wasn’t part of it. Hiding. Getting my paycheck and going about my business. Settling. I had a small business that I wanted to grow as a way out of all that but it too suffered under the weight of all this settling. I didn’t have the energy to do it all and something had to give. So I signed up for college and a new degree program for my 49th birthday in August. Insanity is best served with sweet iced tea on a hot day.
While extremely nervous at the prospect of not having any time for the next two years to look up from doing schoolwork, I am also elated. It feels right this time. Before when I went to college it was out of necessity. You can’t hardly get any decent paying job without a degree anymore. Back then, I chose what everyone chooses to get one. A basic business degree. It has served me well. I was able to apply and get great paying jobs over the years and even move up in my career. It however hasn’t led me to that place I wanted to be. It hasn’t given me that security and stability to rely on long term. It hasn’t filled my heart with fulfillment and joy in my work.
This new degree also feels necessary but in a that is about me this time. Not trying to fit into some corporate bubble of predetermined success paths or human resource strategic goals, this is about me. It feels like being able to finally choose what I want to be when I grow up and actually doing it. The part of the inspirational talks where they fill you with energy to go out and pursue your dreams. I’m standing at that doorway and it included a new degree. Maybe it’s the hormones talking but this feels scary, exciting, wild and crazy at all the same time.
I only have a general idea of where all this will lead me too. That is probably the scariest part of it all. Like starting a new phase in life that I lack experience in knowing what to expect. You hear the horror stories of menopause but until you start going through it yourself, well there is no good story until you have your own. Maybe that’s the lesson here too. You have to learn as you go and be courageous to start over at different doors in your life. You don’t have to settle for anything either. Most things in life are not stable or secure anyway so being able to bravely take that step to pursue what truly interests you seems insanely logical. It is what I’m telling myself anyway at this point.
The gifts of menopause and going back to college seem overwhelming at times but I’m putting on that brave face and walking through the new door in life. It could all blow up in a beautiful mess. Life does that too you know. Some things don’t work out despite our best efforts. That has certainly been the case in my career so what truly do I have to lose at this point besides some settling I have found myself doing?
I unpacked my textbooks and prepared my sewing table for schoolwork. My new notebooks set proudly next to my new pens ready for those first notes I will write. It won’t be easy I know that. It won’t always be fun either. Yet I’m going to take in this moment of a new beginning and relish in it. The greatest gift we can give ourselves is the gift of learning something new about ourselves. I learned that even though menopause has started for me I still have a lot more living to do.
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