If you go back, you have to go back

Fair warning:
If you "go back to school" as an adult, fully growed and all ... there's something you should know. Actually, there are a few things you should know. At Marylhurst, they'll tell you these things:

1. You'll be able to do this.

2. You know more than you think you do.

3. You have a lot of skills, built over a life of real living, and these skills will help you in any academic pursuits. These skills were not available to you when you were younger. (It gives a whole new meaning to the word "seniors," though ...)


Fine and good and true and thank goodness! Those things are certainly true.

But here's what they won't tell you. Or, to be fair, I haven't heard it yet. I bet it's included in the course LAC 301.
Academic Learning: Discovery and Practice
This course introduces students to the culture of Marylhurst University and to the significance of the University's focus on outcome-based, liberal arts and adult learning. Students consider and apply different perspectives about learning as they plan for and reflect on their educational goals.

Everyone has to take that course "within the first two terms following admission." It's the course that introduces the unique Marylhurst system and culture, and I am looking forward to it. Maybe that's the course where you find out what I'm discovering.

What I'm discovering is this:

1. When I was younger, I was too inexperienced with life to guess accurately at how big a mountain might be before I started up its side. I'm older now. I can see what it is I am intending to do. Ignorance, it turns out, was bliss!

2. When I was younger, I could push through, pull an all-nighter, make it happen, scramble and convince myself that "I work better under pressure." This is like everything else that is true in youth. It's not that those things were good, it's that I had a vigorous, brief, and rapid recovery time no matter how stupidly I acted. Now, though, when I'm stupid, I can't recover. So ... I can't afford to be stupid.

And worst of all,
3. You have to go back to go back!

All those nightmares of not knowing what I was doing, or not being able to find my schedule, or not having my books when I got there ... all those classes I skated through instead of paying attention ... every unresolved issue, guilt trip, insecurity, and gap and hole in self-confidence ... it's all still there!

Apparently those things live in a closet somewhere in a person's psyche, and when you open the door marked "GOING BACK TO SCHOOL," they all fall out on your head. No. Wait. It's not a cupboard or a closet. It's an attic. Up there, in your head, all that stuff has been sitting for all these years, and the bat guano has been piling up on top of the mess. That's it exactly. Ashleigh Brilliant has brilliantly described my dilemma. The part of my life where I live - where I have been living for the past couple of decades and then some - the part everyone else sees, down here in the first couple of floors of my house - that part is fine. But it's complicated. It's a juggling act I've learned to do, but it's still juggling. And now I want to organize the attic? What was I thinking?

This picture here - to the right - see the red circle? It shows the "entry point" for the bats. More pictures here, and note: no belfry, but lots of bats. Good picture of the academic mind gone to ruin, if you ask me.

I have now spent nearly all of "Week Two" of this online course doing a 48 year old woman's version of "but I don't want to." And "I'll do it later." And "I don't know how." And "I need more feedback." And about a dozen other things that are just too perfectly parodies of my younger self whining and whingeing away. I can't possibly pretend that I don't know what is going on. I'm avoiding. I'm just plain, old, ordinary, unromantically, simply avoiding.

But I'm too old to avoid, and there are too many years of not avoiding for avoiding to feel even marginally like relief or any sort of solution. I'm too old for this, and here I am doing it anyway. Sheesh!

The thing is ... I want that attic space for something besides discarded stuff that should've been taken to the dump, languishing under a layer of bat guano. I want it for living space.

I want not only to clean and organize, but to decorate as well. These are pictures of a really beautiful attic - they're from DesignSponge - which is a site full of pictures of lovely interior spaces where the inhabitant can relax in the freedom of order. Designed order. Thoughtful order.

That's what I want in my interior. Thoughtful order. I want to be able to go up there and relax and enjoy the fruit of my labor - I'll put the fruit in a pretty bowl and set it on a pretty table lit by the afternoon sun slanting through the windows in the dormers. I like the view from up there.

Going to school at my age is a decision to move all the way up into my attic, and own the whole of my space. This is a decision to live in all the rooms of my life. I wonder if that's what all the dreams of stairs have been about ...

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