Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Starting back to school at 49

As if working 50 to 60 hours a week and raising six children wasn’t enough on my plate, I added a helping of full-time school this spring. By the time my graduatation date finally rolls around this time, I will have crossed over the 50-year mark. I could even be a grandmother.

When my hubby graduated from college before me, he moved our family to rural Montana. At that time, the closest university was in another state and it did not have a secondary education program. Online classes were rare, expensive and not in courses I needed to finish my degree. With no other options available, I did what many young mothers do…I chose my family over my education.

Some years later, our family moved to within 30 minutes of a university. When my youngest entered school full-time I realized I was finally in a position to finish the degree I had started so many years earlier.

That excited thought was rapidly displaced by a long list of doubts, fears and despairs. Isn't that the way Satan loves to work--knock down your enthusiasm with naysaying? He doesn't even give you much chance to get a breath. The moment you think something would be cool, he's there telling you it's hopeless.

Well, here's what he told me.

I was too old to start now. Goodness, our first-born son was in college! He wouldn’t want to share text books with Mom!

(Actually, he was attending BYU and I would be going to a different school, so saving on text books was out of the question--though I am considering the idea with our second son!)

Okay, so I countered that attack because I wasn't really concerned with what my son or the younger college students would think. I had once been a younger college student with older students sprinkled into classes around me and I didn’t mind them--as long as they didn’t ask too many ‘old’ or dated questions and hold the class up too much with their reminiscing.

No one will hire're too old. Okay, he did bump me back good on that one. Afterall, what chance did I have of being hired as a first-time teacher at age 50? That's almost retirement age! Why go through the expense and effort of school if it isn’t going to get me the job you want?

I think God countered on that fear. I literally found myself in several unplanned conversations with principals and superintendents—some I knew—some I did not. Each time, I believe those unexpected encounters were arranged by the Lord. So, I took advantage of them. I expressed my "old age" concern to them and asked their opinions. Each one readily answered that, grades being equal, they would hire a first-time teacher at my age with life experiences and real confidence over a fresh-out-of-college teacher with no life experiences and no confidence or, worse, cockiness or bravado. Their enthusiasm and support made me feel like I could finish my degree and then actually enter the world of teaching even if I was starting out in my 50s.

You won't be able to make school work Again, I was not worried about the academics portion. I’ve always been blessed with a sharp mind. However, I did find myself listening to this worry about making school fit with an already full and demanding life. Prayer and my patriarchal blessing helped me conquer this concern.

They won't accept your previous credits This fear may sound silly to some but I had been in my junior year when we moved away from educational opportunities. Would I have to start over? While waiting to hear back from several schools I took this agonizing fear to the Lord and received a very powerful answer. Even if no credits were accepted and I found myself starting completely over, this was what He wanted me to do. Case closed.

Making a move like this is dumb in this economy While many students work full-time and go to school full-time, my job was 50-60 hours a week with quite a bit of travel. I tried doing both for a while but it wasn’t working. Finally, my husband and I discussed financial options were I to quit my job. How could we make it work? I crunched numbers and lost sleep. What would going back to school do to my family financially? What if I had to quit my job to do it?

Still unsure, I asked for and received two priesthood blessings…one from my husband and another, a month later, from my brother when I visited with family in a distant state. Both blessings said the exact same thing. The Lord wanted me to pursue my education and the finances we needed would come. In answer to those blessings, my job did not want me to quit and they took great steps to accommodate me by letting me go part-time.

Yes, we have to tighten our financial belt at a time when the economy is a disaster and prices are rapidly rising, but we have the promise from the Lord that this is right and we will be fine. I can’t tell you how much peace that brings. I don’t have to make my decisions based on the price at the pump or the grocery store or watch the financial markets with fear. I know what the Lord wants me to do and what He has promised and that makes all the difference in the world.

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