There’s already some written here about the ways that Êta and I aren’t very traditional. Yet another role where that label can be applied is actually quite conventional: non-traditional college student(poorly defined term that it is). You know… that fancy name they give to those of us who are older by 5 or more years than the majority of our college peers, or however it is that they determine it. Sometimes, it can be downright bizarre walking around the quite typical college campus among all the early twenty-somethings and (egads!) teenagers….these young people who are closer in age to my kids than they are to me.

This is not where I attend university, but the campus here isn't all that different.

There are some days where I wonder why I’m even doing it. The past couple days especially, I’ve nearly caught myself saying out loud, “What the hell am I doing here?” at wholly inappropriate moments. That’s the thing, though… I know what I’m doing there, and why I’m there. And more importantly, I know why I wasn’t there before now. It wasn’t too long ago I heard this NPR story air on the radio. I could relate to it on many different levels. If I had gone to college when I got out of high school, I’d have had no idea what I was meant to get out of it. I know what I was interested in then, and I know for a fact now that I’d be less than happy working with computers, which is undoubtedly what I’d have gone into back then. Now, I’m studying something that matters…that has meaning to me, beyond just getting a degree or a job. Even now, though, I can still relate to a lot of the NPR story. The return on the cost is questionable, but as I said, the financial benefits of a job are secondary to my true purpose in going. The focus is still off-balance more towards grades and less towards actual learning, but that’s true across much of the American educational system.

Even those things don’t outweigh my desire to finish, though. So, in those moments when I find myself wondering what I’m doing there, I know what’s really going on. It’s self-doubt talking. It’s that part of me that repeats the rest of Thom Yorke’s lyrics in my own voice telling me how imperfect I am and how I don’t belong… telling me that I am not special at all. And, it usually happens when I let my previously mentioned habit of procrastination get the best of me… in those times where I’ve put something big off until the last minute (or occasionally after the last minute), and I’m worried that I won’t be able to get it done. Let’s face it though, I’ve been in this spot before and likely will be again. It’s not easy to get it all done, and sometimes I don’t or I don’t do as well as I’d like…but none of those things are failure. Failure would be me listening to that voice telling me that I can’t do it and quitting. Failure would be me living the rest of my life knowing that I didn’t do something that I wanted to do and had the ability to do, but didn’t. That’s not an option.

The thing is… No matter how difficult some things may be for someone or how bad we may be at one particular thing or another, the simple fact is that it’s truly rare to find the individual who’s never succeeded at anything. I guess that’s what it takes sometimes, is simply reminding yourself of your past successes so that you can build on them to face current and future challenges. So, that’s what I’ll continue to do in my usual, non-traditional way.

English: MSA graduation 2011

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)