Why I'm Returning To College In My 40s

by Jessica Hoefer-Land
Originally Published: 

I’m 44 years old. I’ve birthed two babies and endured two miscarriages. Moved to another state, divorced, lost a house, declared bankruptcy and stuck with jobs that promised career success. I ran my own business. I single-parented, had a midlife crisis, which has resulted in lifelong regrets. I lost 60 pounds, completed a marathon and gained 40 of the pounds back. I remarried the right man and, most recently, dealt with the loss of my dear grandmother and stepmother.

Basically, I’m a therapist’s nightmare or, at the very least, a challenging research project.

This is my story. We all have one, and each of our experiences are unique and our own. By the time we hit our 40s and beyond, we’ve witnessed a great deal. Our senses have been sharpened, our skills honed, the lines around our eyes reflect the fact that we are no longer young girls. We’ve endured loss, we’ve seen joy, we’ve had our moments of cynicism and new worries keep us awake at night. We wonder at times where the time has gone. Will I have enough money by the time I retire? Am I considered premenopausal? When was my last mammogram?

We wonder if there is more to this life. In the midst of all the giving and managing, what have we done for our own personal growth?

I started college at age 20 with good intentions. I worked full-time in order to earn tuition money. Life happened. I got married and school was placed on the back burner in order to support my husband in his career, plus we needed two incomes. I went back occasionally to check some classes off my list in hopes of finishing. I observed coworkers and acquaintances finishing school and heading off to pursue their careers. Meanwhile, I envied their accomplishments.

Finally, I started night school at a local university, because in order for me to get a promotion at work, I needed a degree. However, the first night of classes was the night I discovered my husband having an affair. Once again, school was shelved given the emotional nightmare that ensued.

It’s been 15 years since I’ve been to back to college, and now I’m trying again. My kids are in middle school, and I want the opportunity to finish something I started so very long ago. It’s a challenge for me because I grew up being told that I wasn’t smart enough and that working toward a degree was pointless. Unfortunately, I believed this lie, which continues to resurface today and whispers to my consciousness in times of doubt, “You’re not smart enough.”

Now that I’m in my 40s, I couldn’t care less if my degree gets me the right job. Yes, it’s more for personal reasons, but since when is that a bad choice?

I love my kids. I love my life. I love that I have enjoyed the privilege of being home with them, but I want more, as selfish as that may sound. While I can’t go back in time, I do have the ability to make the most of the present.

There are some things that I remind myself of as I embark on this new adventure. These things reinforce the idea that pursuing our dreams is necessary for our health and well-being as women.

I want my children to see that overcoming obstacles in life only proves our fortitude and strength.

While I realize a degree isn’t an instant ticket to healthy self-esteem, I believe it will encourage me to think more positively.

Accomplishments are never regrets.

I want to hone my craft, and my chosen field of study will enable me to do so.

Now, more than ever, is the time to do something for myself.

Fulfilling goals, no matter our age, is empowering.

Right now I have the opportunity to change my narrative, to develop my character and storyline.

I’m ready to put to death the childhood lie that threatens my health. I won’t allow negativity to have it’s way with me. I believe I’m worth the effort.

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