One of many reading assignments this week covered the process that non-traditional students go through when deciding to pursue a degree and their reluctance to labeling themselves as students. I have never related to a homework assignment more in my entire life.
I joined the military so I could get a degree without debt. As the saying goes, life happens while you’re busy making other plans. I started courses at a community college but stopped for a deployment. Then I came back home and had baby number 2. Then I changed jobs and my children needed help with their homework…add these legitimate concerns to a pile of BS excuses and that covers my extended break from my education. I got my associates in 2014 and took another break. Then I thought I’d attend the university I wanted when I was younger and spent a semester feeling like an outcast surrounded by classmates not much older than my daughter, complaining about problems that were not even worth stressing over. I was the only one taking notes in a notebook. The only one willingly engaging my professors in conversation. I did not feel like a student. I felt like a dinosaur. I felt like I didn’t belong there at all.
Then I found my current school. My major allows me to gain skills and knowledge about the field I’ve been working in for years and all of my classmates are working adults like me. I feel like I belong here, but I still wouldn’t introduce myself as a student.
I’m a wife, a mother, a Soldier, a leader, an employee, a daughter, granddaughter, sister, volunteer, friend…but I feel guilty somehow adding student to that list. Is it guilt? Is it that I already juggle so many things if I add one more label my balancing act will collapse? I don’t know what it is. Probably a combination of several things.
Sometimes I save all of the laundry for the weekend. I do loads in between reading assignments. That’s my study “break.” Other times I do my homework when I get home from work and the kids have “Fend for yourself night” where they heat up leftovers or have sandwiches and chips for dinner. And sometimes we exceed our limit of one night per week take out.
Some weeks I feel like superwoman. I get up the first time my alarm sounds. I get my first cup of coffee and glass of water in before a quick yoga session and might even go for a quick run. I pack my lunch, get my youngest child to before school daycare and head off to work in a great mood. Other weeks I leave work late because the deadline for everything has changed. I get home late, my husband cooks and I’m up until after midnight doing homework and I snooze one too many times the next day.
I’d be lying if I said any of this was easy. But I’d also be lying if I tried to say the struggle of balancing all of this wasn’t obviously worth it. It will pay off. I will finish this degree. I will feel that accomplishment and show my daughters it can be done. I will not be in school forever and will one day be able to take naps again. But back to that reading assignment…I think I’ll be able to comfortably refer to myself as a student around the same time that I graduate, or by the time I’m in graduate school.
I can whisper it and even write it here…(I’m a student.)