Thursday, August 30, 2007

School 'Daze'

I feel like a zombie. One of the living dead. I look like one, too. There’s good reason. Beyond my usual hectic life. You see, just like Tressa Jayne in my fourth Calamity Caper, I dropped back into college this week. And after more years away from academia than I care to admit to you nice folks, it isn’t a pretty sight.

Unlike Bethany’s poignant recounting of her son’s first day at kindergarten rich with emotions that tear at your heartstrings and, perhaps, take you back to a time when you had to see your baby or grandchild off on a big, yellow bus or wave goodbye to them at the classroom door, my own version of ‘Kathy Goes to College--Part II’ evokes few warm, fuzzy thoughts or deep, shaky ‘ah’ sighs. The sighs associated with my academic re-entry are more along the lines of a gasp for air followed by ‘Ohmigosh, what have I done?’ or the long, deep, sigh of relief when I fall into bed at night--‘fall’ being the operative word here.

So what would compel the middle-aged mother of four teenagers who holds down a full-time job and has writing deadlines looming to sharpen her pencils, purchase a five subject notebook, pricey textbooks, pull on a book bag and take a seat in a classroom with classmates her children’s ages? Well, besides masochism, that is.

In a word? Goals.

I’m a bit anal when it comes to goal-setting and goal-reaching. Once I place something on my goals grid, there are only two ways to see it disappear. One. I meet that goal. Two. I die before I meet that goal. Little Mary Sunshine here, huh? Like I said, I’m pretty OCD about this stuff.

This was the year I finally got sick of seeing the goal line stating: ‘Finish criminal justice degree.’ You see, I’m ‘this’ close to a degree in criminal justice. ‘This’ close! So I also decided this was going to be the last year that goal would vex me. And since I really prefer meeting that goal to kicking the bucket, I registered for classes two nights a week.

But this morning when the alarm had the audacity to go off at its customary five a.m. I wanted to throw my big, heavy, criminology textbook at it. I lay there wondering who the hell the smart ass who thought up the phrase ‘life long learner’ and in the dark of the pre-dawn morning I speculated on some interesting ways to do ‘em in.

Literarily, of course.

I was so dead tired I shuffled to the bathroom like a sleepwalker. What I saw in the mirror made me flinch. Halloween had arrived early. I looked like I was already made up for a role in a George Romero zombie flick. My hair was all stuck up like the Bride of Frankenstein and my eyes were bloodshot and red like Dracula’s eyes just before he bites the big one. (i.e. the jugular) Yikes! Someone should’ve warned me higher education could be hazardous to my health. And more importantly--to my hair!!!

Yet in those same moments I also thought about how many women I knew who, like me, were heads of their households, and held down jobs, wrote books, volunteered their time and talents, and still managed to pursue their dreams. Achieve goals. Kick butt and take names.

I lifted my chin and gave my reflection my best Dirty Harry look. I hadn’t managed to get both eyes open at the same time so I looked more like Popeye but you get the point. I can do this, I told myself, humming the ‘Gonna Fly Now’ music from Rocky. I can compete with kids half my age. I can work fourteen hour days. I can keep up this grueling pace. I am woman. Hear me roar. I almost dislocated my shoulder patting myself on the back. I felt like freakin’ Joan of Arc--well, until I remembered I’d only survived two night classes so far.

So much for Bullet Hole Bacus, Warrior Collegian. Still, having pursued by dream of writing for publication ten years before realizing it should win me bonus points for endurance and stamina. Right? Then again, it could all be due to good ole Iowa stubbornness.

They say you can’t teach an old dog new tricks but I beg to differ. It’s totally possible to teach an old dog new tricks. If you manage to keep the old dog awake long enough to teach her…

So, what elusive dreams are you chasing? What goals are proving elusive? And, if you have any sure fire tips for success--short of pharmaceutical aids, of course--as Kathy Goes to College: The Sequel plays out in real time, send them my way. Any sage advice or words of wisdom or atta girls as I limp through the hallowed halls of academia would be greatly appreciated.

Hoping to ‘make the grade’ -- or die trying,

~Kathy the Coed a/k/a Bullet Hole Bacus~


Christie Craig said...

Ahh, Kathy,

Girlfriend, you deserve an award for sure. Here, let see if I can find an old bowling trophy around here.

It belongs to my husband, but sweetheart, you deserve it more than he did, and I'm sure he won't miss it. And if does, I'll tell him what I always tell him. "The dog must have ate it."

The dog will play along. We have a deal, I use him when needed, and I look the other way when he pees on my Azalea bushes.

But seriously, you inspire me. So buy some scrunchies for the hair, some good under-the-eye black circle concealer and go get 'em. I'm cheering you on.

Crime Scene Christie

Gemma Halliday said...

I am seriously impressed, Kathy! 4 teenagers, two full-time jobs (writing certainly counts as one!) and you’re going back to school? Suddenly I feel like a slacker. Wish I had some great tips for you but all I can think is keep humming that Rocky theme.
Oh, and don’t date any of your professors. It gets messy. Don’t ask me how I know that…


Anonymous said...

Great post, Kathy. Very inspiring. I'm a firm believer in the "Make it Happen" mantra and, girl, you are definitely Making It Happen in your life!

(And as for Gemma's advice about not dating the professor, aw come on! Where's the fun in that? LOL.)


Kathy Bacus said...

Thanks, Christie, but you better hold the award until I see my grades...!

If I had a professor who, say, looked like Harrison Ford as Indian Jones, I'm thinking I'd be taking Faye's advice here, Gemma. Alas, no such luck. :(

And I sure picked a heck of a time to give up my Coca Cola. Apple and grape juices just don't have the same kick.

Thanks for the posts!


Unknown said...

You go girl. Kick butt and take names! Never hurts to check out the co-eds...

Estella said...

Kathy, I admire you for sticking to your goals!

Anonymous said...

That's great!! That's a very busy life. My goal or dream is to open a bookstore. We don't have one in my area & to go to a Waldenbooks is like 40 minutes away. My husband says go for it. But I want to wait til we sell our old house before doing that.

Kathy Bacus said...

What a fabulous dream, Stacy! I've always wanted to work in a bookstore or a library. To be surrounded by all those books! How cool would that be?

Thanks for the 'atta girls', Estella and Brenda. I can use all the pep talks I can get!


Minx Malone said...

I'm so jealous. I loved school. (Yes, I was that dorky kid) Every year at this time I have a sudden alarming urge to buy school supplies. I think it's my inner child trying to tell me something!

I can't wait to see your future blog posts about this. I'm sure this will prove to be another fun-filled adventure.

Kathy goes to College would be a great title for a book...