Everyone has their reasons

One more odd bit about going to college at my age: I’m much closer in age to the professors than I am to most of the students. (I’ve even been older than a few of them, but that was mostly at my previous school.) This means I’m also much more likely to find teachers and other school employees attractive, although I’m far less likely (as in “won’t do it”) to extend finding someone attractive to a perusing a physical relationship with them. (Never mind the fact that I don’t have time for another partner!)

I bring this up mostly due to a conversation I overheard between two students concerning a friend of theirs who had taken a class purely based on his attraction to the teacher. Now I can say that having a teacher I find attractive can certainly make a class more interesting. I’ve absolutely had classes with instructors that were very much my type, both physically and socially, and under other circumstances I might have at least made some casual inquiries as to their availability. However, I can’t imagine signing up for a class based on nothing more than the physical appearance of the teacher.

So I must create my first poll ever …

Define attractive however you wish – physical appearance, melodic voice, collecting designer bottle caps, whatever floats your boat outside the consideration of class subject! I’m very attracted to geeks, so naturally the person who was waxing poetically about zir Linux system and advocating for strong passwords really caught my attention. If this was the sole factor in a decision to sign up for a computer OS or security class with that person, I think it would be perfectly valid, even if this is a characteristic I find attractive. If I signed up based on the fact that ze was very much within one of my preferred physical categories … well, I think that would be questionable.

The first few weeks of the Spring Semester

In my last post the new semester had started, but I had not actually made it to class due to having a stomach flu. That first week I made it to class two whole days – Wednesday and Thursday. I at least got to meet most of my professors, but did not meet my professor for Introduction to 2D Design until the following week as she was out due to having, you guessed it, the flu. There seems something rather symmetrical in that, actually. Just to round out the fun of the first week, I ended up going to the emergency room on Friday with gastro-intestinal issues related to the flu with which I though I had finished.

I can recall with clarity my youth when I loved to be home sick instead of at school, especially when I had something as iron-clad as a trip to the ER to back me up on my legitimate absence. Now I find myself somewhat resenting my body for getting sick and I’d really much rather be in even my least favorite class than at home sick. Around the time I arrived in the ER, I was actually supposed to be interviewing for a on-campus job with technical services. I think it’s more than fair to say that I really would rather have been at the interview!

Fast-forward a few weeks and I’m firmly settled into my new routine, including that tech services job. (Yay for Semi-gainful employment!) Monday and Wednesday are my ‘long’ days – starting with my first class at 10:00 with my last class ending at 20:00. The new job has me here a few extra hours, but for some of those hours I was just hanging out in the LGBTQ center chatting with people anyway. (I do still get one day a week which I get to do that. This makes a good balance between being social with other students and getting a little income.)

Being here in Wisconsin it should come as no surprise that we’ve had several days of very hard snow. Thus far, I have only had one class canceled due to snow and that was a decision by the professor, not the school. While the school has closed due to snow twice this semester, both closings were for evening classes and neither affected me directly. The one canceled class did allow me time to catch up on some non-school related activities, although to be honest I kind of wish I had not already been dressed when I saw the email about the cancellation — I could probably use the sleep!

I should also post thoughts on individual classes, but I’m not going to do so right now. (I’m writing this during some down time at work and I’m off to do a walk around before I go home for the evening.)

Finals week …

This is made a lot more interesting by the fact that I’ve also got a work project ending this week. In some ways, this is good, because fewer total classes this week means I have more time to work, but the work pressure means I’ve got a lot less time to study. (The fact that the class I need to study for most has an exam on Tuesday really doesn’t help!)

Time is running short!

Why am I doing this?

Alternately: How the heck did I end up as a first time college student at my age?

As I write this, I’m 42 years old and I’ve been working towards my first college degree (Computer Science Major with a Minor in Web Development) for just over two years. This is my first semester at the University of Wisconsin-Parkside in Kenosha, Wisconsin. Although I am very happy to be there, it’s somewhat daunting to realize that I’m classified as a freshman and will be at this for at least four more years. I’ll expound upon those circumstances in another post, but for now I’d like to explain how I came to be going to college for the first time at my age.

I grew up in a fairly poor area in rural North Carolina. My parents separated when I was in my mid-teens, something that really should have happened about ten years earlier, and as my mother left the state as she feared for her life. Considering my father’s actions in the days after she left, her fears were certainly justified. The short version is this: he he kidnapped her (adult) nephew at gunpoint trying to make him reveal where she had gone. Subsequently, dad was sentenced to three months in state prison and pushed further along with slide towards the bottom. Needless to say, this left us a bit estranged.

Weirdly enough, I continued to go to school during all this. I had some supervision from other family members, but I spent a lot of time on own. Even at the time, I was very much aware as to how many of my fellow students would have just dropped out, but I’d already become determined that I wasn’t going to do that. I still got my lazy carcase out of bed every morning and went to school despite a lack of parental supervision. (Well, most mornings, at least … this being more than twenty-five years ago, I can’t swear that I didn’t stay home sometimes.) Oddly enough, my grades definitely slipped a bit right about then. Wow, go figure, huh?

After dad was released, I started spending less and less time in his home and more time at the houses of friends’ families or that of my girlfriends. The time line is a bit fuzzy now – I think at least partially because I don’t want to remember that period too clearly – but once Summer came around, I left one day and just never came back. At 17, I lived in my car for about a week or so, then moved in with my girlfriends family for most of the Summer. Towards the end of the Summer, my mom returned to the area and I moved in with her and her then boyfriend, but with far less of a parental relationship and much closer to the status of “house mates.” I was still free to come and go as I pleased and … well, it’s kind of amazing to me looking back on that life from so far away that I survived.

The upshot of all this is that by the time I was nearing my high school graduation, affording college was a virtual impossibility and just getting the hell out of North Carolina seemed like a huge bonus. Like many kids in similar situations, the military seemed like the solution. I served in the USAF and invested in the GI Bill, but once I was discharged, I had become so disillusioned with the military that I really didn’t want anything to do with anything connected to the service … so eventually I let my benefits expire unused. At the time, it didn’t seem that important anyway: I was working IT jobs and if not well off, at least I was pretty comfortable over all. Who needs college, right?

During that time I taught myself a lot of database concepts, mostly with MS Access. I did a lot of user interface designs with Access as a back end, data migration, data normalization, and other useful bits and pieces. I learned a smattering of other things through various jobs and project – some networking, some PBX administration, hardware maintenance, and even enough other general programming concepts to be useful, but I was still largely backing myself into a nice comfortable niche market centered around MS Access. For a while, things were pretty good, even after 9/11 and the aftermath started hurting the job markets. I can take some solace in the fact that I was one of the last consultants let go from my really cushy long-term, open-ended project, but in the end, I was still let go.

With an ever tightening job market, I was left with a history of a lot of experience in a fairly specialized subclass of an already specialized area. I had some experience in other areas, but very little with which to back it up and even in those areas, I didn’t have a great deal of depth. It took me a while, but I realized that I really did need that piece of paper to go along with that experience after all.

In June of 2010, I enrolled in a technical school¹. It was my 40th birthday present to myself. I’m still on the journey I started that day and it’s going to take me a while to complete it. It’s not been a smooth road and there have been more than a few times when I’ve started questioning whether or not this is worth it and if I really want to continue this process, but I’m determined not to back out of it. I’m glad to say I have family and friends encouraging me, even if it does mean that I must chose school work over being with them sometimes.

I am writing this blog both to tell my story and to remind myself that it is worth it and that I will not quit.

  1. Note that my current school is not a technical school; that’s a story for a different post!