Going back to school

Ok, I’m not really going back to school, not really. I’ve actually never thought about it other than in the nostalgic way of thinking, “Man, I wish I were still in college, those were really fun days and this shit sucks.” When my life consisted of taking class, doing theater and working a PT job that was, frankly, easy and low-stress. I felt a lot more then that I was doing what I wanted most of the day and night, and on my terms. Now life controls me. Debt controls me. Responsibilities. So yeah, longing to escape them is logical. But I never really considered going back, getting another degree, etc.

A few years ago, MIT offered some free classes online. The format of the site was very confusing and I couldn’t figure it out – perhaps I am not smart enough to be MIT material. But recently, Case Western Reserve University advertised that they were going to offer two (non-credit) classes for free. Free classes at Case? I hadn’t been tempted with such an offer since I worked there but was never allowed to take off work to go to class, which is the case for most Case employees, hence the “free tuition” thing doesn’t really work out. This was so long ago now that I don’t even know if they offer that “perk” (is it a perk if you can’t ever use it?) to employees.

Anyway, I signed up for one of the classes. There are 6 “modules” (classes) per week but you can do as little or as much as you want, since all the content is posted. There is a date limit for completion. The class has a real, formal syllabus which is several pages and which goes into great detail, and thus far, the material has been excellent and I’ve only done one module. Yesterday at lunch I watched the first couple of videos, printed out the syllabus, the course info, the info about how aspects of the class will be weighted toward your grade and then the required reading for the week. Then I got out a bellows folder (accordion file for those of you unfamiliar) and put several smaller file folders inside labeled for the syllabus and course overview, notes, and another for required reading. As soon as I put all the paper into the folders I had a real “a-ha” moment. Huge light bulb: THIS IS WHAT I WAS MISSING IN COLLEGE. The knowledge or ability to ORGANIZE things. This, THIS is what 20+ years of working in an office has done for me. I had a plan of attack, an organizational style and everything was going to be much easier to access with these simple folders.

I’m sure that to many of you, this is a “duh” moment – perhaps you started this type of behavior back in high school. Maybe it was innate for you, or maybe you had parents who went to college (obviously mine didn’t) who were able to assist you with this type of thing, or at least tell you how to do it or explain to you why it was important. Whether I have the time to finish the course or not, I already feel better prepared to tackle it than I did perhaps any college course I ever took. Hell, even if someone HAD told me what to do, I had no money and no parents to give me any in order to make such a thing happen. I mean, I couldn’t even buy all the books for most of my courses and had to book share with people. “Organization” was a big ringed notebook into which I’d shove loose, folded up pieces of paper that would fall out somewhere on Willow on the walk home, or in the green room when I wasn’t paying attention. Going to class was mostly focused on studying or doing homework, there was no organization of anything – my time, the course work, the management of all the courses at once, all I did was play catch up and put out fires.

I told my sister about this and she said she realized this a long time ago too. She mused that perhaps if we went to college NOW we would get 4.0s because we’d be so much better prepared to actually tackle the classes rationally.

Whether I finish the course or not, I’ve already learned something valuable.

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