The Life of a Non-Traditional Student
Continuing my education has always been a goal for me. I meant to do it when I got out of the military. Then I fully intended to do it when my oldest child started school. Then I was definitely going to pursue my education after my youngest child was in school. Then I decided to work to feed, house and clothe my family (darn laws). Now, here I am, a mid-summer chicken who will have taken six(ish) years to finish a four year degree. The end is in sight, but the journey has been long and arduous.
I started back to college at the age of 42. By then we are no doubt adults, correct? However, I quickly found myself both elated and confused, old and out of touch, as well as finding the need to quell the "inner mom" in me whenever any of the younger students acted inappropriately or was in crisis. I have often felt conflicted by what I learned about myself. Surely the life I led up this point made me a professional of most matters! Indeed, it did not.
I amused myself with the opinion that I had always been a social worker, just not a degreed one. Then I started social work classes my junior year. Within two Diversity class sessions I realized just how misinformed I had been about myself. The nice person I thought I was not real; I was just like everyone else. I had prejudices, biases, and, the kicker for me, I was a hugely offensive stereotyper (not a real word, I think). That which I considered to be fact was actually a tool used to oppress others. Wait! What? Me? An oppressor? The heck you say.......But I was. It was in that first two weeks of school that I actually began to face myself. I had to consciously confront my own acts of oppression and biases, which is no easy task. Some days I would walk out of diversity class almost euphoric at the beauty of social work; other days I would walk out feeling the weight of my own misconceptions. Yet, I have come to realize that the only guilt I should have is if I chose to continue thinking the way I did. Oh, sure, I still have work to do, but at the very least I am able to identify the things I need to work on in order to serve the people I want to be a helper for.
I suppose the moral of my story is: We all have a story. We all have experiences which have contributed to our beliefs. We have all been the oppressor as well as the oppressed. But what do we do with this knowledge? I have an easy answer to speak but not so easy to put into action. I have chosen to take this new knowledge of myself, place it under a microscope, and examen why I think (thought) and feel (felt) the way I do. After all, if I remained angry at all the bad in my life, and the people that may have induced that anger, I would be no help to anyone, least of all myself.
I graduate in May of 2016. Of all the journeys I have been on in my life, this one has been one of the top five most meaningful. In learning about how fortunate I really am, even with all my missteps and horrible experiences, I have grown and realize that even the worst of times have value, as long as I am willing to see the good that comes out of bad things. I hope that I will someday pass this on to at least one of my clients. Meanwhile, I'll keep learning, looking at myself, and will try, yes try, to continue to be conscious of how my actions and words, no matter how "innocent" I think they are, could ultimately leave to the oppression of others.
- Lorie Lashway-Grant
Posted on Tue, September 1, 2015
by Amy Arnold filed under