Carpe Diem! (Going back to school in my 40s…)

carpe diemI couldn’t understand why the vending machine wouldn’t take my quarters. After trying three times, I gave up nearly in tears. This would be the second time in a few minutes I feel my eyes welling up. How could this happen twice in one night?

Just moments ago, I faced an unruly printer/copier in the student lounge begging it to cooperate. It didn’t and I gave up.

Yes, I said student lounge.

At 47, I find myself spending my weekends in a student lounge.

I am a college student. Again.

Last fall, I was accepted into the accelerated graduate program at Bay Path University. I am more than halfway through my program. In October, I will receive a Master’s of Science degree in Non-Profit Management and Philanthropy. My courses are eight-weeks long, with no break in between.

Most days I am able to juggle being a full-time working mom, wife and student… but sometimes, when the vending machine doesn’t quite work or I find myself staring at the printer or can’t quite figure out google docs, I question what I am doing.

Can I do it all?

What was I thinking? I have asked myself more than once.

As I sit down to finish writing my final paper for the class, I look around and realize I am only one of three people here, including the young girl working in the Starbucks counter. It is Saturday night and I am guessing most students are probably out enjoying college life. Most students probably don’t have to worry about what to make their family for dinner, or will they be home in time to see their family before they fall asleep.

I look at my laptop and notice I still have a ways before my paper is complete. I squeeze the squishy banana my daughter gave me to help with the stress, and continue typing.

Last year I took the plunge and decided it was time to go back to school to get my Masters. It wasn’t an easy decision. I had thought about going back for some time, but the timing wasn’t always good. I had waited long enough and wanted to do this. So I spent a weekend researching nearby universities and colleges which had an on-the-ground curriculum focusing on the nonprofit sector, and was fortunate to find Bay Path offered what I wanted and it was only a 25 minute drive. I applied, sent in my deposit and thought yes! I can do this. It will be good for my career, good for my family and besides, what is a little more juggling?

That was almost a year and half ago, and I am almost finished! My daughters are older now, and at 12 and 14, they are old enough to understand why I’m at the library most Saturdays, why Panera Bread and Noodles have become a weekly dinner and why I have had to miss many of their events this past year.

They have pitched in to help around the house more, started dinner most nights and sometimes we even study together. (They are helping me figure out google docs.)

And thank God for my husband, who doesn’t mind grocery shopping, and tries to juggle his work schedule so he can be home to have dinner with the girls.  I am also lucky to have wonderful parents who have helped in so many ways (!) and girlfriends who understand why I am “off the grid” since I started school. Life is definitely crazier and a little more hectic since I enrolled in my first class… with laundry sometimes happening at midnight and take out more than I’d like to admit.

But yet… it’s worth it.

I love being in school, it’s just been awhile (a long while) since I’ve to highlight, take notes, and write papers. The time commitment is intense and I often find myself stressed out more than usual. But I love what I am learning and my professors and classmates have been wonderful. I feel alive and have met the most amazing people along this journey who I admire and respect and who make a difference in so many ways.

Some days it’s just a lot.

By the time I get home from work, finish eating dinner and saying goodnight to the girls, I find myself struggling to stay awake many nights to write a paper. Sometimes, it’s just, well, a lot.

But I’m managing. Well, most days.

Some days I’m in tears, some days I’m not.

But every day I’m juggling.

Because isn’t that what mothers do? We juggle. ALL THE TIME.

We are used to it. It becomes second nature to raise our children and work – whether in the home or out – we somehow figure it out. We may not do it all right, all the time, but we do get it done.

Most of the time.

Until the day when we find ourselves in front of a vending machine in tears. Then we do what we do. We dry our tears, pick ourselves up, and walk into Starbucks to purchase a latte, instead.

The school’s cafe is called Carpe Diem, a Latin expression meaning “seize the day”.

Here’s to all the mothers out there juggling every single day. You can do it! Seize the day! And a special shout out to my fellow college moms. I have faith in us! We can do it!

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