This is a big week for me. On Tuesday, the Spring Semester starts, and I will find myself a full-time student again for the first time in 13 years. This will not be my first experience as a ‘non-traditional’ student. In 2009, at the age of thirty-six, I went back to school to get a CIS degree. But that was while I was raising young children full time and trying to materially and emotionally support a spouse with a full-time teaching career. It was a lot. But I did well, even if I ran out of steam and fell about three credits shy of getting my AA.
I think this experience will be different. I don’t have kids at home anymore, and my current partner is also a student, so we will be able to support each other. We’re even taking an ASL class together. No, this should be a completely different experience, though I know it won’t be stress-free. Also, I’m no longer singularly responsible for planning and cooking all our meals, and doing all the housework, the way I was before. My current partnership is much more equal than my last one was.
I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t a little nervous, though. I’m older than I was, even if I’m just as healthy, I think. In the intervening years, I’ve done a deep dive into how my brain works, and I know how to be productive. Over the past couple of years, I’ve been getting a lot of stuff done, both housework and writing and reading and other stuff. So, I know I can do it. It’s going to be an adjustment, however, having someone else’s external schedule imposed over mine. I’m going to have to get up on time every day (which means breaking my addiction to the snooze alarm, which is already in progress). I’m taking sixteen units, which is kind of a lot. Only one of those classes is online.
The subject matter is different from anything I’ve ever studied before. I’m going back to earn a certificate in Digital Art and Design, so I’ll be in a lot of Art classes. Starting with line drawing and beginning design, as well as intro to digital art. That’s just this semester. Halfway through, I’ll be adding an Adobe Suite online tutorial class. I’m hoping this will give me a new set of skills that I can use to support my writing career. But this is an entirely new area for me.
I spent most of my teenage years obsessively drawing, and I loved doing it, even if the art I produced was terrible. I knew nothing about anatomy, or design principles. S put some nice pictures together but had no hope of making most of my projects match the image I had in my head. Through all those years, I never took an art class. So, getting back to this now, at 51, feels like a return to an old vision of myself that was never quite able to develop. Will I be any better with formal training? I’d almost have to be.
Future classes will take me further into design skills, including graphic design, as well as digital photography, animation, and web design. I’m excited to learn about all of it. My goal is to be able to gain proficiency at formatting my own books and designing my own book covers, and maybe, if I get good enough, earning some extra money by doing that for other people.
But even as I add this new challenge, I’m not abandoning my writing goals. I still plan to produce 30,000 words a month. I have been on my new writing schedule for the last two weeks, just to make sure it’s realistic. 2-4 on Wednesday and Fridays, 11-2 on Saturdays. I need to produce 7500 words in those three days, and I’ve met or exceeded that in the first two weeks. So, I know this is doable. I also need to work in time for editing and other publishing-related tasks. I want to release three books this year.
I think it’s important, as we get older, not to settle into old patterns, but to stretch and grow and learn new things, and expand into new areas. It keeps you young, and studies show it can actually extend your life and help stave off dementia. I’m definitely doing that.
Am I afraid I might suck at this? Absolutely! But really, if I try this, and fail, then I really haven’t lost much. I lose more by never trying, and always wondering if I could have been successful.
So, this week is a new beginning. I’m really looking forward to it. I feel like I am at the cusp of an entire new life, and I welcome its unfolding.