Away to college!

Is it too late, at age 61, to move into the dorms?

In what may seem like an oddly timed activity for a 61-year-old woman, I’m going away to college. It’s only for a couple of weeks at a time over the course of two years (it’s a mostly online program), but I have longed for every moment of this experience for as long as I can remember.

When I was the “appropriate” age to pack my bags and head off to begin my own adult adventures, neither my parents nor I possessed the combination of knowledge and finances that could have launched me out of the nest. So, I went to American River College—and later to Sacramento State University—and eventually moved out of my parents’ house and into an apartment with friends. It all turned out fine—my close-to-home education got me where I am today.

So, I’ve never regretted what I did do—only what I didn’t.

Now that I am better versed on what’s out in the world and how to partake, I get to stow some clothes and books in my favorite suitcase and head back East to live in the dorms for two weeks. I don’t plan to attend any toga parties or football games, nor join a sorority. But I will be testing my skills and experiencing the world as a beginner on a million levels.

My official agenda is to attend a graduate program that focuses on exactly the kind of writing I do. It’ll be my chance to work with other writers and faculty who can help me hone my skills, inspire me to further develop my craft and give me the kick I need to keep going when my self-doubt starts to take over.

My unofficial plan is to live the fantasy I attributed to all of my high-school friends who went away to college late in the summer of 1969. In those reveries, I’ve imagined myself in their shoes, living in movielike scenes in which I am learning something new every day, about myself and the world around me. It’s never mattered, of course, that my friends themselves told me it was much more mundane than that, and that they didn’t fully appreciate it at the time. It would have been different for me, I would think.

In truth, I doubt it. In the years I’ve spent lamenting that my parents were broke and that I didn’t have high-school counselors who pointed me in the direction of financial aid and student loans, I’ve also realized that I was just a clueless as they were. So, as with most things in life, my “going away to college” is happening just as it should and at just the right time. I may not be the first to discover this, but I’m thinking that our real rituals of self-discovery are probably best appreciated at this end of things, when we’re a little older and a lot wiser. I’ll let you know how it goes.