A Few Sour Grapes into Sweet Wine

In 2018 something will happen that should have happened almost fifty years ago: I will get my college degree. I will be seventy years old. I have this fantasy that when I’m finally handed my diploma time will go in reverse and I will only be twenty-one.

So, if I’m so darn smart, why didn’t I go to college?

I wanted to. And if you’ve heard this sad tale of woe before, you can “turn the page”, go to the next blog, turn on Bill O’Reilly.

My parents, actually my father, didn’t think I could finish anything. But I wanted to go to the University of Maryland (right down Route 1 from my hometown of Laurel, Maryland) to major in journalism with a minor in political science. I dreamed of writing for the Washington Post. “We’re not spending money to send you to college. You never finish anything. Don’t even apply to any colleges. You can apply to a couple of nursing schools, but that’s it.”

Nursing schools were less expensive than college. Student nurses were free labor back in the days of hospital schools of nursing. I ended up going to Easton Hospital School of Nursing for $500 for the full three years. Yep, that’s right. My father released 5 big ones for me to go to school for three years. And those weren’t “college” years either. Students at hospital schools of nursing usually got two weeks off a year—not the summer, no “spring break” and no long Christmas vacation.

I spent three years two hundred miles from home and received $20 a month for my spending money. I was very unhappy. But I stuck it out. I got good grades. I graduated and I became an RN. I started working in Easton Hospital and I hated it. I called off as often as I could get away with it.

Then I married a man who didn’t have a job and I was the major bread winner of a couple. Then I got pregnant and I was the major bread winner of a family. By the time my daughter went to school I was no longer working evening shift and I decided to go to college to get my degree. I started with the community college. There was a time when I worked full time during the week, did private-duty nursing on the weekends, volunteered for the Cancer Society and went to school at least one night a week, sometimes two.

And then I got a divorce.

I couldn’t leave my daughter home alone in the evening to go to school and I couldn’t afford to pay for the classes. My job wouldn’t pay for any classes that weren’t directly related to nursing. I didn’t want a nursing degree.

So here I am, forty-six years after getting my RN license (which I’ve let lapse so don’t send me any job offers) and I’m finally back in college—not full time, but enough to keep my brain functioning.

I have a 4.0 average and I think I’ve surprised my professors. A couple make it a point to talk to me.

I enjoy learning. Someone recently told me that I should have been in academia all along.

Yeah, I knew that fifty years ago.

Too bad no one else did.


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