Yesterday I enrolled at NEO.
I am an official college student. Sometimes I hyperventilate when I say those words.
I was nearly sick all morning yesterday before I went to enroll. I might be a bit tense about this new phase of my life. Actually, I'm better now that the enrolling is done. I still get flutters when I think about this gigantic undertaking.
Late at night when I'm tired and frustrated, the doubts start creeeeeeeping in. What was I thinking - I am almost 34 years old! I have three children who need for me to devote all of my time to them. When will I have time to study? Will I ever cook dinner again? What if I get anything less than an A - will I still be devastated like I was in High School? Have I just set myself up for failure?
Fortunately, during the daytime hours I feel exhilarated by the decision to go to school. I really am excited. Paul says he'll respect my pleas for alone time and promises he'll keep the kids out of my way when I'm studying. Riiiiiight. And monkeys might fly outta my butt. But it was sweet that he said it.
What is cracking me up more than anything is the reaction people are giving Mom, Tater and me when we tell people I'm going back to school. The other day in Wal*Mart, Mom saw my 5th grade teacher. She asked about Tater and I and what we were doing these days. Mom said, "Well, for the last several years Kristin has had a home daycare, but last week she shut it down. Now she's going back to school." The woman literally let out a "Praise the Lord!" in the card aisle at Wal*Mart. Have I been that disappointing all these years?
It's only been 16 years! Okay, so 16 years is kind of a long time.....I'll grant you that one. In my defense, though, in those 16 years I have taken the time to get married, start a family, raise my children, assist in raising a dozen or so other people's children while running a fairly successful home business and have never regretted any of it. It's not always been a walk in the park. There have been times when I wasn't working and money was very scarce. There were also numerous times when I thought I was going to lose my mind if I didn't talk to another adult human being - someone who hadn't recently pooped in their pants. Over the years I have discovered my strengths. And my weaknesses. I've experienced highs and lows and in-betweens. I have been incredibly blessed to have been able to stay at home with all three of my children. My family has put up with a messy house that was most of the time completely crawling with children, parents and oodles of toys. My husband has grown to appreciate me and what I do and am capable of.
When I graduated from High School, Mom's boss at the time was an attorney. He is an amazing man and I have always admired him. I worked for him in his law office several summers before he retired. He has been good to Mom over the years and to this day Mom continues to check in on him and help him when he needs it. He sent me a graduation card nearly 16 years ago and inside that card, attached to some money, was a slip of paper that said:
You can see that it's pretty worn. It went with me to Stillwater for that very brief stint of living away from home. It has been to every house Paul and I have lived in over the years. It's been taped to the top of my desk a few times. It's been taped to the inside of a desk drawer a few times. I laminated it a few years ago because it was starting to look pretty rough. Now it hangs next to my desk, stuck to the wall with a thumbtack. If I turn my head directly to the right it is exactly at eye level. I've read it thousands of times over the last 16 years because I knew that if Mr. Reed said it, it had to be true - I would eventually find myself if I was patient enough.
It hasn't happened all at once. I found a little bit of myself when I met Paul. I found more when we got pregnant with and lost our first child. The birth of Abby, the purchase of our first home, the birth of Sam, the near end of our marriage, the purchase of our second home, the birth of Kady.....all of those events added a little bit more to me. Is the picture complete? Have I completely found myself? No. And I'm not sure I ever will. We all change and grow over time. Different events in life change the whole picture and what was a part of me three years ago might not be a part of me now. I'm probably closer to finding myself than I've ever been, though, and I don't plan to stop. Maybe someday the task will be complete, but until then I'm content to keep trying.
He said "First you have to find yourself" and for a long time I thought that meant that my life would not be complete, whole or remotely enjoyable until that elusive "myself" was found first. I worried that I was wasting time wandering around aimlessly, being ineffective and worthless and that life meant nothing until I had found myself. As a teenager and even as a young adult, I accepted nothing less than perfection of myself. If I didn't do it perfect the first time I was a failure and that was that. Over the years I have discovered that having children relaxes a person quite a bit. Thank God for that. Now, I know what Mr. Reed meant by "Accept trial and error". I have perfected that part. When it comes to attempting and failing and trying again, I'm your woman.
I'm sure that I'll fail a few more times before it's all said and done and I'm okay with that. It's like watching your child learn to walk. You watch them stand and wobble, then flop back down onto their bottoms with a hearty "oomph!" Maybe they cry when they hit the floor, maybe they just sigh and try again. Maybe they don't try again for awhile. When they do try again, you sit and watch, holding your breath and wondering if they'll wobble as much. Eventually they do it and maybe they get scared. Maybe all you see on their face is joy and accomplishment and determination. Then they try taking a few steps. They fall again, hitting that floor and sitting there wondering what the heck just happened. Eventually though, they get it and nothing is the same from that moment on.
For me, it really has taken years. And I'm so glad it has.