Going back to school in my late forties forced me to think about a lot of things and get a case of the “I shouldas.” You know, I shoulda done this or I shoulda done that.
When I graduated from high school in 1983, I just didn’t see things being the way they are now. I gave very little thought to how computers would become part of my life, and the idea of cell phones—let alone all this social media and Internet stuff—never even crossed my mind. Hell, we still had a rotary phone in my house, and the closest thing I ever saw to a cell phone back in those days was a year or so later when I started watching Sonny Crockett use his car phone on Miami Vice. And I always figured those things would be so far out my reach financially that I’d never get a chance to own one.
Hindsight truly is 20/20—or better. I can look back now and say I shoulda gone to college instead of going in the Army. Back then, I thought I wanted to be a mechanic and that’s what I went into the service for. I was a 63 Bravo, which back then was (deep breath) a Light-Wheel Vehicle/Power Generation Mechanic/Recovery Specialist. In other words, we worked on wheeled vehicles under five tons and learned how to use tow trucks.
By the time I got out in 1987, a mechanic was the last thing I wanted to be. By then, the dream was to be a musician in a heavy metal band, specifically a drummer. I’ve never really had the patience to learn chords, but I can keep a beat pretty good. Over the years, that dream fell by the wayside, partly because it takes real dedication to be a drummer. If you wonder what I’m talking about, go to a live show early some time and watch the drummer carry in and set up his kit. Lots of parts there.
But in the meantime, the dream of being a writer slowly emerged to take place of the musician dream. It was very slow, granted, and there were lots of years when I barely wrote a word. But I read constantly, soaking in a lot of good stuff.
In 2008, I found myself a victim of the Great Recession. This had two effects on me. The first was being unemployed for almost four years. There was a short stint working for the Census in 2010, but that didn’t last. And I got one factory job that lasted all of two weeks or so before they decided I didn’t come to the job already knowing how to do it, so I didn’t fit their mold. It was (and still is, I’m sure) an employers’ market.
I lost count of the number of applications I filled out and basically threw in the trash can for all the good they did me.
Back in early 2008, I started attending online college for a bachelors in Network Administration. Despite being leery of computers in the eighties, as they grew more common in everyday life I became fascinated with them. I’ve always been the kind of person who likes to see what’s going on behind the scenes, and learning programming and networking fits right into that. I’m not motivated enough to write operating systems, but web programming—especially the basic stuff you do with HTML and CSS—is enjoyable. Write few lines of code, click Save, refresh the browser, and see the result blink into life. Very satisfying.
But after my negative experience with online college—we had a falling out when their financial department couldn’t find their ass with a map and flashlight, much less keep things straight with my educational loans—I was reluctant to get back into the field of learning. But after you throw away so many applications and have to sell enough plasma to leave a junkie scar on your inner elbow, you decide maybe you need a different plan.
After all, like the saying goes, if you keep doing what you’re doing, you’re gonna keep getting the same results. To expect anything else is the definition of insanity.
But I didn’t have time to pursue a degree. So I opted for a technical school. It gave me hands-on training—something that was sorely lacking in online classes—and promised a very good chance of getting a job afterwards.
I initially set out to take networking. I’d had some Java programming in college and knew I wasn’t programmer material. But when I found out I had a much better of chance of being employed if I took both programs, I signed up.
It seemed like from the moment I decided to go back to school, things started falling in place. My first novel was accepted for publication (having so much time off meant I got to do a lot of writing), and I’ve managed to score a place in Oghma Creative Media as Director of Digital Media—which will mean something when we get on a paying basis. Let me rephrase that: it already means something, and I’m enjoying the position, even if I sometimes feel like maybe I’ve jumped in the deep end of the pool. It’s just not delivering a paycheck. Yet. I have faith that when it does, it’ll pay off handsomely.
So here I am, about to graduate at 49, and it feels good. I overcame hurdles, such as failing my math class first time around and passing it with a B on the second try.
Now maybe I’ll have the urge to get back to my real vocation: writing.
Thanks to everybody who supported me along the way.