Midlife Reflections – How My Fears Limited My Life

At age 49, I’m going back to college, again, this time to complete my Bachelor’s degree.  As I went over the programs with my college adviser, I found myself facing the fact that I would have to take Algebra and Statistics as general requirements for the BS degree.  I tried my hardest to find a way around these even looking at other online college programs, but there was no doubt about it, I was going to have to take these classes.  So when I registered for my first semester’s classes, I bit the bullet and chose Algebra and a business management course.

Now, I’m not going to say I’m bad at math, I’m not.  I’m bad at things that don’t make sense to me.  These things make perfect sense to my husband who is very technical and can figure out formulas in his head.  But my brain doesn’t work that way.  In high school, Algebra was the only class I truly struggled with especially the tests.  When I planned my classes for high school, I went the safe route skipping trigonometry and calculus even though my desire was to go to school for more math and science-related area(s).  When I had taken several career apptitude tests, every sort of engineering came up along with landscape architect and orchestra leader as well.   But I was afraid of the math required to get these degrees.

I ended up taking a one-year program in Medical Assisting.  Physiology and Anatomy didn’t scare me at all.  Actually I loved all the medical classes even though it was a lot of memorizing.  My plan was to do the program and move to the city to finish my Bachelor’s degree at the bigger university that I really wanted to attend.  The medical assisting program would give me the ability to make a lot more money as I was paying for college myself as I paid for an apartment and my tuition.

But I picked this course,because I was afraid to jump straight in to the four-year university.  I knew I was going to have to take pre-requisite classes because I had avoided them in high school.  Most classes were easy for me.  But complicated math, ugh, I felt like a failure because I just didn’t get it and it was so hard.  Back then I didn’t consider the fact that maybe my brain just isn’t wired for certain things and I wasn’t actually a failure, that everyone has things that is hard for them.  Instead of facing something I could very well fail, I chose to go the route of avoidance.  I was too afraid to fail.

When I decided to finish my degree, I was faced with the fact that I was going to finally have to face my fear of passing college level algebra.  When the classes opened online a week before the actual semester start date, I dove into the algebra class.  As soon as I started into it and saw how much work it would be, I dropped the business course.  This class was going to take my full attention.  And it did, I spent over twenty hours on the first week’s reading, assignments, discussion question and online weekly meeting with our instructor.  All of the class was online including the homework which was nice, but the software wouldn’t let you bypass anything.  I had to learn it and sometimes, I would be almost in tears until it finally, finally clicked.

The class contained three exams, all paper that I drove over an hour to the testing center(s) as I decided this was easier than finding a proctor and making sure the tests were returned on time, etc.  The first exam took me 2.5 hours.  I got a low B.  The second exam took as much time but I struggled way more and I got a D.  But I made sure to ace everything else including the extra test credit.  I was applying the law of averages, I just need to pass this class not get a 4.0 in it.  Even with the D on the second exam, I was still averaging an A.

As the final exam approached, this 12-week class became more intense with more complicated formulations and equations.  Due to scheduling issues, I had to switch from the remote testing center to the main campus for which I lost five days of study time.  This was not good and I was almost in tears again.  I do great when I can see my notes and the book, but the tests were much harder.  So instead of panicking, I took the total points of the class, the points I had earned, assumed I’d get 100% on the homework and other assignments because I had and then added 50% of the points of  final exam essentially getting an ‘F’.  What grade would I get if I flunked the exam with half the points?  I sighed with relief.  I would get a ‘B’ in the class.  I knew I could get at least half the questions right.

Yesterday, I drove downtown to the main campus and while a little nervous, I knew I would pass the class regardless.  It took me almost 3 hours and I found while the story problems always mess me up, I really remembered most of what I learned including the quadratic formula I had memorized along with a host of others.  I might get a C on the exam, but I figure more a D.  But it doesn’t really matter, I accept that this testing is hard for me and I did my best.  I excelled in the homework and other assignments.  Sometimes, there are just things in life that you just have to do your best knowing that you won’t ace it.  And that’s alright.

The one thing I wish is that I hadn’t let my fear of failing derail my plans.  My life would have been a lot different had I stuck to my goals rather than letting fear dictate my path. I don’t know if it would have been better, but I know I wouldn’t have regretted diverting from my goals.  I short-changed myself big time.  Had I finished my degree as planned, my career path would have probably been greatly different.  I would have likely made more money, etc.

I walked out of testing center yesterday knowing I did’t get a high grade but I was happy and felt accomplished.  I did it, I passed college algebra!  It’s better late than never.  I realize that my tendency to avoid hard things limits my life significantly.  I suppose that is human nature, taking the path of least resistance.  No one wants to struggle and fail.  But failure is part of growing.  You can read that 10000 times and think yeah, makes sense but until you actually take action, face the possibility of failing, that these challenges is what makes you feel alive.  I’ve been so focused on doing my best in this tough class that I haven’t had time to be bored or overthink or any of that stuff that I tend to do.  Boredom for me comes from not challenging myself.  From staying in my comfort zone.

As the new year, 2020, approaches, I will continue my classes but I’m also going to challenge myself in other areas of my life.  If I fail, I fail.  At least I’m out doing something rather than hiding away in my cozy, comfy zone.

Over the next year, I’ll share in my blog some of these challenges.  I hope you will enjoy my ups and downs, my accomplishments and failures.   Let’s enjoy the ride!

To the Mean People

Mean people, we all have dealt with them in our lives.  Whether it was the fourth grade bully on the playground or the lunatic who keeps sabotaging your career or the family member who makes your life hard just for kicks, we have all faced them, been victim of them and many times, we have no idea what we have even done to them.  These are people who enjoy hurting others or throwing obstacles in their paths or even trying to ruin someone else’s life.  Many times, it’s revenge for a perceived slight that in their mind was serious but you can’t figure out for the life of you what you even did.  And many times, you don’t have to do anything at all, they are just wired this way.

These are the type of people who just make your life hell and without them around, your whole world becomes brighter.  I’m dealing with one such person recently, even though I have always been kind to them and kept my thoughts of ‘omg you are a lunatic’ to myself.  But that’s just it, this person is most likely mentally ill though I’m not a mental health or medical professional, the signs all point to some sort of issue that causes this person to be vindictive, hateful and sabotaging to other people so that they can feel important, powerful and large.  They are so insecure within themselves, so miserable and unhappy that they want everyone around them to be miserable as well just to make themselves feel better.  Their only real joy is to hurt others.

I believe this person blocked a path for me for something I thought I wanted.  Though I don’t have proof, the signs all point to this person’s interference in my journey.  Though at first, I thought it was other sensible circumstances.  But then when this person popped back up suddenly in my face, I knew in my gut, they were hoping to inflict even more pain or gain satisfaction that they indeed made me unhappy because they had blocked my path. I just can’t deal with the depth of what feels like endless crazy to me so I had pushed them outside of my life as much as I could.  I’m sorry this person is so unhappy but I’m not the person who inflicted anything upon them.  It happened way before I ever came into their life, or maybe some people are just born that way.

At first, I started to think of revenge (I am Irish after all) but as I sat and meditated on the circumstances, I smiled to myself.  This lunatic did me a favor.  When I really searched my heart, the direction in to which I had turned was not one that I truly desired and so having the decision made for me, the pressure was off of me.  I wouldn’t have been happier going down this road.  Thank you, mean person.  You actually did me a solid and as you hover around what you believe to be my carcass, you will find it’s just ash of out which I will rise like the Phoenix as I have always done in these circumstances.

As I think back over my life, though at the time, these circumstances of sabotage and hatefulness perpetrated by people who meant me harm, may have seemed dire.  Though as I look further along after the incident(s), I see how my life became better.   I’ve always been a survivor and I will continue to be that until my time on this earth is over.  I feel sorry for you, that you are so black and dead inside that your joy comes from the suffering of others (or in my case perceived suffering).  I am not the person people run away from when they see you or cringe when you text them or avoid you at all costs.  I’m not the person crying that they don’t have any friends and not realizing their own personality and propensity to being cruel is the reason for this predicament.  As you tried to hurt me, my own close friends came to my side giving me support and we form a wall of friendship and love that you can’t penetrate.  You actually bring us closer in unity because they too have experienced your cruelty.

While I should be angry at you, I only feel sorry for you.  I feel sad that your life is so empty and so destitute of love for yourself.  I pray that one day, you will see the light, that the road to happiness and self-love/acceptance isn’t trying to destroy others but helping others be the best they can be, by lifting them up.  Because when you do this, you lift yourself out your dark hell.  I pray that you get the help you need to heal yourself and love yourself.  Because until you can do this, you’ll just be a miserable lunatic that people run from.  You’ll die alone a victim one more time of your own misery.

So mean person, thank you, thank you for making my life better.  I sent you love and light in the hopes that one day you’ll see that the path you’re on won’t ever make you happy.   But know, that I will always rise above what shit you throw at me and you mean nothing to me at all.