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!