I think most people would say that I’m having a mid-life crisis. Over the past two years, I divorced my husband who is also my colleague, landed in the trauma room at the local hospital, nearly burnt out professionally, and adopted a cat.
And I suppose that since all of this occurred around my fiftieth year, it may well deserve to be called a mid-life crisis. After all, I’ve had to spend the last two years really exploring who I am and what I want to be—and I spent a lot of time in therapy trying to figure that out.
The odd thing is that I am already pretty much who I want to be. I love to write and to teach, and I get to teach writing at Lansing Community College. I also love to talk about writing and talk about teaching, which are both a big part of my job. I can’t think of anyway else I would rather earn a living.
But what I’ve learned for sure over the past two years is that I would never have been a writing teacher if the majority of my math teachers could have actually helped me learn math. I probably would be some kind of scientist. I’ve now watched every episode of PBS Nova that is available online at least twice. Since Cosmos hit Netflix, I’ve watched every episode at least three times. I’ve watched the first one alone seven times because I am absolutely fascinated by how the writers make the case for science itself. I always loved science classes; I just couldn’t do the math I needed to take them.
It probably has to do with my age. I grew up in the ‘60s and ‘70s when we were still actively shaming women away from math and science. In the 1990s though, I went to graduate school in Bozeman, MT and fell in love with geology of Yellowstone and geology in general. About four years ago, I finally got around to taking a real physical geology class. Then I took historical geology, and I began toying with the idea of a second bachelor’s in Earth Science just for the heck of it.
So, I bravely dove in where the worst math teacher in the world left me 32 years ago: Pre-Calculus. I audited Pre-Calc I, survived, and figured I could go on. Based my own students’ recommendations, I took Pre-Calc II with the phenomenal Kay Barks and received my very first 4.0 in a math class. I squeezed out a 2.0 on my first trip through Calculus but managed a 3.5 the second time.
Of course, all of that was before, I got divorced, sick, and burnt out. And the one thing that I want to do for myself after all of this time and soul searching? Learn. Slowly go back to school, one class at a time. Finish my math and science prerequisites at LCC and move on to my geology classes at Michigan State University. I figure when I’m ready to retire, I will have finished that bachelor’s degree in Earth Science.
Then I can spend my retirement getting a PhD in something to do with rocks. Hopefully volcanoes.
In the meantime though, if I really want to learn, I want to do it like my students have to do it. No shortcuts because I’m already a professor. And that’s fine because I want to know who I am as a learner in order to better understand who I am as a teacher.
With all of that in mind, I’ve set rules down for myself: I need to work full time just like so many of my students do. I have to buy my own books. I have to set an educational plan for myself and follow it. And I have to reflect (right here) on this long, strange trip that I’ve started.