Rediscovering my superpower


With the Dude in college, the day-to-day operation of Dude.inc went from being my primary enterprise to not my business way too quickly. They don’t make golden parachutes for mothers. We’re ejected from the plane without remorse or apology, while making it look as graceful as possible. After all, this is how it’s supposed to be.

So after all of these years of thinking “What about me?” in my more frantic and  less generous moments, I had plenty of time to answer the question.

What about me?

I’ve worked as a volunteer and substitute librarian in our school system for years, and every so often I’ve toyed with becoming a librarian.I’d look at master’s degree programs, think about the time and expense required to make it happen, and each time I’ve walked away. It would take too long, I’d be too old, libraries are a dying institution, it doesn’t pay well, and I already have an MBA–haven’t I had enough education? I had a lot of reasons not to move forward.It made no sense.

Then one morning it did. It happened without lead-up. No pondering or fretting, no lists of positives and negatives, no break even analysis or internal debate.

My husband came home from work and I gave him the good news. I was going back to school. It was not unlike when he came home from work and I told him that I’d quit my job to be a stay-at-home mom. He was totally supportive. He knows I’m not impulsive. As much as I might fret and wonder, once I decide upon a course of action, it’s a done deal.

Unfortunately the world does not move in accordance with my plans, so I have to apply to programs and wait to be accepted. For now, I’m taking some prerequisite classes. I’m glad I did, because going back to school is much harder than I thought it would be.

Much of today’s education is available online. It gives one great flexibility, and saves me the discomfort of being a 52-year-old in a sea of 20 somethings, but it’s foreign to me. I started to worry that I’d made a mistake.

My husband reassured me. “Learning is your superpower.”

My superpower? Did I have a superpower?

I’ve always believed that I could do anything with time and instruction, if I wanted it enough. This was different though–the learning environment was different, the technology was different, and I’m pretty sure my prof was on a beach in the Outer Banks. “Even Superman had a transition period,” he said. “Besides, it’s not the notes and tests and papers that make you super. It’s that you actually do what you set out to do.”

My husband is the best. He has my back.

Ninety five percent of the world supports my decision–my husband, my friends, my parents–the people who matter. That five percent though, they throw me for a loop every time. Instead of “Good For You” and “Congratulations” it’s “Why do you want to do that?,” “That’s ambitious,” “You need a degree for that?,”  and my favorite ,”You’re so brave,”  which comes out sounding more like “You’ve got to be crazy.”

It’s totally possible that I’m projecting. It’s also possible that I’m not.

I get it. It’s crazy. Another master’s degree at this point in my life? Starting an entirely new career? Why do it?

Because I want to. Because I have a mission to teach students how to do real research to make informed judgments. Because I can. Because I’m worth the investment.

The Dude finds my scholarly ambitions amusing. He came into my office last night where I have a detailed diagram of a computer network on my whiteboard.

“You did that today?” He admired my use of multicolored pens. It’s an information technology class, I have to amuse myself somehow. “When is it due?”

“Tomorrow.”

Was that admiration I saw in his eyes? “This is hard,” I said. “Not just the classes, but the whole thing. The tests, the application process, the not-knowing how it’s going to turn out.” I didn’t have to say “The risk of failure,” we both knew it was underneath it all.

“I know, right?” I had new-found empathy for the Dude. No wonder he was a wreck last fall. “This is just like KT201.” We spent a lot of late nights texting over that class, using baseball analysis to make database structure less mysterious.

“So when you move into an apartment, I can help you set up your network.”

“And when we both run into issues, we’ll call Dad.”

“Exactly.” Good IT support is hard to find, unless you marry it.

“You’re very brave.” For once, I didn’t hear “crazy” in the undertones. “A lot of people say they are going to do things. You do them.” It was a hug made with words.

“Thanks.” Maybe I wasn’t crazy. After all, learning is my superpower

 

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Let the Plates Fly

I’m not a fan of the circus.  First, there’s the clown issue.  Beyond that, it’s an afternoon filled with acts that I don’t really understand.  Take, for example, the one where the dude in a vest spins plates on top of tall poles.  He starts one, then another, and another, and by the time he gets to plate number six or so, the first plate begins to wobble and pitch, threatening to come crashing down.  He dashes to the pole and gets it spinning again, and lo and behold, the second plate begins to teeter.  As he attends to that plate, third falters, and so on.

He continues to add plates while rescuing the others, triaging to determine which ones need urgent attention, balancing that with launching additional plates into orbit.  But face it.  Have you ever seen a plate fall?  I haven’t, and I’ve got to admit, if it did, the act would be more interesting to me.  The juggler always stays within the envelope of safety.  He makes a good show of pretending that his act is in danger, but I know there’s zero risk of failure.  I have to wonder just how many plates he’d get spinning if he kept going until one actually bit the dust.  In fact, I’d love to see more than one shatter, maybe even a whole set, in one noisy, calamitous disaster.  Now that would be satisfying.

Entertainment value is subjective.  As a writer, I count on it.  For every individual who hates my work, there may be another who loves it.  At least that is what I tell myself. Still, that doubt makes it hard to move forward on a journey that seems unlikely to succeed, even at the outset.  Allison Winn Scott, however, said it best in her January blog entry, “if you want to write a book, write it.”  The corollary is, if you want someone to read your book, publish it.

When it comes to writing, I’ve been spinning a lot of plates.  I tweet haiku, I have a nearly finished novel, I’ve got poems and essays and I can’t count the number of times I’ve said “I really need to launch a blog.”  I’ve been so intimidated by the process, however, that although I’ve put on a good show of being a writer, once I stop reviewing my work, my readership plummets.

So, here we go.  This blog will be the first plate I launch.  If it crashes, I hope it makes a really big noise.

 

Photograph – Spinning Plates by Jameson 42