Sunday, August 16, 2009

Week One, August 16-22

When I graduated from the University of Florida back in August of 1980 with my Bachelors degree, I never imagined that I would go back to college 29 years later to pursue a Masters - least of all in Murray, Kentucky. It was just not in the plan. Yet, here I am.

Life has a funny way of putting us exactly where we are supposed to be. Today, just over a month after my 50th birthday, I am heading back to school as a full-time grad student. This has been one of the most frightening, enlightening, utterly life-altering adventures I've ever embarked upon and I am filled with hope and excitement about my future. I wouldn't change one moment of the life that landed me here. (I'll share more about that in coming weeks.) But I have to say that I'm really happy to be here.

Well, I might reconsider the most recent part of my story, the part where I lost the job I loved for no good reason and am now forced to borrow money to finish my degree. Perhaps that part could have gone a little smoother. But borrow I have. Now, I am determined to dive in headfirst and make the most of this gift - the gift of education - the chance to be a student all over again.

So here I am, ready for my first week. Classes begin officially on August 19th, Wednesday, so its still two days away. I was able to figure out what books I needed for one course - History of Broadcast Journalism - and I've spent much of this weekend reading the first half of the first text. How great it is to be assigned a really good book - for a class!

Yesterday was Move-In Day on campus for about 1,500 new freshmen just entering Murray State. A weekend full of events entitled "Great Beginnings" is in full swing and for the first time since my arrival two years ago, I actually opted to attend the big Saturday evening event. After all, I am officially now a full-time student and I think it's time I start acting like one.

Talk about feeling your age...I was greeted by a thousand plus students and their parents pouring into the Regional Special Events Center (RSEC) entrance around 6 pm like a stampeding herd of buffalo. Is it just me or do all of the students look younger than I ever remember being? Even their parents are so much younger than me. But, so what. I must admit that, at first, I wanted to turn and run, I started to feel out of place, too old to be a part of this. But, the irrational thought passed quickly, and five minutes into this thing I had changed my tune.

The entire business and Campus community of Murray, KY had come out to participate in Great Beginnings. I admit I was completely impressed by the set-up, the organization and the warm welcome everyone (including little "old" me) received. I didn't see any of my fellow "non-traditional" students, but I wish a few more had taken the leap and come out. This was something special. There were at least 100 vendors on hand with festive tables, all giving away goodies right and left...raffle tickets, games, prizes, drawings, free food, drinks, coupons, dorm supplies - anything a college student might desire from pizza to textbooks, room furnishings to backpacks. I really was overwhelmed by this bright, fun-filled atmosphere and the way everyone was involved. I thought, "I'm a real part of this community."

I wonder why my alma mater, UF, never did anything like this. I was once a wide-eyed freshman who would have appreciated it all the more. Were the 70s a different time, I wonder? Was UF too big a machine for such homespun goodness? MSU has made me appreciate the many benefits of attending a medium-sized school. Most of my undergraduate classes were held hundreds of students as compared with 15 - 25 in my grad courses. I can't wait to get to the first class this Wednesday. Who will be in the class with me? What does the professor expect from me? I wish I had been this open to the education in the late 70s.

Back to Great Beginnings, I quickly found a couple of familiar faces at a the Humane Society of Calloway County (HSCC) booth where I had offered to help out. Thank goodness! This is the one group I have come to know, love and respect in town. I've actually volunteered with them many times before so I felt comfortable amid the sea of youthful faces and skinny bodies, especially after a hug and a kiss from the pet therapy beagle. There's nothing like a wagging tail and a friendly face to calm the nerves. After checking in, I began to feel more at ease and I made my way from booth to booth, stopping to talk to several new students along the way, even answering a few questions. The merchants and the MSU staff were incredibly upbeat.

The event was empowering. Afterwards, walking to my car, I heard the music of a marching band wafting up from the Stadium, a part of the campus I had never been in before. Emboldened, I searched out an ungated entrance and sat in the bleachers enjoying the music as the band and drill team rehearsed for the next hour. I found myself indulging in a walk down memory lane. It's been 25 years since my last college football game. You can be my witness, I vow to attend at least one game this season. It's my Racer duty.

....Stay tuned. There's much more to come!

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