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BEACON Senior News - Western Colorado

Put “SHE GRADUATED” on my tombstone

Aug 21, 2023 10:39AM ● By Patricia Finn

I’ve decided to return to college. When my peers are retiring, I will be entering the job market.

I am learning that if you wait long enough, school becomes fun. Last week, I sat in a classroom for the first time in 30 years and I loved it. The procedure is so simple: you’re given information, you learn the information, and then you’re rewarded with a grade. You pay money for this—a lot of money.

I am pleased to scream from the rooftops that I am an A student! That wasn’t the case my first time around. I was a B person. Definitely not C, D or F but regretfully not
an A. 

Reflecting on my academic career, I saw it as a pattern for life. I was a B homemaker and a B mother. I started to wonder what it would’ve taken to earn an A. More work? More time? Now I know. It takes an easier school and fewer classes. 

I’ve heard it said that nontraditional students may have acquired time management skills that traditional students lack. My best time management skill has been to take one class at a time. This is the secret strategy which brought my B up to an A.

I need four more classes to earn my two-year degree, which will take me two years. Once I have that, I will get a bachelor’s degree, then master’s and then a PhD—unless I get an RIP. 

I could be teaching at a university when I am in my 70s! This may be an answer to the problem of what to do with the elderly. Send us to school!

Another secret to my academic success is the undeniable parallel between age and the progressive decline in one's ability to have wild fun. I have a definite advantage over the 20-year-old sitting next to me with her head on her desk. Am I the only one in the room who is having a great time just being in class?

Since I have returned to school, I grade everything. Shopping was a B experience. The TV show was a C. Our nation's industrial performance is slipping and needs more homework. My lunch was an A.

I am taking philosophy which gives me an excuse to contemplate the meaning of things. I’ve become very thoughtful and contemplative, asking questions like, "If life is one big school, who is the principal? Am I in trouble? Am I late? Where's the nurse's office?"

You may be wondering why I didn’t finish my degree 30 years ago. I went to school in Washington, DC, and spent more time taking the bus down Massachusetts Avenue than going to class. In my sophomore year, I discovered there was a sauna in the gym. I earned an A in sauna. 

One day my parents came home and I was in the family room watching TV. I’d taken a plane, then a limo and let myself in the house. I was not going back to school. I had withdrawn from all but one class—Symbolic Logic, where I easily maintained a high A average. We did problems like: Patricia does not go to class. All students who pass go to class. Patricia will pass. True or false?

The differences between college now and college then are many. There were no computers when I went to school. We had running water and there were cars, but there were no cell phones. 

Now that I’m back in school, I’m paying for my books by selling T-shirts printed with “Late Bloomer – Baby Boomer” with a picture of a lion inspired by an early childhood picture book called “Leo the Late Bloomer.” This terrific story about a young lion's formative years greatly influenced me and my decision to return to school.

I have advice to give to other baby boomers who return to college: We tend to talk a lot. Don't monopolize classroom discussions. My next book, "When Putting Your Foot in Your Mouth is No Longer Possible: A Classroom Discussion Guide for Seniors,” will address this problem in more detail.

Older is wiser. Anyone can be a late bloomer baby boomer and return to school. Be proud, stand tall and wear your Late Bloomer / Baby Boomer T-shirt. In fact, I’ve advised my adult son to put “SHE GRADUATED” on my tombstone. 

Senior students (not to be confused with a graduating seniors) don’t have to worry about ruining their future. This is the future. So, go ahead and mess up—it’s too late to ruin your life