Old Dog Might Just Learn Some New Tricks

My apologies to all the young children who were shopping for back-to-school supplies earlier this year. I probably bowled some of them over as I searched out school supplies of my own. Thank goodness for the local ElderCollege because at least I won’t be the oldest student in town.

Yes, I’ve decided to further my eh-ja-ma-kay-shun. I’m going back to school. I am attempting to get a Bachelor of Arts degree in political economy. How’s that for a mouthful? And, I can take all my courses at home. I’ve enrolled in Athabasca University that specializes in distance learning.

They call it ‘individualized study,’ which is really just a fancy name for correspondence. However, thanks to the Internet and more working people seeking to further their education, AU has thrived. It now has more than 24,000 students. Not bad for a little prairie town located north of Edmonton.

It’s not an easy program and like all degree programs, will take several years to complete. The decision to do it wasn’t an easy one either. And as a genuine ‘adult learner,’ I can sympathize with those who make the decision to go back to school later in life. It’s tough, especially if you have a good job that you love (like I do). If you’re doing okay, then the first question is “why?” If your goal isn’t necessarily to get a new job or a raise (make note to send boss this column for potential remuneration increase), then why do it?

The simple and trite answer is to do it for yourself. For me, it’s finishing off something I started many, many years ago.

I attended university right out of high school and, being very mature in my late teens and early 20s, I didn’t quite complete my degree. I never regretted leaving university because it resulted in my life’s journey bringing me here. However, I always wanted to complete my degree.

When I started working and maturing (getting into debt), returning to school became less of a reality. Like I said earlier, the Internet has changed all that. Completing a degree is within anyone’s reach.

That doesn’t mean it’s not a scary proposal. All kinds of questions roll through your head. Can I do it? What if I fail? Will I find the time? Do I still know how to study? What if I don’t like it? Can I do it? The questions swirl around and around.

The answers to those questions lie in the community around you. That’s where you can find your inspiration At least it worked for me. I look at people at our local ElderCollege and it becomes abundantly clear that educating ourselves later in life is something we should all do. And don’t wait until you’re older. Never stop learning. That is the mantra of another group in Williams Lake, the Learning Communities group, which promotes “lifelong learning.” Lifelong learning doesn’t have to be a formal education, but it can be.

Last year my wife Cathy attended the University of Calgary and earned a diploma. (Maybe I just don’t want to be the dummy in the house).

I also have a friend who, in her mid-30s, went back to school to get her master’s degree in psychology, and then she got her doctorate. It took her 10 years. Here’s the kicker. When she started she had three kids, all under the age of seven years old. If you think you can’t do it. Think again.

Take your inspiration from wherever you can get it. In addition, do it, just for the sheer joy of knowing more. If you aren’t constantly learning, then you are standing still. In a society that is moving ever faster, standing still is still getting left behind.

So, if you see someone pushing the kids out the way when three-ring binders go on sale, that’ll be me. The downside to ‘individualized study’ is that I don’t really need back to school clothes. A new bathrobe and slippers are about it.

So take the plunge. You never know what you might learn.

* Originally published in the Williams Lake Tribune