My Brain Hurts

The phrase ?my brain hurts? originated with the Monty Python comedy team and featured a fictional Mr. Gumby looking for a brain specialist. Those of you not familiar with the sketch are obviously not over 50. But for me, although a confirmed Python fan from the days of watching them on television in the 60s long after Mum was safely tucked up in bed (Monty Python was considered risqué at the time), the phrase took on special meaning when I decided to enrol in Athabasca courses.

A lifelong accountant and finance person, madness took hold of me and I was convinced that salvation lay in a university degree with a double major in English and French.

Quoi?, you ask. Exactly, I say. The blurb on the university website sounded innocuous enough; I just needed to apply and send money. What could be easier? Within two weeks the books arrived. Lots of books. My brain hurt just looking at them.

Going back to university as an old fogey is exciting but daunting. We have the benefit of not being under the stress that youngsters are under. Failed the French exam? Er, how does that affect the pension? didn’t get the English essay in on time? So fire me!

However, we have decades of built-in pride and self-esteem that extract their toll. I find myself up at four a.m. to revise for the French exam because my old brain can’t retain those bloody tenses. I’m terrified that I’ll be the last person in the room to finish the exam at the invigilation centre. Never mind that the rest of them are high school dropouts doing multiple choice assessment tests. That’s not the point; who wants to look slow? My brain hurts just anticipating it.

I religiously log onto the student peer websites as instructed in the course material. In French, I find there’s no one else there. Does no one care that poor Audrey spends her time recording questions to stimulate discussion, but no one bothers to discuss?

In the general course discussion forum I find people with questions like ?What’s the easiest course??; ?Who’s the easiest tutor??; ?How do you switch to an easier tutor??

I find myself ready to rip lips (Hello? Easy doesn’t cut it in the real world, you know!) until I remember that these folks are probably too young to know what the real world is like. They need the degree to get a job, make money, and have a life. The real learning comes later. When you no longer need it. And it becomes fun. And your brain hurts just because, not because it has to.

My father always thought that life happened the wrong way round. We should be born at 80, he asserted, and we’d know everything. Then we should go backward and die in the womb, all warm and cozy like. Given his logic, we’d do the university thing in our 60s. And die knowing nothing. Works for me. And the brain might not hurt anymore.