Tuesday, September 17, 2013

The Next Chapter

The Bible says that to everything there is a season. One of MY transition points is fast approaching, a turning of the page to reveal the unknown (because, unlike in a real book, you don't get to read ahead).

I just turned 35 over the weekend. This is the year of my life that Laura will turn 18. Caleb will turn 18 when I am 36. In only a year and a half, I will have an empty nest and a whole world of possibilities open in front of me.

I'm starting to spend a lot of time thinking about that...what it will mean, and how my life will change. I've spent all of my adult life being a mommy, and it's going to be a bit different.

Not that you ever stop being a mom, but it's not the same when they're on their own.

I know I'll need to find full-time employment---unless some handsome, rich stranger shows up in the next 18 months---and I'm not exactly holding my breath about that. So I've decided to go back to school.

The last time I was in college was 2001. I really enjoyed it, but I was in the middle of a legal battle for custody of the kids and it was too much for me to handle. I had to quit, and I've never been back since.

Twelve years.

My brain is pretty much a blob of soft, flabby mush at this point. This fact was brought home to me recently when I took the Compass exams as part of my application process to Williston State College.

The Compass exams are a placement test given to entering students who don't have SAT scores. It lets the college know if you need any remedial work before they plunge you into the maelstrom of college-level English and...gulp...math.

I did OK on the English, though I found it surprisingly challenging to wrest meaning from some of the passages. Let's just say there's a bit of a difference between light, fluffy fiction and college text books (Motto: We don't have to be interesting because someone is making you read us).

Then I came to the math section.

My stomach sank approximately to bottom of the Marianas Trench when I saw the first problem. I had absolutely NO idea what any of it meant. I'd only found out about needing the test that day, and I'd hurried down without any frantic tutoring from any more knowledgeable family member---like Tiggy.

All I could remember was do the numbers in parentheses first. But what were all these other squiggles? Whose idea was algebra, anyway!?! I took a deep breath and plunged in.

There really was no point in trying to figure the problems out. I am not being funnily modest when I say I was completely lost. I spent the remainder of the algebra portion picking answers based on their esthetic appeal.

"Well, I really like how the numbers interact with the symbols on this answer, but this one does have a lot of energy in its presentation.

The test is designed to give you a certain amount of answers as long as you are getting them right. If you get a few problems wrong it will give you simpler questions, and if there are too many incorrect answers it ends the test. Sort of like a computerized Perfection game---you never know when it's going to pop.

I could sense the computer giving me easier and easier questions. Each time, I could hear it saying, "Surely, you'll get this one right", then shaking its head in disbelief when I missed the answer yet again.

The torment went on and on, and I was a nervous wreck before it was done. The test finally switched to basic computation, and I did a little better there. For instance, I still can't remember how to find a percent, but I was pretty sure that the T-shirt shop wasn't going to be discounting their shirts below wholesale cost.

I may not know math, but I know retail!

It turns out that I'm an amazingly good guesser, because I got to skip two levels of remedial algebra and only have to take one 8-week course before I'm considered at college level. But, since I know that any right answers I had were TOTAL FLUKES, I am studying on my own ahead of time.

Yes, it will be humbling to have a 14 year old teaching me (she's mean, too!), but there is no way I'm going to fail a class---not with the price of tuition these days!

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