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Looking Back, Looking Forward: Reflections on Going Back to School

A returning student reflects back on her decision to go back to school.

Lisa Hardman

January 23, 2007

Looking Back, Looking Forward: Reflections on Going Back to School

If someone had told me a year ago that within the next few months I would be returning to college after an 18-year break, I would have insisted, “My life is way too crazy right now. There is no way I could do that until all my kids are grown and gone.”

A year ago, I had just given birth to my fifth child. My father was recuperating in a rehab facility after suffering a brain aneurysm and I had finally made the heart-wrenching decision to enroll my girls in public school after six demanding years as their home school instructor. These sudden changes left me in limbo as I wondered what I was going to do next with my life.

Uncomfortable with the new void created by these transitions, I determined that I needed a new interest, something to keep my mind engaged and challenged. I enrolled in several online writing classes through the community college just for enjoyment. One of the writing exercises proved to be the catalyst that got me back in the college classroom. The assignment was to write our own eulogy as if we had accomplished all the things we had ever dreamed of doing and to start taking steps towards realizing those ideals right now. I didn’t like the assignment. I didn’t want to complete it because deep down I thought that admitting that I wanted to finish my degree could only lead to futile frustration.

As a stay-at-home mom, with five children ranging in age from 15 years down to three months, I honestly didn’t believe there was any possible way to return to college. But the point of the lesson pressed upon my mind again and again—the next 20 years would go by whether I worked towards my goal or not. Although I never finished writing the eulogy, by the end of the class, I had begun the registration process at Arapahoe Community College.

Now that I have two semesters behind me, it is gratifying to reflect on the life-altering events of the past year. I asked my children the other day if it has been a good thing for me to return to school. They all responded with a resounding “yes!” When I asked them why it has been a good thing they said things like: “It gets you out of the house,” “You’re a lot happier,” and “We have to help out more.” Though they only see the outward manifestations of my inward transformation, I realize that going back to college has changed me in ways I hadn’t anticipated. I’m more engaged in life, more content with my role as a mother, and more confident in my intellectual and social abilities.

Returning to school has placed me on a trajectory I never would have imagined for myself at this stage of my life. Like my garden irises, my dreams have been propagating underground all winter long. The profusion of purple blooms this spring, more magnificent than any previous year, attests to the fact that things take time, but when it’s time to bloom, the possibilities proliferate. Finishing my degree is an idea whose time has come. I bask in the sunshine, anticipating the productive growing season ahead.

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