I sat in her office on Friday morning as she peered over the edge of her glasses at my printed-out transcripts, which I had carried in a pristine leather portfolio I haven’t used since my last job interview, eight years ago. She tapped around on a computer while my hands nervously twisted in my lap until I forced them into stillness by locking my fingers together (here is the church, here is the steeple). Whenever she asked a question I responded with pathetic sincerity, eager to impress.

I was hoping for encouragement, a sense of reassurance. Maybe even, if I’m being completely honest, the sense that she was impressed with me in some way. I wanted a hearty go-get-em-tiger speech that would have me leaving the building with a thousand times more confidence than how I had entered—intimidated, unsure, feeling like I didn’t belong in the crowds of sweatpants-clad students who were younger and smarter and unfettered by children and jobs and mortgages.

Instead, she sighed. She was nice enough, but with that single exhale I knew I wasn’t going to be sent on my way with anything other than a headful of roadblocks.

She explained about the Oregon 3-credit classes I took and how they don’t transfer as well as you’d hope for the Washington 5-credit requirements. She pointed out the gaping math-shaped hole in my education and produced a diagram that illustrated how much work I’d have to do just to meet the base requirements for classes like chemistry and biology. She clucked over my grades, and told me that while she couldn’t officially advise me to do so, I might want to consider starting completely over, so as to not drag my GPA baggage along with me.

“The universities ask for your complete transcripts,” she said, “but to be honest, there’s really no way for them to know if you omit this information.”

Ah, I said.

So lie about it, then.

Just start over. Pretend those years didn’t happen. Start with a fresh slate and do it right this time. No one would know. If a shiny new degree is to be earned, it will be utterly untarnished by the failures of the past.

Fuck that.

I’m a very different person than I was fifteen years ago, but that life is a part of me. It’s part of who I am today. Every bad choice I made led me, in some small part, to where I am right this minute. I’m scared and overwhelmed by all the challenges, but I’m excited to learn and I’m by-god willing to put in the hard work to achieve my goals.

Those shitty grades? They’re mine, just like every other embarrassing or shameful facet of my past. I own them. Assuming I even get to that point, I’m not willing to fool some admissions process into accepting me. If I manage to plug away at all these goddamned transfer classes—if I actually find the time and money to get them done, if I actually pass the sorts of classes with descriptions that scare the shit out of me—I will be shouting my story from the motherfucking rooftops.

Goddamnit, I am not going to lie. And it hurt to have it suggested, even as gently as she did.

Thanks, I told her, and I left. When I got in my car, I startled myself by bursting into tears. Ugly sobs of regret and fear, thinking of this impossible hill in front of me. It’s going to take too long, it’s going to cost too much, it’s going to be too hard.

When I got home, I wiped my eyes. Put my papers away. Straightened my desk. Put the brand-new textbook on a shelf, cover up. Introduction to Sociology, one tiny baby step up that hill.

My class starts January 26th.

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Molly
Molly
13 years ago

Oh I know those tears of regret and frustration all too well. I’m tearing up just reading about yours. I hate that something like a raised eyebrow from some school administrator or a letter of rejection can make us feel like such failures – but you’re right, fuck that! I didn’t earn my first degree (bachelor of science, biology) until I was 31. I decided to go to school at 28 and I was Terrified. Terrified of math placement exams, chemistry and OMG ORGANIC chemistry. I had partied my twenties away and felt like such an impostor amidst all freaking teenagers but you know what? I graduated summa cum laude with a GPA of 3.9 and a perfect 4.0 in my major. You CAN do this – it will be scary but just like running you will amaze yourself with what you can do when you really want it. KICK ASS!

patois
13 years ago

Man, I feel like such a slug! That’s great you’re going for it. And that lady? She’s a nobody. You’re a somebody.

victoria
victoria
13 years ago

I am thrilled for you! You are going to get so much joy from using your brain, you won’t believe it. You will be so motivated, and so appreciative of the opportunity, that you will outshine all the hungover, entitled, lazy kids.

(Also — as a lawyer, I had a different take on her advice. Nondisclosure, if disclosure is not required, is simply a legitimate and permissible choice about how to present yourself at your best. It’s no more a lie than the decision to stand up straight, brush your teeth, and blow dry your hair every morning. Are you ALWAYS sparkly and freshlooking? Of course not. But it’s not a “lie” to present yourself that way.)

K.P.
K.P.
13 years ago

Just keep telling yourself you can do this. I was where you are now a little under a year ago, and I finally had gotten tired of doing the same amount of work as my co-workers, but getting paid about 1/3 of what they’re getting paid. I’m still working through the trials and tribulations at this point (like not being able to afford text books after my husband lost his job), but I am still here.

You are going to be OK. Wipe your tears and press on regardless, because just like parenting, it will be worth every tear, every minute of stress, and every moment spent wondering “why did I get myself into this?”.

YOU CAN DO IT!!!

Nothing But Bonfires
13 years ago

And look, you never even needed that go-get-em-tiger speech because you made your own! Yeah! Go kick some sociology ASS, my friend!

Bachelor Girl
13 years ago

You’re gonna do great. So proud of you.

Baking Mad Mama
13 years ago

Oh I LOVE Sociology! Fantastic work – I am wishing you all the luck in the world.

Katie
13 years ago

I love this! I totally sucked at college..didn’t give two shits about it except the courses that actually meant something to my “career”….well some of them. For that…I’m convinced education only gets you so far..the rest is your attitude, ambition, work ethic..and sassiness. Keep bringing it girl and you’ll rock their world.

Katie
13 years ago

p.s. in no way did I mean to discourage your decision to get back to the books…..with my whine about “education only gets you so far”. that comment comes from someone obviously too dumb to understand college..thus making it work for her.

you’ll be great

Claudia
13 years ago

Good for you! You won’t regret it once you’re done. I was in college a very long time and had to repeat a number of classes I’d failed or done poorly in the first time around to get my gpa up to a decent number. I was older than the average college student at the time but I think I learned more. I knew…by the time I went back after fucking up so badly the first two years….why I was there. I had a goal and I took advantage of what I could. Sociology is easy and fun. Enjoy it!

wordygirl
13 years ago

HELLZ Yeah! Way to go, Linda!! WE ARE SO PROUD OF YOU!!

Jen
Jen
13 years ago

You can totally do this! I graduated a couple of years ago with a BS in holistic health and I loved it. I actually miss school now! Once I got past all the general crap, the rest was really fun. And even if I never actually get a job that is related to it, the lessons I learned have influenced my life, as well as my husband and son’s for the better!

Mama Ritchie
13 years ago

That took so much integrity, and honesty, to not just start over. I admit, I probably would have lied. I tend to find the easy way out. But I have learned finally in almost 40 years that taking the easy way out doesn’t feel as good as doing things the right way, even if it’s harder.

Good luck with classes!!

Mandy
Mandy
13 years ago

Awesome first choice for a course to get reaquainted with the college classroom – I was a sociology major – lots of reading and writing (I have no worries for you on that one!) and a lot of it is common sense when you really get down to it.

My husband has been in school full time (first undergrad, now MBA to be finished next month!) for most of the 12 years that we’ve been together – he has worked full time through it all, and we have a home and an almost 4 year old. You can do this!

Laura M
Laura M
13 years ago

Congrats! :) Good for you on refusing to start such a wonderful new part of your life with a lie.
Though I agree you were right not to lie, I do think you should consider stealing… a grocery shopping cart with which you should haul around your gigantic, awe inspiring cojones.

Mico
Mico
13 years ago

I advised you take the classes from scratch if they were quantitative. Hearing that they are humanities classes, disregard all my advice. As happy as I am that I can impress people with random bits of trivia about Melville or Rosenquist, those classes and ESPECIALLY my grades in them never meant much in the long run. No one, except an admissions committee, is going to EVER give a crap about your grades. And in the case of that committee, you will have a lot of other means to impress them — essays, work experience, life experience, etc., and we KNOW you’ll bowl them over in those respects.

Jenny
13 years ago

Go, Sundry, go! I think you will really like “sosh.” It’s fun, and your experience as a longtime participant-observer of online behavior would make for a most interesting paper. I wonder if there is another counselor in that office you could see, because my gosh, that lady needs some counseling of her own, and I don’t mean the academic kind. I am shocked she would advise you to fudge anything, and the sighing! Later you can use your expertise in human anatomy to advise her, in precise Latin terms, how to unplug her head from her patootie.

Suziannie
13 years ago

I could have written this exact thing last August. It sucks. Once you get that first semester back in school under your belt it doesn’t seem quite so daunting. It’s actually kind of fun.

Also, having a little adult perspective on how expensive going back to school is (both in actually currency and in time) is GREAT motivation to keep you studying while you’d prefer to be doing everything else.

Good luck!!

Jamie
Jamie
13 years ago

Listen up lady, and LISTEN UP GOOD.

You can do this. Your past is irrelevant. Any professor will see your potential, and any admissions department can be worked around. You will rock this.

At least that’s what I keep telling myself, for I had my own breakdown recently for the same reason, on the same topic, in the same situation. GAH. Let’s just knock this shiz out, shall we?

babelbabe
babelbabe
13 years ago

I think most people who said get a 2nd opinion were right and most schools have a College of General Studies degree program which might be a good place to start talking.

also, when I was looked at grad school, a friend said to me, I know it seems crazy, all this work and struggle, but, in five years you can have a master’s degree, or in five years, you can be where you are now, with no degree. Either way you’ll be five years older. It gave me the right amount of kick-in-the-butt.

Sarah
Sarah
13 years ago

Linda, I totally needed this. I’m 36, and very close to deciding to do an MFA. I never had the desire to go to grad school, and then the idea completely caught fire with me last year. I have a boy Dylan’s age, and the costs associated with going to school now that child care figures in make my head spin. But like you, I suspect it’s completely what I need to be doing at this stage in my life. Maybe I’ll finish before age 45, if I’m lucky. But I have to think that things are leading me –and you– on this path for good reason. So we didn’t figure it out in our twenties. Damn, if we aren’t going to rock it that much more now. Thank you.

kathleen
kathleen
13 years ago

yes yes— i start school this week too, though moving sort of the opposite direction (fitness to business). i’m scared i’m going to be the old hippy lady in a room full of 20 year old geeks. and my syllabus says we start group projects! this week!

excited for you, and excited to get to read about someone else navigating this whole back to school thing. lots of luck!

ginger
ginger
13 years ago

Don’t have anything intelligent to say about transfer requirements, but can safely say this: I know people older than you with more children and more debt than you, with less talent and more fucked-upness than you, who have embarked on advanced degrees in all sorts of fields and succeeded. It is not an impossible hill. It’s not going to take too long. It’s not going to cost too much. It’s not going to be too hard. Not if this is what you want to do and what you are determined to do.

Getting sober was hard. Getting fit was hard. Growing and bearing babies was hard. But you did all those hard things because you REALLY wanted them, and now you have enjoyed the rewards. You can do this, it will be fucking hard at times, and you will eventually taste the rewards.

kendra!
13 years ago

As a proffy at a community college, students who are parents, who have a clue about how unmerciful the working world can be — they are always my bestest students. You will be the bestest, Linda.

jody
jody
13 years ago

Good for you! I don’t remember how I found your blog, but every time you publish a new post I am so, so glad I did. You CAN do this. I can’t wait to follow along via your blog.

Shawna
Shawna
13 years ago

Yay! Congratulations!

Chrissy
Chrissy
13 years ago

Remember that comment heard round that was about, I don’t even know, Heather Armstrong’s new bathroom? I think? The WE WILL ALL DIE thing?

Well, I just want to put the force of THAT behind this:

YOU ARE SO COOL.

Chrissy
Chrissy
13 years ago

Uh, whoops, meant to put “heard round the world” or at least “heard round the blogosphere” but what I DIDNT mean to write was “that comment heard round.” For that I’d have to readjust my cowboy hat, kick up a little dust with mah boot and bring the toothpick to the other side of my mouth; “You know, that there comment heard ’round?”

Kristin
Kristin
13 years ago

Congratulations!

I’m 28 and a junior working on my B.S. I also transferred in a shitload of credits after a long time off. FIGHT for those credits. Just because you may initially get a “no”, that doesn’t mean you can’t appeal that decision. Also, don’t be afraid to ask for any or more financial aid. You’d be amazed how many yesses I’ve gotten just by picking up the phone and asking.

As an aside, spring classes just started this weekend for me. I’m in an adult accelerated program. One of my new professors gave quite the speech about how adult students are her favorite to teach – we’re smarter, more mature, more engaged, more hardworking and have life experience. Also? We get better grades than the “kids” as a whole. We rock. Don’t forget it!

Marna
13 years ago

Linda! Outstanding and good for you. I am in school as well just starting back after a long time out. We can bitch about midterms and finals together — and oh the stories we can write about dead week will be amazing!

Sara
13 years ago

No one can ever really convey how hard college is. Sure it is daunting all it’s own, but when it comes down to the minutes in class and on homework, no one can actually tell you how emotional the journey is. I too messed around in my teens at community college eventually taking 3 years to get a 2 year AA.
Now after spending too much time on a job I just got fired from, I am taking 27 credit hours so I can graduate in December 2010. Granted I have no husband or kids and am living off practically nothing, I am happier than I have been in years.
School is one of the most selfish things you can do for yourself-enjoy the time in class where no one can bug you.
Bon Chance!

amber
13 years ago

I think it’s incredible what you’re doing. I feel the same way. Owning who you are, the bad and the good, takes more strength and character than cheating and “starting over” with a clean slate.

Hopi
13 years ago

Yes, it can be hard. I went back to school with four little boys under 7 and finished my BA, and this with a time when I was separated from my husband. Then I went on to get my MA and even the professors were surprised. I went back in the 70s when it was frowned on for a woman with children to return and get her education. Just smile when someone gives you attitude. It helps you get over the rough spots.

Rachel
Rachel
13 years ago

That woman can go suck a bag of dicks. I swear, counselors and admissions people exist to weed out less serious students with their bunk. Never take what they have to say on faith. I bet she could get fired for telling you what she did.

You are smarter and more whole as a person than those hordes of sweatpants wearing children. There will be times when being back in school will make you feel OLD (like when you are stuck in a pre-pre-prerequisite class with 30 19 year olds who know everything about everything).

You can always comfort yourself with the knowledge that 1) you are about 20 times more likely to have good sex any night of the week than any one of them, 2) unlike them, your getting trashed and puking in your own hair days are behind you, 3) they secretly find you to be intimidatingly brilliant with your use of multisyllabic words.

Remember most of your young classmates will have spent years being educated under No Child Left Behind. I just finished an English 1A class that covered roughly the same material as my 7th grade English class many *ahem* many years ago.

pixielation
13 years ago

Already lots of good advice by previous commenters, but my two pence – just go for it.

Allison
13 years ago

Just wanted to pop on and encourage you – I think what you are doing is great!

Jerilyn
Jerilyn
13 years ago

Longtime lurker saying…hey, I’m taking Intro To Sociology this semester too! I already have two degrees (BAE, MA), but am taking my baby steps back into a BSN (nursing) program. I’m taking one class a semester and hope to get into a program around 2013/2014. Cheers to New Degrees!

emily
emily
13 years ago

I can’t even tell you how insignificant this will seem to you a year from now. I started college at 27 with 6 CREDITS from an ill-fated attempt at college when I was 18 and sooo not ready. I’m graduating in May, and after 3 years of juggling, staying up late, stress, essays, APA citiation format (you’ll grow to know and love it) my GPA has never fallen below a 3.9. Taking the time off and getting my degree when it actually MEANT something to me was the best, best, BEST thing I could have ever done.

Amy M.
Amy M.
13 years ago

Good luck to you! It’ll be difficult going back, but I know you can do it! My undergrad GPA wasn’t stellar, but I tested well on the GRE & GMAT. My undergrad advisor told me if I can afford the application fee, I could try for a master’s degree, but I’d never get in. I sent him a copy of my acceptance letter & fellowship offer. I now have a master’s in math. Show those negative people that grades from an 18-year-old shouldn’t mean as much as they seem!

Also, I’m a fairly longtime reader & if you need help with the gaping math/science hole, shoot me an email.

Andrea (@shutterbitch)
13 years ago

If that advisor knew you, knew the shit you’ve overcome, knew the goals you’ve smashed to smithereens, she’d have known better than to tell you to lie and start over.

I’m proud of you. I know I’m just one of the many people who read your site, one of the many inspired by you, but seriously Linda, there’s a reason you have so many supporters. You tell it straight, and we know you can do it. We believe in you. I’m so glad to see you believe in yourself and I’m seriously hoping the expense/time it takes is minimal.

I’m so glad I found your blog way back when. You are the single most inspiring person on my blogroll. No lie.

Kelli
Kelli
13 years ago

Despite the fact that I’ve never met you in person, I must say, you continually inspire me. GO YOU.

Melospiza
Melospiza
13 years ago

You’ve got a million kickass comments here, Sundry, so I’m just going to chime in quietly with 1. you are one of the best writers I know and 2. you can do this. Obviously. Anyone who thinks differently, especially if they are paid to help people go back to school for godsake, is a bleeding idiot.

My husband, for example. Earned a 0.0 GPA two semesters in a row. “Dragged” that GPA with him all through the rest of college, then to a successful professional life, then to graduate school in biology. Where he earned a PhD. With that 0.0 still on his record. Now he’s a professor–and you know what? A better person, and a better teacher, for it.

Shelly
13 years ago

You can do it!

Jen
Jen
13 years ago

Congrats! Good Luck! And you are an inspiration for being strong and keeping your history…moms don’t have time to do things over if they can avoid it anyway ;)

Mel
Mel
13 years ago

Thanks for posting this – I’ve really been thinking about going back to school and this is great inspiration!!!

cindy
cindy
13 years ago

I have a quotation framed in my office that really means a lot to my, by way of motivation. It reads “A year from now you may wish you had started today.”. Congratulations for starting “today”! You can do it!

Lola
13 years ago

Fuck that is right. I remember when I was 15, sitting pregnant at a social worker’s office trying to get Medicaid for me and my baby. I remember distinctly him laughing at me almost scoffing muttering something under his breath about how “stupid” I was.

I cannot explain to you the RAGE I felt. I still remember him,what he looked like, what he was wearing, how dirty his desk was full of paperwork. I remember with such clarity.

Sure, I could have gotten discouraged, but instead I used that rage to propel me forward. I graduated high school, VALEDICTORIAN and then went on to finish college, then went back for my MBA. Now I’m 34, with an 18 year old son. And I am so damnfuckin’ proud of myself. You know?

You can do this. I once had a boss who used to have a funny saying, “how do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.” It was so dumb it always made me laugh. And I would joke, thinking, I just ate a nail today. :o) Sounds like you started eating already.

HUGS.

Honore
Honore
13 years ago

You WILL rock that class!

Kristy
13 years ago

As someone who works in admission for the largest for profit university that exists…I strongly suggest you seek and obtain all transcripts from all other schools once you are admitted to whichever college you went to…and get those transcripts looked at and reviewed. Whatever credits you earned elsewhere need to be addressed..that is unless they are 10+ years old. Then forget them and move on with a clean slate.