When someone told me, "A year from now, you'll wish you had started today," I nodded enthusiastically in response. But I had always been numb to action if it meant wavering from my guarded routine. I didn't picture myself as someone who would finish my degree. It's still a wonder that my feet touched campus last August.
Tomorrow my fourth semester begins at Wright State. I can say semester, because the first time I attended Wright State we were scheduled by quarters. A long time ago, I briefly entertained the idea of being a psychiatrist or a nurse, so I decided to take anatomy. I've debated between two nail polish colors longer than the time I spent researching or preparing for this class.
It wasn't a surprise that I received an "X" in anatomy in 2004. It seemed that being in the course made it clear to me that I wouldn't be working in the medical field. The foreign language of anatomical terms overwhelmed me- it all sounded the same. It's embarrassing to recall that on one test I wrote clavicle or sternum for every fill in the blank answer. I didn't study enough because I had written anatomy off as an "impossible subject." Another factor was my sensitivity to anything painful & strong smells. At the time I was terrified about having babies, and I'd leave the room if anyone even started to talk about their delivery stories. My discomfort in the lab seemed to serve as a confirmation that I was not cut out for medicine. It never occurred to me to reach out for help from my professor. I also didn't schedule appointments with my advisors to have open discussions and listen to their advice on how to work through my obstacles.
My failure in anatomy was the binding on that chapter of experimentation with science. The next quarter I transferred to Sinclair and went on (after a baby Kevin) to earn a Visual Communications Associate Degree and soon after became a photographer (then had a baby Damian). As I finished my graphic design degree at Sinclair, I used to want to pinch myself that I was able to do the equivalent of eating only dessert for the rest of my career. No more academic vegetables for me!
I didn't know that Art is not confined to pixels and wavelengths of light captured in a camera. I didn't know that Science is so finely embedded in our world that I couldn't outrun its pull or avoid its influence. Every movement away from it was part of the ordered sequence that brought me closer to the place where I would return.
The bridge between where I was and where I am is a story for another post. The girl who left anatomy lab to go draw with charcoal pencils is someone I wouldn't recognize. I'm pretty sure I could pass that version of myself on the sidewalk and compliment her shoes but forget that we once shared a name. She's from a life that is distant to me, but not a life that I regret. I’m grateful I pulled away when I did and waited until I knew why I wanted to finish my degree.
Anatomy revisited last spring was a success. Actually, it's interesting that after (cough) twelve years (cough) they have also added physiology to the course. When I first read it on my schedule I thought the abbreviation "PHY" was possibly a reference to "physics?" I didn't know an ion from a proton, but I studied really hard and loved the physiology portion (the function of our bodies) even more than the anatomy (the structure of our bodies). Which says a lot, because I fell head over heels with the design of our existence- I'm especially interested in the way our brains are constructed and the way our movements + thoughts are activated. I tried to learn from my other mistakes to soak up all I could from the class- especially reaching out to my professors when I needed help. Twelve years ago I never stepped foot in an office hour appointment, but this time I brought my sons weekly to the (free!) supplemental instruction sessions on Fridays. Being in anatomy/physiology served as a special confirmation that I am capable and excited to learn the intricacies of what we know and the mystery of what we can not yet articulate.
Returning to Wright State at a different point in my life, with intentional focus, has given me a perspective I didn't have at 20 years old. I've enjoyed my freelance photography career, but I also look forward to the opportunity to work in an area that makes an impact on the way we treat diseases and the way my patients will receive care. Logistically, it's a handful to be a single parent and a full time student. With that said, I feel lucky that I have these two really good reasons to concentrate on my goals. My sons require my focus and energy, but they also inspire me to make this opportunity count. No longer taking my education for granted, I can understand it is a gift to be able to study what interests me. I've always been intrigued by the mechanisms of our minds. To be able to learn more about them in this context is a destination in itself. Before each lecture, I try to remember to be thankful for the chance to be in college again.
I am not ashamed of my enthusiasm.
Or my Lisa Frank folders and rainbow highlighters.
I start tomorrow as a undergraduate teaching assistant in anatomy lab.