Last year around this time, a Harvard-educated MD friend/colleague of mine made the comment that my Facebook comments about school made me sound like a twenty year old. I was mortified. Sharing this with an older friend, she responded, “Who cares! Would that we all sounded like the passionate people we were at twenty.”
Her comment was interesting and made me think not only about my age but about my decision to go back to graduate school (not for the first time or the first masters but for a second round and a second masters) at age forty (now 41). While I find myself reaching middle age and the peak of maturity in some aspects, I find that going back to school simultaneously regresses me and wakes up my inner child. She comes to class with me, excited to talk to the teacher and see the other kids.
The blessings of being an older student is that you’re not a kid. I used to teach community college and my older students were a joy. They knew more, cared more and were more profound. (That is not to discredit the brilliance of young minds though). And I know that in some ways I am like a colleague of my teachers despite their expertise over mine and that I can juggle assignments with work in ways that my younger self could never pull off because my mind is simply more mature and sophisticated than it was before.
But the child in me is still excited by school and sees an entire world stretched out before me.
Learning allows for passion to be ignited. It is not enough for me to learn passively. I must possess knowledge. Interact with it. Taste and embody it like a teenager flirting with sexuality for the first time. I must be completely consumed by what I learn until the subject and I are one and something new emerges.
And I can think of nothing more rich than studying theology at this time in my life for my purpose in learning is entirely different than when I was young. For instance, as a theatre student, I wanted to be a star. As a psychology student, I wanted to heal and make a living. Yet as a theology student, I want to grow closer and closer to God. And ironically, being aligned with the latter is helping me meet the previous objectives. While not a star, I’m more creative than ever. I’m also more emotionally sound, plus my professional life is taking off in new and dynamic ways. But more than anything, being in school gives me a purpose that was previously elusive.
And perhaps that makes me sound like I’m twenty. So be it. I’m every inch a grown up with a purpose.