At the ripe-young age of fifty-six, I tripped over a low table at my place of employment (which shall go unnamed), jammed my ankle, and sought medical aid when I found walking problematic. My boss’s response was to change her Worker’s Comp insurance and demand the keys to the office. What? Yeah, you can do that if you have under six employees in Oregon. Ugh!
Enter my knight-in-shining-Dockers with the royal pronouncement that I was returning to college. Teary-eyed, I replied that the royal coffers were sorely depleted and now, with my meager contributions halted due to the troll-under-the-bridge, his statement, though well-intended, made riding a flying-unicorn akin to a walk in the park and did he notice I couldn’t perambulate?
And yet he persisted… “You got eight children through school and now it’s your turn.” There was something in the tenor of his voice, not to mention the already-filled-in application, that moved me from despair to merely hopeless disinterest. “You just have to write a paragraph”, he could have said I just had to climb Mt. Everest. But I did … write the paragraph that is. Everest is still out of the question.
And thus, began my twelve-year journey from Ugly Duckling to PhD. I needed a scholarship if I was to continue and read about the Jack Kent Cooke Undergraduate-Transfer Scholarship of $30K per year for up to three years. This would be totally perfect. The following conversation ensued.
“Who are you kidding? Questioned my negative self.
“What would it hurt to try? A tiny inner voice asked.
“But, you’re fifty-six! Get real.” Quipped Ms. Negativity.
“You’ll never know if you don’t try.” The small voice was persistent.
Choosing to follow my inner child, she’s little but formidable, I spent the next weeks finding, filling out, and assembling the necessary paperwork. I found the CCC advisor, Professor Julie Brown, who was contact person for the college, but who had never done this before, so we embarked on this journey together. And, waited.
The Jack Kent Cooke Undergraduate Transfer Scholarship not only was awarded but paid for a triple-major at Pacific University in Art, Creative Writing, and Literature. I was then awarded the JKC Graduate Scholarship, unbelievably lightning struck twice! My schooling led me to Lesley University in Massachusetts for an MFA in Creative Writing and then traveled to Wales to complete my PhD in English at 69 years young.
I am asked occasionally how I accomplished a Ph.D. and the answer is simple –
When you wake up in the morning, do what needs doing.
Dreams will remain dreams unless they become your goals and goals only happen if you write them down and choose to do something each day. It can be little – a few words, a smile, a phone call – or it can be big – a chapter, an engagement, a degree. I always figured that I’d grow old and as long as I was going to do that, I felt that I should accomplish something along the way. And, if I can, you can too.
Curiosity is a good thing.
Imagination removes barriers.
Age should never be a limiting factor.
You are unique.
Anything is possible.
Cheers to your journey!
Please join me in my musings about life, the universe, and other fascinating minutia at https://jannerenberg.com/.
About Jan: From humble beginnings in Southern California, Jan pursued a rather circuitous path to reach her impossible dreams. “I always wanted to marry a handsome man, live in a seaport village in a Victorian home, and raise a houseful of children. Check. Double Check. & Check. After eight were raised, (Yes, Eight. That is not a typo!) educated, and out the door, Jan set out to pursue new dreams of travel and personal education. Being awarded two Jack Kent Cooke Foundation scholarships and while serving as Fiction editor for American Athenaeum magazine, in 2016 she walked across the stage of the “Great Hall” at Aberystwyth University in Wales and was awarded a PhD. But, she considered this just another stepping stone in her journey. In 2019 she celebrated 50 years of marriage with the love of her life, celebrating with a three-week five-country second honeymoon.