Two years ago I went back to college. I was over 40 with two kids in high school. My oldest was flabbergasted: “You’re old! Why would you spend money and time on school NOW?”
I looked at her in horror, but then remembered saying something similar to my parents back in the day. [Speaking of which, now’s a good time to read my reflection On Turning 40 if you haven’t already.]
Now that I’m finished, I have a few things to say to anyone else who is considering starting someone new past the “normal” age for doing so.
10 Steps To Doing That Thing You’ve Always Wanted To Do When It Looks Like You’re Too _____ To Do It
Is there something you’ve been wanting to do, but haven’t made the time because you thought everyone else might think it was too _________? Are you just waiting for the “right” time to begin?
If it’s been a persistent goal for
- Think of the thing you’ve been wanting to do for a really long time. (If it uses your natural strengths and doesn’t contradict God’s Word, might it actually be part of his plan for your life?) Now write it down. I don’t care where—on social media, the bathroom mirror, a sign in your car—just get it out of your head and put it somewhere other people can see it if you let them.
- OK, now let other people see it. Seriously. What are you waiting for? Talk about why you want to do it and how it will make you feel to accomplish it. Enlist a core group of cheerleaders to help keep you on track.
- Find a piece of paper (actual paper is important here) and make a list of all the reasons you haven’t done this thing up until now. Include excuses you’ve made and what other people have said.
- Now—this is the fun part—burn the list. Yes, you read that right. Burn it. Don’t just throw it away because that’s too easy.
Lightthat baby up! Tell those excuses who is boss! (This is a very necessary symbolic gesture to usher in step five.)
- You just got rid of those excuses figuratively. But you also need to actually make the excuses go away. So if money is the reason you haven’t done this thing, get creative. Apply for some scholarships. Ask Aunt Betty for a loan (gift?). Sell stuff you don’t need. Is time the issue? Make the time. Prioritize. Say no if you need to, in order to say yes to this thing you’ve been thinking about forever. Do what you need to do to make it happen.
- Step five is hard. So step six is essentially a repeat of step five since you’ll likely to be tempted to give up at this point in the process. Remember those cheerleaders you identified in step two? Ask for help. Go public if you need to, but get rid of those excuses! After all, the notion of there ever being that “perfect time” to do anything is probably just plain wrong.
- With the excuses (mostly) gone, it’s time to take the first step. Register for the class. Apply for (or quit!) that job. Step up to serve. Make the gift. Talk to someone. Ask for the help you need. Do what it takes.
- Keep going. I won’t lie, you will probably want to give up at some point. Going back to college after 20 years was hard. In my first group activity, I was the oldest student by at least 15 years and it was super obvious. I had to tell myself, “Who cares if they are young and perky, you’re awesome. You can do it. Really. Don’t give up!” And then I turned in my first literature review and it was all wrong. I mean, who knew papers like that needed to include only peer-reviewed articles? My undergrad was in illustration, which if you haven’t figured out has nothing remotely to do with writing! Dory
knowthe point of this step…
- Remind yourself why you got here. How long have you wanted to do this? What will you feel when you finish? Is it easy? Probably not. Worthwhile? Definitely.
- Celebrate your accomplishments, no matter how small or seemingly insignificant! I didn’t need to walk across that stage—I only needed to complete the classes—to actually graduate. But I walked because I could… and because it is important to celebrate how far we’ve come.
Remember: It’s not one giant step that does it… but lots and lots of baby steps.