Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Title: Student + Mature

If I had stuck to the original "adult life plan" I had in junior high, I would have finished university by now and gone on to become filthy rich with a successful career under my belt. I'd have a corner office with servants...ahem...employees to boss around and bring me lattes and cower at my feet. While I fan myself with dollar bills. Or better yet an employee would fan me. And another feeds me grapes...

Yup that was the plan.

Never had it crossed my mind that I would be spending my mid-twenties combing through brochures and school websites, deciding on a program and worrying about university applications and funding. But here I am anyway. So I decided that if I'm going to be a student again, I'm going to do it right this time.

Today I attended a workshop held by the university for mature students returning to learning. What an eye opener it was. Being surrounded by "youngins" fresh out of high school can be unnerving. I remember when I went for my upgrading at a community college surrounded by 17-20 year olds. While lining up at the cafeteria (forgot how greasy and sad school cafeterias are until that moment), I couldn't help eavesdrop on the conversations around me. A group of girls were talking about sneaking out from being grounded to attend this party. Which followed by what to wear and if there were going to be any cute boys. Another was complaining about how it was so unfair their parents wouldn't fork over more money. There was also gossiping about how this girl was talking smack about this girl..blah blah blah. I just wanted to scream at them and shake some much needed sense. Then I smirked and laughed inwardly, at them and at myself. I was once like them 5 years ago. So naive and filled with trivial problems. So in knowing that, I was able to appreciate being a mature student and all that it comes with.

At the workshop I felt relief that there were others I could not only relate and discuss my concerns and frustrations with, but there were services to help Mature students navigate towards this "new again" adventure. Here are a few things I took away from the workshop.

  • Even when mature students have been away from school for a while, we never really stopped learning. Instead of an institution, we learned from The School of Hard Knocks. Theory is nice and all, but experience is the best teacher.
  • Being fresh from high school has its disadvantages. Our school system does not do a well enough job to teach students how to transition properly into post-secondary. When the hand holding ends, these students have a tendency to fall off the wagon because they've never learned to be independent in the first place.
  • The commitment is much stronger and the drive greater. Most especially if we don't have the luxury of having Mom and Pops paying for our education.
  • No more messing around. We know what we want and realize that time is important. Most mature students have a big goal in mind whether it's career advancement or a new life direction, etc.
  • We are "juggling experts". Even though we may not give ourselves credit, most of us are experts in time management. It comes from juggling school work with other responsibilities like career/jobs, significant others, household upkeep, volunteer work, socializing and children among other things that take up our days and nights.
  • We bring more skills than our inexperienced peers who haven't really been out in the world.
  • We don't get caught up in trivial matters. Peer pressure doesn't affect us as much because the years have taught us that image and "being cool and popular" in the end doesn't get us to where we really need to be. Looking good and presenting a great first impression is important, but it doesn't distract us from the big goal. We recognize that there's more things in life than getting plastered on the weekend, getting laid by some random person, or what's happening on Jersey Shore or Gossip Girl.

So it's okay to feel a proud to be a mature student. Forget about society's aversion to being "old". When faced with doubts and the occasional envy watching others that are younger seemingly get and have more fun with their school experience, take a step back. It all has to do with perspective and you only need to remind youself of the above. And if that fails to cheer you up, contact your school and ask for services offered to mature students. There are lots of resources out there at our disposal.

Everything will be fine. It will be over before we know it so might as well enjoy the university ride.

And for those thinking about going back, you are never too old to learn. It's never too late.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Cable Free Zone

Image source: pnwrancher.com
February's here!! I hope everyone had a good first month of 2012. Aside from Valentines Day, this month holds a special significance in that for the first time in 7 years, our household will be cable free.

After years of trying to convince the boyfriend to agree to cancel our cable, he finally said yes! Like most guys, he has, in my opinion, a very weird obsession of anything to do with the entertainment system whether it's the game consoles, speakers and most especially "his" big screen and the cable that goes with it. He hummed and sighed but we both agreed that not only will we save $$$, we needed to get rid of as many distractions and couch potato aids as much as possible. Our contract free - hassle free cable provider was nice enough to wait a couple of days to cut us off  which helped ease the transition for him. We knew it was coming so for the two days, we spent "quality time" saying goodbye to the numerous channels. When the feed was finally cut off and the TV turned all fuzzy, we both looked at each other. I laughed and cheered while he bowed down his head and if there was an X-Ray machine, it'd probably show his heart breaking :( His words were "I'm ruined!".

It has been a week so far and even though I do miss watching the morning cartoons and he misses his "Gold Rush" show, we are coping better than expected. We are spending more time with each other talking about the happenings of our days and have noticed that the topics have more depth. There's something comforting about sitting on the couch in dim light without the lull of TV noises and just talking or even not talking but just being with each other. I realize this would probably get old fast so I've come up with a list of things to substitute being cable drones.

    1. Netflix = Realizing we cannot quit cold turkey on the TV watching, Netflix was the best alternative. It played a huge factor in convincing the boyfriend to do the unthinkable. For only $8 a month and with a 1 month free trial period, this is a deal very hard to pass up. Hundreds of movies, documentaries and maybe thousands of TV episodes, there's so many to choose from! It satisfies his Supernatural/horror and comedy flix cravings while there's the classics, foreign, and chick flix for me. The only downside is that the new releases are a year+ old. But hey, for $8 a month, that is totally fine with me. As well, lots of TV shows (full episodes) are on the Internet offered by the networks. It may take some time before the episodes are posted but that's a minor detail. Before our service was cut off, we both made a list of which channels we tend to watch. It's a good idea to bookmark them for easy access. No more being inundated with commercials!

Image source: edupics.com
2. Cooking = Nothing like cooking up a recipe for love in the heat of the kitchen. Cheesy but true. We've cracked open the old cookbooks and are starting to hang out more in our tiny kitchen and trying out new recipes. This has also forced us to think more about what we put in our bodies and has made us go outside to shop for ingredients. A great opportunity to explore farmers markets and other off the beaten path for new shoppes and communities to explore.

3. Going outside = Going for a walk in the park, by the river, our street or even around the complex is a great way to get some fresh air and spend an afternoon or evening. One of the things I'm working on is going outside for some much needed fresh air daily to clear my head, even if it's just spending some time in the balcony admiring the trees and watching the shenanigans of the squirrels. Sitting outside in a cafe or patio "people watching" is also a great way to kill time. Great conversations and epiphanies have happened while being out and about in the world.

4. Home bound = I need to learn to balance my constant need for adventure is to not abandon my home. Lucky for me, I have a man who is very neat and proud of keeping a nice home. The annoying thing is that he will tell me when I'm being messy and becoming a slob. It's a good thing but it does get irritating sometimes. Before I used to be the neat freak who had a cleaning schedule that I stuck to religiously and would nag the heck out of him if he wasn't on board to help. Lately I have lost that passion and he's picking up the slack. Good lesson for him, a little demoralizing for me. So now with the cable gone, we've both been cleaning up and tidying our humble abode. We're back to redecorating the place and making it even more homey. A clean house = a clean mind.

5. Keeping up with friends = Something that's definitely in our list is to meet new "couple-friends". It seems that finding other couples we both like is a tall order. Finding two people we can not only relate too regarding couple issues but also go on beer dates with (for him) or go to cultural events with (for me) is proving to be difficult even in a great, big city. Without the distraction of cable TV, we are able to get out there and hope that the stars align and we meet compatible friends we can both hang out with. Aside from couple-friends, we also get to nurture our individual friends.

There are so many things to do when you go cable less. Read more books, catch up on your to do / bucket lists, visit or correspond with old friends and family, take up crafts, etc. It is possible to say NO and peel yourself away from the tube and change your self title "couch potato" to something else like "adventurer" or "social butterfly" or "bookwork" or even "lover of life". Being cable free is definitely not for everyone and I'm not saying cable is bad. But for those looking for a way out, don't despair. It can be done. Life will go on to make you appreciate experiencing it for yourself rather than watching other people live theirs.

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