The Down Side of the Up Side

by sharanpaul1

It is possible to feel sad and happy at the same time.  I am happy (and relieved) that Rachel has selected an amazing  junior college to attend next Fall.  I am sad because it means moving three hours away from our home.  This college was not her first choice.  She auditioned and applied to a very prestigious music school in California.  We were thrilled when she was accepted, until we looked at the cost!  There was no way we could afford it.  It was a crushing blow to realize her dream was so close, yet so far out of reach.  So, we revamped her ten-year-plan.  She will fulfill her basic college requirements, with a music concentration, at a more affordable community college, which will allow her to go to work sooner, and save the money to attend the university in California.  To save even more, I will transfer to a state university near her college, so we can share housing costs.  I am pretty sure that Rachel wanted to be on her own this year and is disappointed that she will be living with “Mom” for two more years.  But I know how much her dream of attending music school means to her, and am certain she will do what it takes to get there.  I will admit, two more years of living with my daughter…..makes me happier than ever.  I am grateful for the extra time with her, before she goes off to conquer the music world!

Since my first day at college, I have hated the fact that college students are divided into two groups; traditional and non-traditional.  Traditional students are young, right out of high school and non-traditional students, sometimes called non-trads, are everyone else.  While I would agree that I am not a traditional student by these parameters, I feel I am enough of an individual to deserve a better classification.  I would actually prefer to be just a “student”.  The university I currently attend, makes a point to refer to me as a non-traditional student, and I have to wonder why that is?  Do they get more funding for having non-traditional students?  Perhaps they get bonus points for students who are not young and fresh from secondary school?  Why would a university have to classify students by age in the first place?  I believe students should be classified by grades, attendance, participation, and accomplishment, to see a true picture of the effectiveness of a university’s success.  In my classes, I am considered a student by the professors.  I am expected to do what every other student in that class does.  I am graded by the same standards as the traditional students.  So, why the blatant separation?  The university would be better served if they concentrated on unification of the student body, instead of dividing them into groups.

A new school brings new anxiety.  It took a full year to adjust to being a college student, to find my place, and balance between home and school.  Now, I am faced with starting the whole process over at a new university, in a new town.  I decided to head this “non-traditional student nightmare” off at the start.  I called the admissions office at the new school to garner information about their particular attitudes on age and non-traditional students.  I spoke with a delightful, young man, named Tony, who chatted about college life, the area attractions, and gave me insight into how the new school viewed not-so-traditional students.  First, Tony never mentioned the word non-traditional student.  He spoke of programs the school offered that he thought I would be interested in, since I am an English Major.  When I mentioned my age, it did not seem to be an issue with him.  In fact, he stated that students come in all shapes and sizes, and ages, and that was what made the university so interesting to him.  During our conversation, he laughed in all the right places, called me a character twice, and said he could not wait to meet me in person.  I was relieved after the phone call, and I simply cannot wait to meet Tony and attend my new school next Fall.  As a student.  Not part of a group of non-traditional students.

There is always a down side to the upside.  The new university sounds exciting and promises new opportunities to learn for me.  Rachel is getting a good start on her education and we will be together for two more years.  But I am leaving my precious grandson, Ethan, behind.  He brings light to my dark days, reminding me of my son, Alex, who was always laughing, always learning something new.  We will be too far away to study together, or garden, or merely play in the dirt.  I will miss him, most probably, more than he will miss me.  It was Ethan who reminded me that we have technology to help us stay connected, even with the physical distance between us.  We can e-mail, text, tweet, and skype.  But I will miss making him waffles and hearing about the silly things that happened in school each day.

I know it is possible to be happy and sad at the same time, but I think it sucks.  I have committed to being away for the next two years, but there is always…Summer Vacation!

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