I’m honored to introduce you to my next guest, Carolyn. Carolyn first shared her story in early 2010 and I encourage you to spend a few minutes reading that for background. In a nutshell, Carolyn’s husband was cheating with her best friend and when Carolyn confronted them, he wanted them to work out an open marriage. That was not acceptable to Carolyn and she moved out.
That was three years ago. She was in her mid-twenties, had two children then aged three years and six months, was a high school dropout working at a mall, had never had a bank account or credit card and had never lived on her own. Meeting Carolyn today, and hearing her talk you would never associate her with the person she was then and that’s what makes this update so inspiring.
Carolyn knew she wouldn’t survive on her own on minimum wage jobs and she made the decision to go back to school for an associate degree nursing program. She’s in the second year of the program now but to get there she had to take a night class to get the math credit and then spend a year at community college taking some core classes.
I asked Carolyn to talk about what it was like for her going back to school, given that she’d never succeeded academically before. Here’s Carolyn:
People say having kids changes you and and it did, but before I had kids I was a nanny, and before that a babysitter, and that was my comfort zone. School was not, so school was way scarier for me than having children.
It was terrifying to walk into that class. I joked with my mom when I took the very first class, it was math class at the high school in the evenings, a basic high school algebra, because I had not ever passed that class in high school before dropping out. I remember calling my mom from my car and telling her.
“My life has become an after-school special. I’m a high school dropout single mother of two, taking night classes at a high school to get my diploma.”
It was terrifying. and going back, I remember when I took anatomy and physiology, it’s a very hard class. The very first week or so, I sat through the lectures, I was doing the reading, and it was just like it was written in a different language, which it almost is. It’s all this medical jargon and science stuff that I just wasn’t familiar with. I was so scared.
I sent the professor an email telling him.
“I think I might need to drop this class. I’m in over my head. I’m not capable of passing this class. I think I maybe overshot what I can do and I should probably take basic biology first because I don’t remember any of this stuff from high school and I don’t know what to do.”
I was just totally hysterical. I called the counselor and cried on the phone. I told her that I didn’t know what I was going to do and how was I ever going to get in the nursing program if I couldn’t pass this class, maybe I should take bio first and that I’d realize it was going to take me longer to get into the program than I thought. I was really scared. She just said,
“You have time to drop the class later. Why don’t you study for the first test and take the first test, see how you do. If you don’t do well, then you can drop the class and you can take bio instead, next semester.”
I said OK and I studied as hard as I could. I made note cards and I read it even though it didn’t make sense to me at all, I just kept reading. I got an A, and I got an A on every other test, and I ended up with an A in the class.
I think I had an advantage over some of the other students, which was that I didn’t go into it thinking that it was going to be easy at all, and I didn’t go into it thinking that my study methods were going to cut it. I was so nervous about it that it ended up giving me this edge where I was over-preparing myself. So I ended up doing really well in that, and I just got my first B in college.
For a high school dropout to go and be so nervous, that nervousness translated into a lot of compulsive studying. I had to learn from scratch how to study. I read books on how to study. I remember last spring, before starting the nursing program, I took a short trip to see my mom and I was laying on the beach reading a book about how to get A’s in college. I think it’s sort of funny that my bad history with school ended up pushing me to do better than a lot of the other students who haven’t had such a poor educational background.
The Divorce Coach Says
What I think this segment proves is that you truly are capable of doing anything you set your mind to but it requires a huge leap of faith. Carolyn knows she has to be support herself and her children financially and she can’t do that the way she wants on unstable minimum wage jobs. It is so important for newly-divorced women to figure this out because it brings with it freedom and options without being beholden to child support payments or maintenance that may not be forthcoming. Later on in this series Carolyn will talk about how she’s supporting herself financially while she’s at college and how she feels knowing she’s accumulating student loans. And as driven as she is to excel academically, Carolyn has recognized that there is more to college than a perfect a GPA.
Photo Credit: Michael Oh