I felt like a subject in an extreme cognitive behaviour experiment, someone who’s thrown into a foreign environment and is forced to figure out a whole new set of survival skills pronto if there’s any hope of making it out alive; or a head trauma patient who’s just coming-to after being kept in a medically-induced coma for the past decade; or Mrs. (Lovey) Howell realizing that coconut milk doesn’t “just come” in crystal glasses with little umbrellas propped in for presentation.
I was under no illusions when I started back to school. I suspected I would be the oldest student there and was prepared for the challenge of getting into the rhythm of reading textbooks and writing.What I didn’t expect was feeling like Paris Hilton being asked to clean up pig manure on The Surreal Life. I didn’t expect the cold and unforgiving smack in the face telling me that there’s a whole other world out there – one that has gone on without me while I got older and busied myself raising kids.I thought I’d been keeping up, that I wasn’t like “the other moms” who cooked and cleaned and were overly invested in their children. Anyone who knows me can tell you what a crappy cook I am. And don’t I watch Peter Mansbridge at 10 every night? I generally spend my days reading and having enlightening discussions with my friends (“You got that at Winners? Do they have any left?”), and, while I adore my kids, I’m careful not to live my life through them. (“I don’t care if Sasha’s mom home schools her. Not only do you need to be with other children but Mommy’s busy with her own life. Now get to school. I’m going to be late for my manicure.”)
So when Mommy took her own life back to school and enrolled in a course at a local university, I didn’t think it would take me that long to get up to speed. Mommy was mistaken.
My new “peers” – all in their early twenties – and I tried to find common ground. The usual “Do you have children”, “Are both your parents still living”, “Did your husband get a good severance package when he was laid-off from his senior management job” just wouldn’t work.
Even more generic things – What kind of a car do you drive? (they don’t own cars); Do you hate the sky-high property taxes we’re forced to pay? (they don’t own property); What’s your favourite TV show (them: Gossip Girl, me: Sex and The City reruns) – didn’t work. I had more in common with the Registration Ladies than I did with my fellow students.
I’ve got another class tonight and I suspect I’ll once again be stunned by just how much I don’t know. But there is an upside. Isn’t it great to still have so much to learn at my age? And hey, maybe I have a thing or two to offer to “the kids” in the class. Maybe I can give them a ride home.