What happens when a 30-something year old decides to go back to school? A lot of things, but mostly anxiety, fear, and even a little bit of regret. You find yourself wondering where it all went wrong. You wonder why you ever criticized online courses. You hear yourself say things like, “mistakes were made.”
See, I spent the last 12 years as an active-duty service member. In between deployments and other missions, I would occasionally take an 8-week online course because anything more or longer was too much with the demands of the Army. I did that consistently for about 5 years.
Then in 2018, after about 10 years in, I considered leaving the service. Of course, everyone fears for your life when you say that. Reactions range from anger, laughter, to true concern. You’re questioned on what you are going to do, how will you live, do you have a plan, and what will you do about health insurance?
It’s the strangest thing because I genuinely believe the military raises, yes, raises us (at least me, I was 19 when I joined) to be leaders who can thrive even in the worst conditions. Still, for some reason, when we think about leaving the military before 20 years, we feel a sense of anxiety for those at that crossroads.
However, these concerns were valid. I didn’t have a plan. I barely had an associate’s degree. I felt their fear as well.
The thing is, I didn’t want to leave. I love serving, and I am so grateful for all of the fantastic opportunities I’ve had in my long career. I’ve traveled, I’ve met incredible people all over the world, and I’ve made a difference in some small way, but the greatest reward for serving is those you serve alongside. That type of camaraderie and bond cannot be recreated anywhere else. Those friendships turn into family. They become your home away from home. No distance or time apart changes that. However difficult it would be, I still wanted a change, and those friends encouraged me to find something that would help me grow as a professional and as an individual.
When the opportunity to apply for a program that would allow me to complete my degree while continuing my service, I jumped at the chance. I was accepted, and I moved to Virginia to go to school at the good ole’ age of 31.
And yes, it was scary, but I made it through my first semester learning so much, and getting pretty good grades. I’ve met awesome and helpful folks in the CDS department who helped figure out life as student.
So, back to the question, what happens when a 30-something year old goes back to school? She remembers that its ok to feel anxious, fear and even some regret, but what she’s not allowed to do is forget why she did it or stop her from moving forward. The Army raised me better than that.
I’m here because the Army thinks I’ll do well in another position. I’m here because my family and friends encouraged me to take the leap when I thought I couldn’t. I’m here because I want to be.