When I was 18 years old and away at college for the first time, I had no other responsibilities. I lived in a dorm room with five other girls. My meals were prepared for me. There was no grocery shopping to do, no family to look after. I didn't even have a job. All I needed to do was attend class and study, and yet somehow I still managed embarrassingly low grades.
Apparently 18-year-old me (and, let's be honest, 19- and 20-year-old me) and responsibility did not play well together.
Fast forward 15 years, and I'm the mother of three busy children with a house to maintain, meals to cook, Girl Scout troops to help run, a Sunday School class to teach, and places to go almost constantly.
When I decided to go back to school, I was excited, but I was also scared to death. I knew what kind of student I had been when I had nothing else on my plate. What kind of student would I be when I had so much on my plate already?
My first term I enrolled in a computer class that was a piece of cake, and a 5-credit Chemistry class that was not. I watched the lectures, did the homework, paid attention in lab, and read the material. But I desperately needed some sort of tangible indicator that I was going to be able to handle it all.
Because it was a hybrid class (half online, half face-to-face), all our scores were posted online. When I pulled up my score for our first exam the Saturday morning after I took it, I burst into tears. Not only had I somehow managed to score 103% on the exam, but I'd also achieved the highest grade in the class.
And I realized right then and there that it didn't matter what kind of student I'd been in the past.
What matters is only what kind of student I want to be now.
I can do this school thing. It doesn't make any difference how busy I am, because I've decided to make it a priority in my life. My house is showing signs of neglect, true, but so far my grades are not. My whole family has been incredibly supportive. Chris now does all the laundry, not because he wants to, and not even because he was afraid it wouldn't get done otherwise, but because he knows it's my least favorite household chore and he wanted to take over something that would be both helpful and meaningful. He doesn't complain when schoolwork keeps me from spending more time with him in the evenings, or when he comes home to a house that looks like it was hit by a bomb. The girls have been incredibly understanding when I've had to do schoolwork rather than play with them. They don't even complain too much about me hogging the computer all the time.
I've managed to maintain a 4.0 GPA, including last term when I was also up to my elbows in Girl Scout cookies. This term I'm taking two very challenging classes, and I'm worried, but I also know that I've learned some things about myself and my habits, and I know what I need to do in order to be successful.
I'm proud that I'm able to set a good example for my girls. By watching me work hard, they're learning to work hard, too. And by sharing in the celebration when I get good grades, they're learning that hard work pays off.
Most importantly, they're learning that while there are second chances in life, it's much easier to not mess up your first chance. I hope when they grow up and go away to college, they'll be able to learn from my experience and choose to be good students the first time around.
I didn't do that, so I'm grateful I get a second time around to make that choice!