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The Oldest New Graduate

The Oldest New Graduate

I went back to school at 50 years old.  I may be the oldest new graduate of a nursing program you have ever met. I tell people that I have retired into nursing. The thing is, I don’t feel anywhere near retirement age. Actually, after completing my Bachelor’s of Science in Nursing —I feel younger than I felt before going back to school.

I’ve listened to my friends doing the “count down” for retirement and although I suppose I can see the attraction of long, leisurely days of cruises, vacations and whatever one does during retirement, I guess I’m just not the retiring kind. I know that many retirees do wonderful things with their lives like volunteering and saving whales and such. I also must admit that I’ve never had the kind of job that was going to give me those life-long benefits that would allow one to make a living while not working. I’ve been a dancer (not that kind!), a personal trainer, an event planner for lesbian travel and a muralist. Not exactly careers with benefits but they were tons of fun.

So, though I say I’ve retired into nursing, I might better compare the last few years to a marathon that never has a finish line. But that doesn’t sound enjoyable does it? How about an enduring journey of learning, self-discovery and…wait…too deep and meaningful…perhaps a non-stop, three-ring circus? I’ve always loved a good circus. Of course I mean a circus with no animal cruelty or scary clowns. Although, scary clowns are everywhere…just check out the latest election campaigns.

When I told friends I was going to school to get my BS in Nursing they responded appropriately. “I’m sure your life experience will count for so much in your studies and finding a job”, “Wow, how exciting”, “You are so brave, I don’t think I could do school at my age”. Only later did I discover that most people thought I had lost my mind….but were still willing to come to parties with me. Except that I didn’t exactly have a social life for a few years so the going-to-parties thing only called for a partial commitment from my friends – more like a long-distance relationship.

Returning to school has re-engaged my heart and my brain in ways I never expected. The funny thing is that going back to school has taught me I that I am smart in ways I didn’t know about. And, at the same time, I found out there is so much to learn – and I’m not just talking the subject matter. I came to see how many judgments, internalized fears, stigmas and stereotypes I had been living with. No matter how cool, open-minded and intelligent one is (and of course I’m all those things), it is easy to get comfortable (read “stuck”) in patterns of living and thinking. I discovered that despite my previous educational background and extensive life experience I had much to learn about myself, others and…oh yea…the subject matter.

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  • Beatrice says:

    It sounds like the journey, or should I say yet another journey has begun. It is good to know that age will not prevent us from going in new direction. /b

  • Paula Lewis says:

    Wow, there is an amazing story of love, commitment and energy here. As a senior, I enjoyed reading about Kathleen’s late-in-life journey. YOU GO, SISTAH FRIEND!!!

  • Reme says:

    Your article reminds this ‘old nurse’ of the important things . . . courage, compassion, AND humor. Good luck and keep us in the loop!

  • Tisa says:

    I’m in that little boat following you — 49 and finishing the prereq’s for an education in oncology. Thanks for the “I did it” message. It IS weird and difficult starting a new career-with-benefits, and all my “life experience” better damn well count for something!

  • Jill says:

    Kathleen, I am Proud to call you my neighbor and friend. Great piece and so glad you are ready to put away the books and play! Now let’s just find you that job that will allow you to retire one day:)