Back to School

Here’s a picture of me, my first week back to school, after a 22-year-break:

negative space drawing

I’ve been fortunate enough to have been a stay-at-home mom for 16 years, and a few years ago, went back to work part-time to help out with things like grocery money. Weird thing about teenage boys is, they like to eat. I enjoyed my job slinging magazines at the grocery store, and my other part-time job, driving delivery lunches for a couple of really awesome caterers. But the work was hard on my back, and I kept thinking…what’s next? Am I going to be lugging 20-lb bundles of Vanity Fair down to the checkstand when I’m 60?

So I started looking for a “real” job. Something that might earn me more money, maybe some benefits, and something I might be proud of. Not that I wasn’t proud of the way I lined up and categorized the magazine aisle, but I think you know what I mean.

And after perusing all of the jobs listings that seemed of interest to me, I realized: I can’t do any of them. As much as I would love to get into a marketing job (literary agent, maybe?), design, or editing, I have no experience or job training – other than keeping two boys and a husband in relatively clean clothes and lasagne for the past twenty years.

So, what could I do? Work part time for the rest of my life? Go back to retail or waitressing? Real Estate?

Luckily the timing worked out right, and back to school I went.

negative space drawing

I’ve had more than a few people tell me that I would make a good teacher.

Growing up with an über-feminist mother in the 1970s, in the days when there were only 3 major professions a woman was expected to aspire to were: secretary, nurse, and teacher, and having my mom always telling me that I could be ANYTHING, and that I should never settle for status quo, the idea of being a teacher never appealed to me. (Well, besides the office supplies, and being able to write on a chalkboard.) But it just seemed so unglamorous. Besides, I was going to be a movie star, remember?

When I began to look at what I really enjoyed it occurred to me that I really do like to teach things to people. And I’ve always loved art, have also always wanted to learn more about art and how to be a better artist. And whenever I did try to imagine myself as a teacher, I thought I would love to be an art teacher.

my son with our class's Paolo Soleri windbells
my son with our class’s Paolo Soleri windbells

When my youngest son was in elementary school, I offered to be the classroom volunteer for the Art Masterpiece program. As part of the program, volunteers were invited to attend free classes at the Phoenix Art Museum. Then we got all sorts of ideas for lessons and how to integrate them into the classroom. We could even tour the museum for free, and ask all sorts of questions to the Art Librarian. Over the next couple of years we made Paolo Soleri-inspired windbells, Lichtenstein-style portraits, and charcoal drawings of the desert. I couldn’t believe how much I loved it. And while the idea of volunteering in the classroom (usually for some sort of party) typically made me cringe, I couldn’t wait to get in there with those kids and talk about art.

pop art
Lichtenstein’s Girl With Hair Ribbon, and a 3rd-grader’s self pop art self portrait

The most surreal part of starting college again was that the day before my very first day of school, my dad called – that 2:30 AM call that no one wants – to tell me my brother had died. I’d been on the phone with family, crying for 24 hours, and then I’m putting on a backpack and carrying a sack lunch. It was all too weird.

what am I doing here?

The first few weeks of school, my brain and my heart fought between being excited and happy, or heartbroken and crying. More than once, I had to excuse myself from class because it was just too much. But I felt him, every step of the way. My brother had gone back to school in his 30’s and received his degree in music education. He is part of the reason I decided to give it a try.

I learned so much my first semester: How I’m in LOVE with art history; how I get all science-nerd-fangirl over geology stuff; how, even though I’m a rockstar computer whiz when it comes to blogging, I don’t know sh*t about Excel (my only B!), how I get way in over my head for simple design assignments, and while I’m decent at drawing, I still have a long way to go.

Krusty Krab
This was a “candy box” design assignment. I made The Krusty Krab. Yes, folks, this is college. :D

Even my summer school classes, English 102 and Public Speaking – which I thought would be a breeze – challenged me in ways I never expected.

Look for more about my school adventures in the future. It’s certainly an overwhelming change of pace, going from full time mom to full time student, especially as an older -excuse me – non-traditional student, but it feels good. I have always loved to learn, and maybe I’m at the right time in my life where I’m able to appreciate the lessons. Wish me luck.

Look for Images from my first semester in the next post: Back to School: Projects

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