Dogs, New Tricks
by Peary Perry
all heard the old adage that ÖĒYou canít teach an old dog, new tricks.Ē
Well, Iím an old dog, and Iím about to find out if thatís true or not. I have
enrolled in a local university and am trying to go back to college after 37 years
to finish up and get my degree.
Now, you might ask yourself Öwhy would
he do that? And I would tell you, I donít know, but as they sayÖ it seemed like
the thing to do at the time. It isnít as if I donít have enough things on my plate
as it is now, but I guess this just adds a little more to the pile.
off, I have to go in for an interview to see how many hours Iíll need on a degree
plan. Iíve decided to go for a history degree since a business degree isnít needed
any longer. They suggested a degree in English or creative writing, but I passed
on that as well, since I canít stand anyone to critique my stuff. Iíd hate to
learn that everything Iíve been doing for years was all wrong. In this capacity,
ignorance is truly bliss.
No, I figured if I am going to spend the next
three or four years trying this out, I might as well dive into something I enjoy
rather than something I dread. I love history, so that makes sense to me.
During the interview, they checked my last college grades. I had made a ĎDí in
a course, which had put me on academic probation. Since I never went back to school,
I was still on probation after all of these years.
They wanted an explanation.
Said they had to have one before I could be admitted.
I looked at the
transcript and realized the last time anyone had even looked at this stuff was
in 1968. Thatís 37 years ago. I thought back to what was going on in my life and
told themÖI was a cop, the city had a riot, my wife was pregnant, she lost the
baby and had a nervous breakdown, I had a new business getting started and was
trying to make decent grades, but some how other things got in the way. They told
me that was fine; they had more information than they needed. I got the impression
they were looking for something along the lines of Ö.ĒI went on Spring Break and
forgotĒ. I suppose kids out of high school donít have many excuses like these.
Well, they havenít lived as long as I have either.
Anyway, here I sit in
a class of 25, and Iím trying to figure out whoís the oldest, me or the professor.
I canít tell for sure. I can take notes, and I can listen and I can learn.
My kids think this is a hoot. I have a parking sticker on the back of my car,
I have my books. God, are they expensive. I have my notebook and I have homework.
I spent all weekend reading 100 pages of my assignment and then writing a paper
to be turned in next class. Over the past 30 years, Iíve written hundreds of papers,
letters and proposals relating to various businesses that Iíve started or been
involved with. I can tell you none of these has produced the kind of anxiety Iíve
gotten over this first paper. My palms are sweaty and Iím nervous as a cat in
a room full of rocking chairs while my wife reads what Iíve written. She says
she likes it, but then Iím filled with doubt, because maybe sheís lying and doesnít
want to hurt my feelings. Can it be this bad or is it really good? The only true
way to find out is to turn it in and let it be graded.
For years I had
this nightmare that I was in a geometry class again and had this final exam, which
I had zero possibility of passing. If I didnít pass I was doomed to repeat this
course over and over. I suppose thatís one reason Iíve waited so long to determine
if I could muster up enough gumption and brain cells to get back into the habit
of studying and learning something new again.
So, Iíve paid my tuition,
bought all of my stuff and am now committed to doing this semester. Weíll see
what happens and how it goes from here on out.
At least itíll give me
something to write about each week.
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From North America - March
30 , 2005 column