Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Changing Horses Midstream

Yesterday I had a new kind of New York adventure. I walked over to the West 4th Street subway station, took the F train up and over to 63rd and Lexington, walked north five blocks to 68th Street, hung a left into the building, and got this:

Yes, I am a student again. After 30 years as a reporter, editor, and freelance writer, I am entering a masters program in special education, to teach kids who are deaf or hard of hearing. Classes start tomorrow.

I know—I'm a little surprised myself!

Not that this hasn't been a long time coming. Two years ago, in the midst of career disillusion, I wrote a post saying, "Shouldn’t I be doing something that matters? Shouldn’t I, like a backpacker in Yosemite, leave the campground a little cleaner than I found it?"

At the time, I thought that might mean using my writing skills on behalf of a nonprofit whose cause I believed in. I've toyed with other possibilities over the years, including law school, an Etsy shop for my Instagram photos, and my escapist go-to: the used bookstore on the coast of Maine.

The funny thing is, I didn't go looking for this particular path. I didn't have a vision or wake up from a dream. My Beloved went for a walk with his cousin, who is herself profoundly hard of hearing and has a Ph.D. in deaf education, and who runs this program at Hunter College. He came home and said, "I think you should look into this." I did. And the more I researched outward and the more I looked inward, the better it fit.

It fit my history as someone who helps others communicate. It fit my love of kids (besides The Child I have 13 nieces and nephews, seven great-nieces and -nephews, and three and 8/9ths grandchildren I was lucky enough to marry into). It fit the interest in deafness I've had since playing Helen Keller in The Miracle Worker in high school, when I first realized that there were people experiencing the world in a completely different way than I was.

Most of all, it would tap into the part of me that I had only put into play in my personal life, never in my professional life; the part that I described as "the person who believes that the human connection can change everything." The pieces all snapped into place with a satisfying click.

So, classes start tomorrow. As a "career changer" (agh, I'm an AARP spokesmodel), I'm taking the long program—two years, fulltime—which earns me a teaching credential as well as the special ed training. In a burst of wild optimism, I've registered for four courses, each of which meets one day a week for two and a half hours.

I'm a little nervous, less than I would have thought or than I probably should be. I'll likely be 30 years older than everyone in my "cohort" (do you think it's a requirement that I start speaking in academic jargon?). But I know that every time I've gotten off the subway and walked up the four sets of escalators to Lexington Avenue, I've felt a skipping beat of the heart—not just from the exertion.

I've been told I'm brave. I don't feel that way. Making this decision felt like lifting an anvil off my chest. So I bought my color-coded spiral-bound notebooks...

... and my two-pocket folders...

[Okay, not really these, but I wish.]

...and I'm well-supplied with Bic pens.

I also signed up for my new Hunter e-mail address, registered for an online Blackboard account, and downloaded the app onto my iPhone (hello, progress). As Monty Python would say, I'm not dead yet.

The adventure begins. Wish me luck.


j said...

I actually teared up a little reading this. I'm so, so excited for you. Pretty sure this is just what Katharine Hepburn would do. xo

Unknown said...

Brava, Susan! (Katharine would be proud of your gutsiness.) You're going to make a big difference in so many lives. It doesn't get better than that. Have fun!

Anonymous said...

You've just become the coolest person I know. And as you know from online, I know quite a few cool cats. Oh and good luck! You won't need it, but I offer it up anyway. :o) I took 13 years between my BA and MPH, another 6 to get to my current phd hopeful. You know there have always been younger kids in my grad training, but when you start something you're right for and you meet other equally excited folks in your cohort, it doesn't matter the age thing. Or I'm happily old enough not to give a crap abt age - either way win win! You go Susan!! xo Casoly (aka Caroline)

LPC said...

Congratulations! What a great step. Kudos to you for listening to yourself and doing good in the same process.

Sue said...

Congratulations! I'm so very excited for you. I oversee our tuition assistance program at work, so I regularly talk to adults continuing their education. But in most of those cases, they're continuing on with something they already know (a masters in chem engineering to supplement the bachelors in chem engineering). Your path is exciting. I hope you'll keep sharing with us as you make the various twists and turns. Plus - school supplies! Go Susan!!

Anonymous said...

Scusan this is wonderful! Congratulations and good luck with it all. You will be brilliant, as you are in everything you do. Lots of love! Chris

Carmen said...

this is very exciting! what a wonderful path! so so so inspiring

MrsWheelbarrow said...

I'm very happy for you, Susan. What a nice way to spend your energy.

Betty Medsger said...


I was surprised when you told me this. But I should not have been. You are an incredibly open, warm, wonderful human being with the capacity to change.

May you get off to a wonderful start, as I'm sure you will.


Anna M said...

Yay, good luck!

Unknown said...

Congratulations, Susan. I'm very proud of you and so is Joan, who sent me your article. It's excellent. Upwards and Onwards.

Susan Champlin said...

Thank you all for your incredible support—it means so much to me.

J and Becky, nothing could make me happier than a comparison to Ms. H.! Thank you both.

Caroline, I'm honored to join your cool cats club, as I know many of the other members, INCLUDING YOURSELF, and couldn't have better examples! Thank you.

Lisa, Sue, dear Chris, Carmen, Cathy, Betty, Anna...thank you all for your support and confidence in me! And Sue, yes, school supplies, whee!

Esther, having been fortunate enough to have astounding teachers like you and Joan showed me early on that teachers were life-changers. Thank you for your example. xo

Jennifer Mendelsohn said...

Way to go! That is so inspiring.

Joe Wallace said...

Everything about this is so wonderful! Amazingly proud of you.

Susan Champlin said...

Jennifer and Joe, thanks so much for reading and for your support. So far so good: Haven't been kicked out of the program yet!