Confessions of an Aging Student


Today is my first day back in-school in almost twenty years. I am at the local community college trying to get an Associates of Applied Science in Information Technology. A fancy title for learning to work with computers.

Needing a Job

I tried unsuccessfully for a year to become a “professional writer.” I posted on guest boards, wrote peer reviewed articles for history magazines and even tried (still trying) to write my first book.

At the end of the year all I had was a manila envelope filled with rejection slips. It was not a waste of time. I learned a lot and I can honestly say I followed through with a childhood dream of trying to become a writer.

I love saying “I am a writer,” when people ask what I do for what a living. I hate having to say, “… I am just not a very good one because I can’t make a living at it.” But, if this is your life’s greatest problem, then life is good, right?

No matter what I have tried to be in my life, a writer is what I always wanted to be. I am an avid book reader. I love books, words and emotions. I just can’t seem to make any money at it.

A New Plan

In June, just before leaving for my Annual Training at Fort Dix, I submitted my last articles for publication. If they were published, I would keep going. If not, it was time for a new plan. They weren’t published.

At least this time I got a nice letter from the magazine- “Nice article, just not what we’re looking for right now.” At least this time I had heard something back. Most times all I heard was crickets with no feedback.


In 1999, I got my bachelor’s degree in History from Oregon State University. My parents asked, “What will you do with that?” I didn’t know, so I went into the army. The decision was part necessity, part lack of momentum.

Things happened. I traveled- I spent a year sabbatical on the army’s dime climbing up and down the hills of Korea. There aren’t many of them, but they are constant.

I ended up in a series of remote army posts doing different things. I liked the army, but I didn’t love it. My last year on Active Duty was spent in Iraq.

I got out and joined the National Guard. I kept moving around doing different jobs- I moved to Colorado, I lived in Washington State, and finally moved back to Oregon.

Years of crisscrossing the country provided me with lots of adventure and interesting experiences but no real foundation.

Some of my adventures including trying out for Special Forces, teaching elementary school at the foothills of Rocky Mountain National Park, running a successful campaign for a State Senator, working for a brief time as a carpenter’s apprentice, doing a Human Resources job for the Oregon Army National Guard, moving to Kentucky and finally settling in North Central Indiana.

Along the way I went to Afghanistan (3 times), met a great girl, got married and owned two different businesses.

My freewheeling days as a self-styled American vagabond were fun. If nothing else I can always say I tried a lot of stuff. After moving to Indiana I tried to become a “professional writer.”

Again, I learned a lot, but nothing happened. I threw up my hands. It was time for a new plan. My almost twenty year hiatus from school was over.

A Master’s Degree

I got a Master’s Degree on-line in 2012. It was loads of fun, but not very profitable. I got a Master’s Degree in Military History.

I specialize in mid-20th Century American wars. My real love is the National Guard in World War II. But what do you with that? You ran an obscure website that five people in America read, that’s what!

Again, loads of fun, but I hardly make any money at it. It is fun to let my geek flag fly. But I needed a real plan. Being married, changed everything.

Going Back to School

I got married last month. I promised myself and my lovely new bride that I would provide us. I decided to go back to school.

I admit I was nervous. I thought I knew about college. My wife works at Purdue University. I would take her to campus and all I saw was lots and lots of young people.

When I arrived at our local community college, I didn’t know what to expect. I realized there was a trend of older students returning to college. They even have a name for us- “non-traditional” students, lol!

I thought I would be the old man in the room compared to the 18-19-year-old, fresh faced, freshman. I was wrong.


I decided to go back and pursue a degree in computers. With emerging media and me running my own website computers are something I know a little bit about. I thought it would be a great to channel my creative impulses.

I worked for the army as a Tier One/Tier Two computer help guy. This is a field I feel comfortable with and even like. Technology can be a great equalizer. For some of us geeky folks, it can be a gateway to another world on-line.

There are a lot of young, competitive smart kids who grew up on the Internet here. I see them here on campus interfacing with their technology devices as easily as ordering as Starbucks.

Luckily, I am not alone. As I look around I see some folks around my age, some younger and some older.

I know that this will be no easy task but I always love learning something new.

The classes are small. The instructors are committed. Even though the student body population is much younger than me, no really seems to care about the “old man” in the back.

My Classes

Here is a rundown of my classes with a brief description.

– Hardware/Software- This is a hands-on class where you learn entry-level stuff about Information Technology. You install, configure, and maintain devices and software for end users.

– Informatics Fundamentals- You learn about human and technology interface. There is a brief history of trends in computers and how operating systems are used.

– Network Fundamentals- In this class you learn about networking communication. The functions and services of Open System Interconnection and Transport Control Protocol. This class teaches you how data goes across a network of computers.

– Computing, Logic- Here we look at algorithms, logic development and flowcharts to document computer logic. We focus on simple coding.

– German Level I- Here I learn basic German. I love this language and always wanted to learn it for no other reason than it sounds cool.

The Routine

The best thing about this whole thing is the routine. I am like Raymond in “Rain Man.” I need a set routine to function well. A daily regimen that I can set my clock too is where I do my best work.

Going back to school allowed for that. I am surprised and at how stimulated I am. I spent three hours on Friday organizing my notebooks, materials and computer for class.

I feel directed in my purpose.

Is returning to school in my 40s an unwise choice? I am not sure. Right now, it seems just right.

I’ll keep you posted. Right now, I gotta go, I am late for my first class!