When was the last time you truly stepped outside your comfort zone, and undertook a whole new project or direction in life? In the past few months, I’ve done just that, and here’s the story.
In 1977 I stared my university life at a small college in St. Paul, Minnesota, far from where I was raised in Olympia, Washington. I loved everything about it, being away from home, meeting new people, college life and Minnesota. What I didn’t like at ALL, was academic life. I finished that first year and took the next year off. I then went back for a second year. I then took 3 years off and went back for a third year at a different University. Did I learn things? Yes. Did I learn to love academia? No. As a matter of fact I hated it, and could not see how a 4-year degree would fit into my “footloose, fancy free, follow the beat of my own drum” lifestyle. Suffice to say, I didn’t finish University and honestly never looked back, and have never felt I “needed” a degree to do what I’ve done in life. (Do you think a degree would have made a difference in my jewellery creations? Nope!)
Fast forward 40 years when three things happened. Covid, My beloved Mother died, and my wonderful roommate from all those years ago, also died. I cannot actually say why, but these three events started me thinking about that long-lost Uni degree, the one unfinished circle in my life to date. I applied to the same school I had first attended, Concordia University, St. Paul, Minnesota, and after 6 long months of waiting, while the two different Uni’s dug around and tried to find my records, I was finally admitted. This was to be online and I would eventually end up with a four-year degree in Digital Marketing, a subject I am deeply interested in. (Did I mention they’re calling me a legacy student?)
Are you still with me? Because now comes the “fun part.”
This is unequivocally one of the hardest things I’ve done in my adult life. You think me melodramatic? Not even a little. First the courses are all online and more difficult and involved than anything I remember from all those years ago. I started with two classes, Business & Entrepreneurship and Organizational Behaviour. Everyone said: “Oh, Renee, you could teach those classes with your eyes shut.” Oh, I think not.
There were two hurdles to cross, one being the actual work, and there is a LOT of work. The second is the online component. Oh, and a third now that I think of it, this is a USA based school, and I live in, you know, AUSTRALIA. In one class I had a major semester long project with a team of three other classmates, one in Pennsylvania, one in Kentucky, one in Minnesota and me, you know, NOT there. The Zoom meetings were endless and the time difference brutal, but we did it and handed in a project we were all proud of.
I’m not too big to admit the online component has had me crying, frustrated, confused and despondent all at once. Trying to access and understand the digital platform has been almost harder than the work itself. Just when I thought I finished the reading, writing and papers and “discussion board” assignments for the week, I would mysteriously find another portal and whoopee, there’s more work, due in …oh, crap, past due. And when an assignment is past due online, well, try telling the computer the dog ate your paper.
I finished these first two classes and am part way through my second semester with a class called Principles of Marketing, and yes, it’s becoming more manageable. The meltdowns have become less messy and I’m able to see actual progress, but the work is still hard.
Three things help. My hubby aka Mr. Wordsmith, my precious dog Ruby who eventually gets me away from the computer and my studies, and a little card taped to my desk that says: “In the end, we only regret the chances we didn’t take.”
If you feel inclined or inspired to step outside your comfort zone I encourage you to. It might be hard or difficult, but that’s the process and there’s just no way around it. I’ll be writing more about this as time passes, so hang in there with me, the fun has only begun!
PS Yes, I still spend time in my studio and no the jewellery business has not suffered, because I am surrounded by good people! I am working towards a major “Pearl jewellery Extravaganza,” which should be on the website within a few months. Stay tuned!
Image Below: My “first day of school.”