23 comments

General

Dr. Jayne Maine

University of Presque

“Things We Think”

Paper presented at a conference held on a campus where they served excellent seafood. Conference was on Literature and Thinking. That’s all you need to know.

(Great conference theme.)

What are some of the things we think?

Is it really true that the brain slows down and gets twisted like an old grape vine as a person ages? Is it true we all go down hill after a certain point, but never on a sled because hip replacements are expensive? Is it true there’s no cure for dementia or Alzheimer’s disease yet? What are we thinking of? Naturally there are cures already and cures that are timeless. Take your pick.

Aren’t all of these beliefs and conditions regarding aging a result of secretiveness and the part of some sectors of society?

Aren’t these ideas society has also linked to cultural and economic customs? 

People who are retired are no longer useful. They don’t pay taxes and get free healthcare on Medicare, right? They’re stuck in the past, don’t like newfangled ideas and devices. They don’t have as much income, so they should be taking up less space in communities and on the planet. Besides, they use walkers or wheelchairs or canes. Damn slow, too. Why go out when you’re like that?

People say these things.

Harsh, isn’t it? But who among you, listeners or readers, has not heard or thought things just like these or at least very similar? Be honest. I’ll wait. Just as long as you don’t ask me how I know.

All right, now that you have all seen the truth of ageism with all its depraved and dotty concepts, we’re - I’m - going to show you why something must be done about it. In fact, we need a group of activists to get it into Congress as a bill. Or maybe one of the political parties will adopt anti-ageism as one of the main planks of its platform. (We can always hope.)

There appear to be quite a few nods of agreement among the group. 

One really good way to educate society as to the unconscious discrimination against the elders who are members of it, is to consider career choices. A lot of us chose a college major without a clear idea of what that meant for the rest of our lives. A lot of us also never got the chance to go to college. Another lot didn’t want to go to college. We all had our reasons, good ones.

(More nodding.)

What would each one of you do if, right this minute, today, somebody were to offer you the chance to go back to school and study anything you wanted? Don’t worry about grades or testing, which are of course a real drag. Just limit your response to the idea of being invited or at least welcomed into a field, a discipline, that you knew nothing or very little about. Would you do it? 

If you have answered yes to the previous question - would you do it - then maybe you could also take the time to say why you said yes. (This is not a foolish exercise.)

If you have answered no to the question, you might decide to stop reading at this point and I won’t be offended. Studying is not for everybody and some people never set foot in any type of academic space once they have graduated, unless it’s for a sports event. (And then it is often also for the tailgate parties.)

Now we can proceed with the premise that, if presented with certain conditions, a good number of people would return to the role of student. We’re not going to get into exact details about how many years of study would be required, or the precise degree being pursued. Those are important, but by keeping this discussion very general, it will allow more of our group to feel free to participate.

One other important rule of housekeeping, and probably the most important, is that AGE (note the capital letters) is not to have any influence whatsoever on any of you participants. For example: Nobody is permitted to say ‘I would study to be a nurse, but I am too old’. Nobody can say: ‘I have real bad arthritis and can’t do the things I used to, so I can’t study this or that’.

You get the picture: All the birthdays, wrinkles, aches and pains, forgotten or repeated words, limited income, etc. are not acceptable excuses. All selections must be made in the abstract. For example: ‘I always wanted to know more about plants. I want to study botany now’. Or: ‘I enjoy being with my grandchildren so much. I want to study elementary education’. Or: ‘I always wanted to study Spanish and be fluent, really good in it’.

You get the picture once again: The only basis for choosing to return to school (here, we specifically mean college) is to fulfill some personal need. That can be any sort of need. Maybe not everybody knows this, but often majors are selected because of something that we felt as kids. So those who loved Leggo blocks and Linkin Logs study engineering; those who watched the beavers build dams study animal sciences. (It doesn’t matter that they may leave academe to do wildlife rehab); those who went fishing a lot when young study marine science; and, as a final example, those who had lots of crayons and comics growing up become artists and writers.

Why insist on this unscientific listing as data for this study? Simply because a lot of students do that. They allow their inner child or their parents to pick their field of study for them.

All right, I realize that I am a college professor and that is exactly why I have seen so many examples of major program selection that come from a good, but innocent and undeveloped part of us. Students change back and forth, searching. Many of them may actually make the right choice. Not all of them do. Also, don’t forget that after we make a right choice, we can still, and probably will, get bored with it.

Work forty years as an engineer and you might well be drawn to playing the guitar more beside the water (instead of constructing the bridge above the river and ignores the river’s appearance, the shades of blue and green flowing and spurting over rocks...) Work in a studio by yourself and not being able to pay the mortgage because people aren’t buying art these days. You could become a landscaper. That might mean applying to the Department of Environmental Sciences.

Oops, sorry. Got carried away there. This is supposed to be an academic conference, but we are trying to do some thinking here, too, right? (Note name of conference, provided above.) 

We were talking about... about... going back to school as a mature student.

You get the picture, I presume: A lot of people choose to live, not in the past, but in the present and in the future they have the wisdom to plan. Wisdom that comes from livedom. (No typo.)

At this point everybody here has hopefully been paying attention and has guessed what we are going to do next. Obviously what we are going to do is take one minute to think about what matters most in life right now. 

Then you will do a free-write. You all know what that is, I assume? You write without stopping, without lifting your pen from the paper (some in the group aren’t very good with pen and paper). You keep writing until you are told to stop. A ‘free-write’ is sometimes interchanged with a ‘writing prompt’. Just please, everyone, follow the rules.

After that each of us will explain to the group how going back to school and getting a degree in that discipline will be a good plan, personally.

Everybody writes furiously for the next hour, sketching out a program of study and explaining why certain courses would be required for the student to be really good at whatever the chosen major had been. Consultation among them is allowed if really necessary. There are smiles as well as tears on the faces in the group. 

Everybody is amazed at how quickly the hour has gone by. A couple of participants have even begged for just half an hour more. Unfortunately, we do not have time for more individual writing. We need to begin. Because every day we are more mature and ee should but that maturity to good use. After all, this is Life College.

Follow-up to presentation of paper:

I believe that I made a mistake. 

I should have spent more time getting the participants ready to create life plans for themselves.

A couple of times I sounded a little too New-Agey and that is soooo bad.

I don’t like “Life College.” Too cutesy.

I should have explained to the readers of this story that there was supposed to be a complete fusion/confusion of the researcher, narrator, main character. 

That means, in plain English, that nobody knows who the hell is talking. 

That was what I was trying to do when I wrote this.

Follow Follow-up:

I don’t care if you readers got lost.

You know why?

Because if you made it all the way here, to the end, then you are fantastic readers. You all get A+ in the course ‘Going Back to School as Mature Student’.

August 15, 2020 03:35

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23 comments

Doubra Akika
20:36 Aug 16, 2020

An awesome approach to this prompt! Really creative. The questions were very deep and I’m really happy I read this. Please keep writing!

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Kathleen March
21:10 Aug 16, 2020

Thank you. I felt the prompt was tough, but being a lifelong learner myself, it was something I just had to try to write. School means different things as we get older...

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Doubra Akika
21:16 Aug 16, 2020

Yes, I feel that we learn everyday! School does mean different things as we get older. If you’re free, would you mind checking out my recent story?

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Kathleen March
21:29 Aug 16, 2020

Be glad to. I might note that from kindergarten on I loved school and never wanted to leave. Have loved learning and teaching my whole life. It has saved my life more than once.

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Doubra Akika
21:39 Aug 16, 2020

That’s amazing honestly. The kind of passion you have for it.

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Kathleen March
00:29 Aug 18, 2020

The passion has always come from letting my career path choose me and also from the experience of being with young adult minds (and a few non-traditional ones). I have a couple of other passion, but they are in second place.)

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Amogh Kasat
10:08 Aug 15, 2020

It's an amazing story P.S read my both story what is a Second Chance The Secret Mission Meeting

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Pragya Rathore
16:45 Aug 16, 2020

Amazing story! I was captivated by how much emotion and hard work you put into this story. Great! It was perfect. I'm learning a lot from you :p Please check out my 2 recent stories :)

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Kathleen March
00:30 Aug 18, 2020

The story just wrote itself, like some of mine do, haha. I will gladly look at yours.

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Andrew Grell
00:22 Aug 21, 2020

Nice. I flipped a coin as to which story I should review. The other writer was heads, you were tails. Oddly enough, and we are in our 60s, My wife decided to go to school (not back to school) to improve the odds of her having a successful writing career. She answered YES to your question. Based on a discussion at a an AWP conference with a professor from Wilkes, she was accepted to the graduate writing program without having gone to college but instead attending conservatory. As for me, I answer NO! I was 9, it was 1968, my friend'...

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Kathleen March
01:07 Aug 21, 2020

Well, I love the comment. It’s just as appropriate to tell what a story brings to mind, or how it connects with us, as it is to analyze the story. I like your story! I also hate ageism, in part because I am ‘mature’enough to have experienced some of it.

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Kristin Neubauer
16:44 Aug 16, 2020

Hah! That is super-creative. I liked the style, but more importantly, the very necessary and profound points you made in there about the value of seniors/elders in our society. I definitely must give it a second read to absorb it all.

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An awesome approach to the prompt, I myself, felt like a student sitting down in a lecture taking all the information in. It was a nice feeling. Great job.

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Kathleen March
02:37 Aug 16, 2020

Oh, I love that comment! Since I have been that person in the front of the class and am no longer there, it was fun to recreate a classroom...

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That's so cool, you did an awesome job. Your profile said that you love to read, would mind checking out my stories? Any tips would be great.

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Kathleen March
14:42 Aug 16, 2020

I will be glad to.

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Kathleen March
13:19 Aug 15, 2020

*secretiveness on the part

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Tariq Saeed
08:21 Aug 15, 2020

Presented with good idea.

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Kathleen March
02:39 Aug 16, 2020

Thank you very much.

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Jen Park
04:59 Aug 15, 2020

Wow! What a creative approach to the prompt! The questions are deep and contains smart philosophy. My favorite one was: Is it really true that the brain slows down and gets twisted like an old grape vine as a person ages? I probably have to read this again. I have a lot to think about this theme. Thank you for sharing this with us! Those kind of great thoughts don't come easily into one's mind. (Well, it doesn't come easily to me, at least.) You might convert this to an essay, too. It would be awesome. PS. It is incredible that I alway...

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