The Accidental Student: Part II

Fancy Statue of the Greek Goddess Athena.  Plain marble wasn't gaudy enough.
Fancy Statue of the Greek Goddess Athena. Plain marble wasn’t gaudy enough.

These are the adventures of a valiant woman who, later in life, decided that she was not quite educated enough. Come with her as she struggles inside the halls of ivy. Feel compassion as she suffers over homework, quizzes, midterms and finals. Twist your body with her as she bravely tries to use a full-sized laptop computer on the arm of an old wooden desk to take notes in class.

Can a 68 year old woman find happiness in a classroom with a bunch of undergraduates and a professor half her age? Is she crazy? … Only she knows.

Most of you readers are too young to know this, but that was supposed to be the voice of an old announcer on a radio soap opera. Sometimes I feel my life is like that.

I hate numbers. They are not my friends. I have known this since my first arithmetic class back in First Grade.

I can memorize just about anything pretty easily, including poetry, music, lines in a play, names of countries and capital cities, Italian vocabulary words, whatever. My brain is still in working order, in spite of what my friends tell me, so memorization is not my problem.

What am I getting at, you ask? I’ll tell you.

I am taking an Ancient Greek History class at the Ivy League university where I work five days a week. As an employee, I get free tuition. This is quite a benefit when you consider the obscene amount of money you have to pay at an Ivy League school. Not to take advantage of this would be foolish, right? Right!

So there I am, two evenings a week, in an old building, sitting in an old classroom with the most uncomfortable desks on the planet and an almost complete lack of climate control, with my laptop computer perched so that I have to twist myself into a pretzel to use it, taking notes about a lot of ancient Greek people and cities that I had never heard of, and some that I already knew about. Our professor rocks, which makes paying attention easy. Outside of class, I am cramming to read the textbook, plus snatches of Herodotus, Thucydides, Xenophon and Plutarch.

Did I forget to mention that my university prides itself on being a tough school? Well, it does and it is.

I knew the ancient Greeks were smart and I knew they were always fighting each other and occasionally fighting the Persians, but I never knew how cool they were. They were damned cool. They were so cool that some of them even settled in Southern Italy, where they became ancestors of people like me. That’s how cool they were.*

Great looks have run in my family for 3,000 years.
Great looks have run in my family for 3,000 years.
Did I tell you that I registered late for this class, thereby missing the first three weeks of it? I’ll leave the decision up to you: do I believe in giving myself challenges or am I just a lunatic?

So what does all this have to do with numbers?

The study of history includes dates. Dates are made up of numbers. I see numbers, and a ten-foot thick mental block immediately surrounds my brain, trying to hold back bad memories of grade school arithmetic class.

I can remember events in chronological order, but don’t ask me when any of them took place.

What is even more complicated is that we are studying ancient history, which means the numbers go backwards!


What took place first, the Battle of Marathon or the Battle of Thermopylae?

The Battle of Marathon. (That one was easy.)

What year did the Battle of Marathon take place?

Uh … the year the Athenians sent a bunch of troops to Marathon to fight the Persians.



*The Persians were kind of cool in their way, too. Even some of the Greeks thought so, at least when they weren’t trying to stop them from invading Greece.

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3 thoughts on “The Accidental Student: Part II”

  1. Kathy:

    Well, You certainly have my respect. First, anyone who survives Catholic school and who STILL wants to be anywhere near a classroom, even years later, is either smart as hell …or perhapds a little daft. I figure you’re the former. Every once in awhile, usually while drinking heavily, I get the notion of returning to school and pursuing an advanced degree. The idea is to go back to school to see ” if ‘the kid’ has still got it.”
    Then I realize that at my age, returning to school is a lot like physical exercise. So I go somewhere and lay down until I come to my senses.

    You’re great. Keep writing. Will

  2. Much respect to anyone who goes back to study when they are no longer forced to do so and one of these days I will go back to learn about math but maybe not today!.

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