By Judith Whitehead
Back in the 1970s I went to a junior college and obtained an associate of applied science degree in medical assisting. Soon after I decided to become a young bride and married a young man who was still finishing his bachelor’s degree. We were young and had little money at the time; and before we knew it we had started our family, adding two boys to the picture. Years passed quickly; I began my career in ophthalmology and loved the work.
I totally loved the whole package – mom, worker and wife. It was a juggling act that I enjoyed performing, but I always had gnawing in the back of my mind that I had wanted to obtain that four-year degree in the health fields. Was it even possible to return to school in my late 30s, handle a household, work full time and keep track of two teenage boys? It was now or never so I decided to bite the bullet and go back to school at night, the only spare time I had.
My first night at the University at Buffalo was exciting and yet intimidating as I was one of the oldest students in the class and hoped that I would fit in. Back then computers were just getting introduced and I had to take copious notes in each class. Most of the students were friendly enough and I found that since I was paying for each class I never missed one. That wasn’t always true of other students, who would skip class if they got a better offer.
Students began to sit near me because I always had the homework done and took great notes, so they could see if they had missed anything important. The teachers also were friendly to me, probably because they were in my age bracket and I respected them.
I continued taking the classes required for my degree, part time for the next six years. Slow and steady will win the race, as they say. I was in no great hurry, I had a full-time job that I loved and I enjoyed learning new things in the health field as well. I also took a writing course as one of my electives which I soon realized that I enjoyed as well.
Classes such as “death and dying” not only helped me in my career but prepared me for what was to come not long after my graduation: my mom passing away at a young age.
As I approach the last years working in my field I not only feel blessed but privileged to have been part of so many patients’ lives.
Going back to school was one of the best options I could have pursued; many teenagers aren't ready to commit to a career at that young age and should not feel their window of opportunity has passed. Knowledge is timeless and learning can be done at any age with the will and gumption to succeed.
Yes, slow and steady does meet my description in life and as I still enjoy working in the health fields and writing for pleasure, I am reminded that anything is possible as I gaze up at my bachelor’s degree.
My advice to young people is this: If you are considering getting additional education, do it. It's a move you will never regret.
Judith Whitehead, of East Amherst, found her life enriched by returning to college as an adult.