Tag Archives: UCLA

A Brief Detour to the Other Side of my Brain…

 

So the dearth of posts here recently can be explained by something other than my general lethargy or reticence to engage.

For the last year-and-a-half, my academic career (community college) has taken me from one side of my brain to the other.

I originally re-enrolled at the community college that I took my first class in 1979. Yes kids, you heard that right…1979. It was an Emergency Medical Technician class I took as a senior in high school. That class led to a 26 year career as a first responder (EMT, Paramedic, Fire Captain).

When life intervened in 1999 and my world turned upside down as the result of my step-son’s car accident…all the best laid plans I had flew out the door before I realized they were missing. Without rehashing the last two decades (artfully hidden elsewhere in this blog), in the spring of 2013 I decided that a degree in Addiction Studies would afford me a stable career in a field I believed deeply in.

Well, two things happened: when I began my coursework, I also found a job in the field and was quickly disillusioned at the profit-making nature of the business; but more importantly, while taking my basic coursework for the AS, I found a passion for learning again. Not to say that as I younger student that I craved knowledge (far from it), but I found that as an adult with some life experience under my belt, that what I was learning about politics, world history, literature, and mathematics simply enthralled me.

Yet again, I steered a course change and decided to obtain a BA in English at UCLA (other fantasy universities include Berkeley and Georgetown).

Based upon by GPA, I was accepted into my colleges Honors Transfer Program for UCLA, and for the past three semesters I’ve been slogging through Math and Spanish courses. I dreaded Math and looked forward to Spanish. Both expectations were misguided.

It turns out that in order to attain fluency in a language, immersion and more than three semesters of the language is required. So after 3 semesters I can read and conjugate verbs like a boss but am panic stricken if I actually have to form real sentences in my head. Still, I managed to get A’s all three semesters.

Math was the surprise. I have always suffered from profound math anxiety, and frankly was dreading these classes. What I found was a real “duh” moment. If you put in the work, study, ask questions, seek outside help, that math is actually pretty stimulating. Don’t get me wrong, there were moments in Logarithms where I was sure the nuclear anxiety would take me out, but I persisted on and moved onto Honors Statistics last semester; another class that 4 years ago I would never have even had the courage to attempt.  I’ve received A’s in all 3 math classes the last 3 semesters. No one is more shocked than me…

So here I am…finished with the core work to get into university and back to my true love…general knowledge. This semester is going to be very challenging as I have three Honors classes: Physical Anthropology, Cinema, and English (persuasive writing). It also means a boat-load of research papers and familiarity with MLA/APA that I haven’t used in the last year-and-a-half.

So, of course the panic has set in…but it’s a panic that has enabled me to maintain (fingers desperately crossed) a 4.0 GPA during my time here. I didn’t set out to do this by any means; it has simply been a by-product of my thirst for knowledge and has now become self-perpetuating.

Three more semesters to go and I’m hoping to report my entrance into UCLA (or CAL or Georgetown or, as my life seems to arc, somewhere else I haven’t planned) as a junior.

Until then, my brain has shifted back to the other side, the non-math/language side and I’m hoping to crank out some more Conversations with the Moon…

 


Skool Daze….

I’ve ruefully neglected this blog for the last several months.

I just finished 2.5 years at a community college (no really, I took my last final less than an hour ago) while in pursuit of a transfer to UCLA and the ever popular Bachelor of Arts in English.

To date (today), I’ve managed to maintain a 4.0 GPA. Um…pretty sure that ends this week when grades are released.

I’m 54 years young, work full-time and have been carrying just under a full-time schedule in school. This year, in order to satisfy the requirements of the Honors Transfer Program I’m in, I needed to take Elementary and Intermediate Algebra (all the basic Algebra leading into Stats, Calc, etc.) as well as Spanish I and II.

Two distinct languages to learn. Two VERY hard classes for me. Although I’m an English major, I triaged my time and concentrated primarily on Algebra. I’ve always suffered from major math anxiety, but through a ton of hard work, have actually learned to enjoy math this year.

Well right up until last Saturday when I had to take my final that would release me to UC level math (I need to take Honors Stats next Fall)…

Thank God I walked into that exam with a 96% because after the first problem, all the formulas in my head magically disappeared behind a veil of clinical panic.

I simply couldn’t remember simple formulas after I saw a problem I specifically decided NOT to study for…certain it wouldn’t be on the final.

I could go on and on about my anxiety and depression after the test, but suffice it to say I pulled my head out of my ass and put things in perspective.

What I did learn is my ego has carried my through this 4.0 journey and as with all things pride, I needed a knock upside the head. Time to quit relying on my ability to “see” the answer during these tests and actually put in more hard work than I have been willing to exert.

At the end of the day, if I do that, I will excel. If I don’t, I’ll continue to ride this tenuous GPA right into the ground.

So hello blog world. I’m back for at least the summer on a semi-regular basis to hone my writing and try desperately to forget logarithms and rational equations…

Goodbye 4.0…hello humility.


Mid-Term Malaise…or How I Found Courage in the Gallows of Boredom

No, this post isn’t about the midterm elections this week, although I do have a whopper brewing in my head vis-a-vis my utter disappointment with the incumbent president’s performance.

This is about the space I find myself currently in.

Sheer boredom. Malaise. Mind numbing…nothingness.

I’m just slightly halfway through my fall semester at college. I haven’t blogged in quite some time. I’m slogging through core class requirements as I muddle my way towards my final two years at UCLA.

I worked 88 hours the last two weeks while studying for two exams in my Spanish and Algebra class respectively.

I have no life.

I have no time to blog/write anything other than vapid responses into the lamest online Spanish software ever created. Software that the instructor admits is inferior and responds to our concerns with “it’s not my problem, it’s your problem”.

Welcome to junior college.

This sucks…

I had an extraordinarily rare day off today that I spent getting a flat fixed, driving to my old college to begin the academic renewal process for an “F” I received 29 years ago in a Poli Sci class; and riding my bike 20 miles. I then spent well over 5 hours grinding through my Spanish exam and homework.

And it hit me.

Courage isn’t what happens when you are facing an immediate threat. Courage is borne out of the little things.

The willingness to persist when giving up would be so much simpler; when you can find a hundred reasons to rationalize your decision.

Courage is faith. Being willing to put one foot in front of the other when you can’t see the finish line. When you’re not even entirely sure where that finish line is and what it will look like.

I walked into the middle of a physical altercation the other day outside my apartment. A fight was in progress and I was in the midst of it before I was even sure what it was. I responded forcefully and decisively and defused the situation. Not because I have courage, but because it was reflexive, muscle memory gained in a previous lifetime.

Courage is simply not giving up when you’re not entirely sure what the outcome will be. But you know you’re doing the right thing, despite the sheer pedestrian nature of the task. And the long hours. And the absence of a social life.

It’s a quality problem to have. As tough as this road is right now, I know how fortunate I am to be on this path.

So to all those erstwhile meek students out there, grinding out those core classes, quietly tolerating those professors who are phoning it in while they collect their checks…I salute you.

In your own redundant ways, you’re displaying a great deal of courage.


Coming Up for Air

Phew. That was tough. Tougher than I thought.

I work full-time and go to community college carrying just under a full-time unit load. I’m currently in the Honors Transfer Program with an eye towards enrolling at UCLA in the Fall of 2017 as an English Major (an admission I realize is suicide on a blog).

The Spring Semester ended yesterday and I got my ass handed to me. It wasn’t unmanageable but it seriously kicked my butt. 9 units, three core UC/CSU classes.

Poli Sci was the easiest of the three. I’ve been a political wonk/news junkie my entire life so a lot of the material was intuitive. Pretty sure I aced this class. The irony here is that in a former life I was a radio reporter and interviewed my professor 35 years ago when he sat on the local Board of Supervisors. Pretty sure this guy is at least 83 and still pretty darn sharp. Very inspiring.

Intro to Western Civilization was brutal but ultimately, fascinating. I had no idea I would have an interest in Ancient Civilizations, but now I’m hooked. That the teacher was rated on RateMyProfessor.com as one of the hardest history profs was something that eluded me prior to enrolling. She was extremely difficult. Her tests (minus the Final) were all essay. She required a 10 page research paper with 3 original sources. Suffice it to say Rate My Professor is now my first stop before I enroll. I did learn quite a bit in her class but ultimately was frustrated by her lectures. They were schizophrenic and didn’t seem to follow any form of structure that I (or my classmate) could discern. But at the end of the day, she had a passion for history and knew the material. I got an A.

Finally (and here’s the tricky part as this professor follows this blog and I’ve yet to receive my grade), despite the fact that I didn’t use Rate My Professor the last two semesters, I’ve scored big-time in my choice of instructors. My English 101 professor was fantastic and superb at the art of creating cogent research papers.

But this semester, serendipity caught up with me in my choice of English 102 instructors. Dr. Gino Pellegrini received his doctorate in English Lit from Purdue and specializes in multicultural studies. He is brilliant and personally inspiring. He is “that” teacher. The inspirational one. I have had only one other; Mrs. Doi in high school developed a love for English in me that continues today. Dr. Pellegrini nurtured that. His teaching style was engaging and the 3 hour class flew by. And did I mention he was incredibly hard? Early on in the semester I had a come-to-Jesus moment where I realized I was in way over my head and had no business being in his class…I was caught for the fraud that I am. But I persisted and worked hard. He made us write our asses off in class. Although I despised the handwriting, I loved the pressure, the immediacy of collating ideas and doing my best to make sense of them. It was a lot like blogging. For his final, he required a rewritten portfolio of our work and a research paper on an author. I chose my literary inspiration, John le Carre and had a literal blast writing it. I know he’s considered a genre writer, but I hope my paper changed that image. The Final was a 3+ page hand-written essay on Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye. I had prepared an outline in my head prior and felt pretty good about what I wrote. What I didn’t expect was the emotion that welled up within me as I wrote the paper. This is an extremely bleak work and as I wrote I suffered for the characters. It was emotionally draining. When was the last time your professor pulled that out of you?

Dr. Pellegrini demanded the best of me and I can’t thank him enough. I needed that. It has given me the inspiration I need to continue on the path I’m on and face even greater literary challenges.

You can check out his blog here.

So for better or worse, I have more time to blog. And I intend to, as the next 3 semesters will be void of any English classes. Maybe it’s time to get rolling on my novel too.

Either way…I hope you all had “that” teacher that inspired you. I’ve been lucky enough to have two in my life…

 

 


Higher Education…a Family Affair

Lillis_Complex_(University_of_Oregon)

 

Greetings from Eugene, Oregon. My son and I have just completed “Duck Days”, otherwise known at the University of Oregon’s sales pitch to students and parents attempting to get them to enroll. Trust me, you didn’t need to. One foot on this historic campus and we were done.

My son was officially “accepted” here last fall, but wanted to (wisely) wait until he had heard from a few other colleges before committing. It wasn’t too long after we had crossed over the California/Oregon border that I think his commitment was cemented. I could go on and on about what the last 48 hours have been like for us, but suffice it to say it’s been epic.

And then this: while we are awaiting the welcome remarks yesterday from the President of Admissions, my phone rings…it’s my daughter who is a sophomore at George Washington University in DC. She announces that she has been chosen as only one of four students to receive a fully paid scholarship opportunity to go to Israel and study this Spring. To say I was blown away and infused with pride would be a tragic understatement. To be on the majestic campus of U of O with my son and then to receive this mind-blowing news from my daughter was almost too much to comprehend.

Oh and this: I was officially accepted into the Honors Transfer program for UCLA at the community college that I attend. I’m 53 years old. I’m stoked…

I desperately wanted my kids to go to college and I was the only one in my immediate family to lack a degree.

I’ve been on the wrong side of Karma most of my life. I’ve turned my life around and am realizing the sweet nectar of the right side of the Karma. It tastes good…


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