Seeing as how it is almost St. Valentine's Day, it's a good time to share something which came up over, what I call, the mature students' breakfast table. A few of us who get in early congregate at one particular table in the canteen and have interesting and sometimes bizarre conversations.
The other day I mentioned how much I love university and was told by one classmate that 'love' and 'university' were not words which he would combine in a sentence. This, to me, was very surprising because, as regular followers of this blog will know, I'm loving my college experience.
Yes, I know there are times when I'm tearing my hair out under pressure to produce thousands of words in a short space of time, or when I get upset because things seem particularly difficult, but that is the nature of any relationship. My children drive me nuts at times, having a long-distance relationship is frustrating, but that doesn't mean I love my nearest and dearest any less; the same goes for NUIG. Of course it's not all plain sailing; of course it takes hard work; of course there are times when I want to metaphorically 'break it off', but in the overall scheme of things, being a student in my chosen university makes me far happier than any other career I've ever had. To me, that is love.
Compared to some of the personal relationships I've had in the past, this love-affair with college is truly romantic. For most of my life I have dreamed of being an undergrad in the same way young girls dream of meeting their 'Mr Right'. What a potential disappointment was in store for me when I finally made it 'up the aisle', or to be more accurate, received my place in NUIG! It could have gone horribly wrong if my new situation turned out to be nothing like I'd dreamed. Luckily for me, college is living up to my expectations and a long-term 'marriage' to academia is in progress.
The first few weeks were a bewildering, honeymoon period with emotions all over the place, however, with effort and hard work, the relationship developed its own routine and I was able to settle in comfortably. Now I can't imagine leaving this amazing world where I can live happily and securely, doing and sharing all the things I love best and also having friends to moan with when it's needed. If only relationships with the opposite sex could be this easy! During the holidays, I miss being on campus yet don't fall to pieces because of dependency issues. The beginning of term is like meeting a loved one at an airport - all excitement and joy at being reunited without thinking about the adjustments and effort that will be needed later.
In some ways, this affair with college closely mirrors the one that I have with my 'significant other' - a mature, happy relationship which blossoms because the lessons of the past have been learned and, by applying them to the present, joy and contentment flow from purely living in the 'now'. Being middle-aged makes one more tolerant and less judgemental in almost every aspect of life and so problems can be solved or difficulties accepted without too many tears or tantrums. Love may have come late for me (in more ways than one) but at this moment I can honestly say that it's what I feel.
Being loved, there are times when one's partner delights you with extravagant expressions of their feelings. This happened last weekend, when NUIG celebrated its hard-working scholars at a special ceremony. Yours truly was one of the many mature students in receipt of a lovely certificate and a cheque on the day. As I queued to ascend the steps to receive my award, I was shaking with nerves, thinking that my name was included on the programme by mistake and that there wouldn't be anything for the President to give me! Maybe a little more faith in myself is required - in college and in relationships because, not only did my beloved NUIG give me a 'Valentine's' gift, but my guy surprised me by travelling to Ireland to be with me at the event. He is staying until the 14th, so this weekend is going to be for concentrating on my human love...
Happy Valentine's Day