Somewhere around or just after age 50, I decided I wanted to change my life and pursue a new challenge. After all, I had lived almost every lifestyle there is and traveled to many parts of the world, more inclined to go to the less traveled and more risky geographies. I had raised a family, held different careers as a designer, chef and model. I cared for my mother who suffered from Alzheimer’s and diabetes until she passed and then I became disabled in a serious motor vehicle accident. Not content to spend the remainder of my life watching “CSI” and “Seinfeld,” I decided to go back to school. UR graciously accepted me as a transfer student last year. I love it and I feel I belong here.
As an English and Political Science major, I went to the Campus Times to volunteer for the experience I could gain there, and they asked me to write this perspective piece about why I wanted to go back to school “at this stage of my life.” Eloquent statement directed at the obvious, yet thank you for asking. I will be 55 this March; however, I only feel motivated and hungry for knowledge, comprehension, integrity, justice and the hope that I may add, even if only in a small way, some positive distinction that will aid the world community. I believe in humanity and peace and that we should all contribute to these ideals.
Students are not that much different now than when I first went to college in the early 1970s. Today’s students appear to get along better and communicate more with their parents than we did. My early life was filled with radical, political, hippie ideation. I was born in New York but was transplanted to California when I was seven years old. I recall we hated the fact that our parents had money, a dirty word then. Ironically, none of us had even a clue what it really meant to have no money.
Fascinated with the rapid technological advances over the last 20 years, I am still unaccustomed to the expected immediate gratification young people assume is the norm. I have this old school belief that somehow something is missing, but I don’t know how to articulate that as I don’t know what it is that’s missing. It is probably nothing more complex than a typical reaction from my generation, although I can say with complete confusion that I do not understand the fascination with video games. They’re so boring, I cannot even feign any interest at all. I’ll take a good book, please.
I do not have a spot on MySpace, belong to e-Harmony, buy iTunes for the iPod I don’t own. I loathe my cell phone, a necessary evil nowadays. I did, however, see Led Zeppelin in 1969 in San Francisco and Pink Floyd many times. I went to Egypt with the Grateful Dead to make a documentary with the band at the Great Pyramids. I was also tear-gassed at UC Berkeley, twice no less. The first time was the same day the National Guard killed the four students at Kent State. I came of age in very turbulent times and was an active participant.
As I write this in a coffee shop on South Avenue, with its kicked back, comfy couches, aesthetic lighting and Natalie Merchant on the CD player, I do transcend back in time a bit. Not everything has changed. In her song “Breathe/2 a.m.,” artist Anna Nalick sings, “Life’s like an hourglass glued to the table, no one can find the rewind button.” The past cannot be changed, nor would I want it to be. Experience has proven to me that chronicling and archiving life’s more demanding challenges, especially those less successful, are as much if not more a learning and enriching path to completeness.
I have usually taken the road less traveled and have no regrets. I realized long ago that living to please others really only pleases them. Do what you love and hopefully you will love what you do. I love being a student at UR and that is all I need for now. I hope it is the same for you.
Stapleton is a member of the class of 2010.