Back to School

Sunday, November 18th, 2012

Back in the ancient days of yore (circa 1989) I did my level best to fuck up my future.

Ok, that’s not completely accurate. I didn’t start smoking crack or committing felonies or anything, but as far as my academic career went, I was a fucking dumbass and a half.

I completely failed to prepare myself for college. Notice I did not say “The public school system” failed. For the most part, I had pretty decent teachers (and a few VERY good ones). I made the choices to skate through and take the easy path.

When I hit college it nailed me like a hammer. Because of this and things at home, I damn near had a nervous breakdown (the dynamic I had at home at that time is something I may blog about some day, but not yet). I flunked quite a few classes I could have just dropped. Then after the next semester I just quit.

Fast forward six years, married, working 50 hours a week. On nights.
Tried going back. Only had time to take one class, but aced it. Then money issues hit and I didn’t go back again until a few years later when I took some classes for an apprenticeship at the shop where I worked.
Then we had kids and it was pretty much a no go.

I haven’t taken a credit class since 1999.

This week I signed up for a class (spring 2013), to start inching my way towards a bachelor’s degree in Mechanical Engineering (my original goal) that I’ll probably be 50 years old before I get.

I don’t care. This is something that has bothered me for decades. It’s way past time. Besides, at this rate the average retirement age is going to be 75 or dead anyway by the time I get there.

This first semester back, I’m only taking one class to get used to integrating it with my work schedule again. I was signed up for English 103, but decided to switch to Biology 103 (because Rave is taking the same class so we can carpool, AND because the particular English class I signed up for is using “Perspectives on Contemporary Issues” as a textbook. Good grief.) And yes, I need a certain amount of Life Science credits for my degree, so Biology moves the line of scrimmage towards the end zone.

The good thing about the slow approach is that I can pay as I go instead of racking up student loans, and I get to enjoy taking classes with kids just out of high school!! (The blog posts damn near write themselves). Also it gives me time to home school myself back into being good at math since I haven’t done much algebra since… shit, high school. (Geometry and trig, yes. Algebra, not so much….)

Given my outlook on the future of the nation, taking this step was a deliberate and conscious leap of faith that things will not collapse entirely, and if they do a guy with an engineering degree with 20 years of supplier side manufacturing experience (programming and setup CNC and manual machines of some very odd pedigrees, and shop floor supervision) will be a hell of a lot more in demand than any liberal arts major. And if I get bored, I’ll take some electronics classes and build Cylons in my basement (I always thought “Supervillain” was my true calling).

This is going to be fun :)

8 Responses to “Back to School”

  1. I think we live in parallel universes. I had ample opportunity to improve my education, but something kept getting in the way (mostly myself). I now find myself a CNC machine operator in a manufacturing environment that may or may not be around the next few years, given the recent election and the fact that the current sitting POS (I mean, POTUS) is very unfriendly to the type of business we mostly supply. If I were smarter I would’ve joined the Air Force after high school and learned to work on airplanes, something I always wanted to do but wasn’t in demand at the time. Now I find myself eyeballing fields that I can make a living at and will always be in demand (health care?), and what it will take to break into such fields before I get too old to matter (currently in mid 40′s).

  2. I was contemplating (and still have it in the back of my mind) getting into medical device calibration and repair. Not sure what the education requirements are exactly, but figure it’s a higher end skill set in the medical field that doesn’t require interacting with ill or injured people :)

  3. Well, if you go into the medical device calibration and repair, it could help you should you decide to go bio-medical engineering instead. It can be a combination of medical and mechanical… depending on what avenue you take. I’m talking to my second son about that right now.

    Safer though is Mechanical and if you want to go bio-med, get a masters in it.

    Check the tax laws. You may get a tax break on some of your tuition. I’m not sure how that works… going back to school. Also… apply for grants, Grau. I hear it’s all about writing the essays. $500 here or there will add up.

    Mechanical is a great major. Your first two years is all the general stuff. I think you’re frickin’ going to LOVE physics. Also, the algebra will come back. The hardest part of the Calculus is the algebra and the Trig. You need Cal 1, 2, 3 and Differential Equations (great class). After you take Cal 1, you can take Physics.

    I’m glad you’re getting your feet wet! I recommend next go round, if you take two classes to do a Math and a history or an English. Bio is a great start.

    I’m really excited for you! Can you tell?!

    And… for what it’s worth… all my friends who did not finish college, it was something going on at home. It is odd. It was a lack of support or some sort of bad stuff going on.

  4. I’m still thinking mechanical, mainly because I have a lot of experience in manufacturing from the shop floor side and liaison with the engineering staff a LOT. At my current job (since I’ve been on days) it’s rare for a whole week to go by without me up in the office going over a prototype or two with them (I’m their go to guy for “Hey… can we actually make this on our current machinery?”). Which is good, because nine times out of ten I get stuck with the really shitty ones.

    The math will come back, but I’m going to home school myself from about 9th grade onward as a refresher because when I’m footing the bill myself for the classes failure is not an option. In fact, I’m going to see if I can retake the college’s placement test on mathematics to be sure I’m ready.

    Biology I’m not worried about, mainly because I always really liked biology and anatomy. Classes you enjoy are easy, even if they’re challenging :)

  5. Your background will get you around the biggest problem with new mechanical engineers: designing something that can’t be machined, or assembled without hands the size of green plastic army men. :)

  6. Yes, I have had a lot of experience arguing with engineers about reality vs. what their calculators tell them is possible :)

  7. I finished an MBA last December. Getting started again 2009 after finishing a BS in 1994 was tough. Bunch of snot nosed pinko liberal commie trash right out of the local U. I torched them during economics debates and left them crying in their seats, heheh. I got through the first class and figure out the study schedule, etc. You’ll figure it out in no time, I am sure.

    Good for you. Now go kick ass.

  8. Engineers who don’t listen to the guys who use their stuff are useless. I ALWAYS call the shop for advice. I think the one Air Base may actually know me by name. I ask for pictures, advice on what they see, they are my eyes. I cannot even imagine being so narrow minded as to do a job without asking the guy using the end product. Blows me the hell away.

    Also, think about a minor in Industrial. If you have an elective class, you may enjoy those, having worked in the shop environment so long.

    I have learned that they have dumbed down math so much in our high schools, that they actually have a ton of maths they make kids take now to prepare them for calculus. It’s not just ‘take this College Algebra Class’. Our HS education system is such a POS, they now have to have kids take at least two classes, and sometimes three, before they can take Calc. I think you are on to something about the placement test.

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