It’s August 1 today and my body is automatically going into back-to-school mode. For about half of my seventy years, either as a student myself or as a teacher of nursing students, I’d spend August assessing my wardrobe from next-to-skin to outerwear.
Then I’d shop. My wardrobe had to be in place before school started because once it did, I knew I’d have no time to worry about my clothes. I’d also check my desk supplies—three-ringed notebooks, ball point pens, yellow highlighters—and, in later years, multicolored sticky notes. And I’d check my unhealthy snack supplies. It’s always good to have some M&M peanuts on hand for munching while highlighting a text book or grading papers.
So, with my body churning into academic mode, I, once again, am going back to school. After all, in the four programs in which I was a nursing student, and in the four nursing programs in which I taught, one program objective always addressed the nurse as a lifelong learner. In fact, we used to say, the nursing knowledge we learn today will be obsolete within five years.
Now, I’m in to gaining other knowledge. Sizzling with excitement yesterday, I took the ten-minute walk up to the Gleacher Center, the University of Chicago’s downtown campus, to register for the fourth (and last) year of the Basic Program of Liberal Education for Adults. I started the program seven years ago, but have sat out the last four years, busy with breaking my hip and promoting Caring Lessons, and now the time is clear to finally finish up.
On the sidewalk outside the Gleacher Center, I met a friend who teaches there. “Looks like you’re on your way home,” I said. He told me he’d just had a stimulating meeting with international leaders. Then, with a quizzical look on his face, he asked, “What brings you here?” I explained how I’d had to sit out of the Basic Program, but the fourth year curriculum of starting out with a study of Thucydides’ account of the Peloponnesian War had been pulling at me all this time. He burst out laughing and said something like “Yes, I can see that. That war nags at me too.”
Now I sit at my computer and look longingly at the required texts on my bookshelves. I’d already purchased them when it became clear that I couldn’t return. But they have patiently waited for me. For the seminar section of the ten week session, there are Plato’s Symposium, Plutarch’s Lives of the Noble Greeks and Romans, Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels, and Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. And for the simultaneous ten-week tutorial, there is Thucydides’ The Peloponnesian War.
Of course, just below these required texts on my bookshelves, sit my all-time nursing favorites: Stuart & Sundeen’s Principles and Practice of Psychiatric Nursing, Shelly and John’s Spiritual Dimensions of Mental Health, Orem’s Nursing: Concepts of Practice, and Marriner & Tomey’s Nursing Theorists and their Work. These books will live on forever in my mind.
But, in my transition from nursing to writing and the study of the humanities, on this searingly hot and humid August day in Chicago, I want to shout, “Let the learning begin!”