Pushing Beyond Your Limits

Giving it all and then some by:CarmenW

Pushing Beyond Your Limits

At 44 years old and just weeks away from officially becoming ''middle aged" I decided to take a winter session of intermediate algebra. Lacking a couple of semesters, I had started college in the fall. I had never finished my associate’s degree because I struggled with, you got it, algebra!

Finishing my fall session finals on a Friday my winter session began immediately the following Monday. The plan was I had completed beginning algebra and now would take intermediate during an 8-day full semester class. That way when the Spring Session began, I could immediately go into college Algebra which is a requirement for graduation.

Class began on Monday and midterm was Wednesday. On Wednesday I was still trying to complete homework from Monday. I had come home both days and immediately began doing my homework and studying. At the age of 44 I had learned how to study math for the first time in my life. That secret, just work the problems.

By Wednesday I had bummed out on my midterm and my heart sank into my feet. There was no way I would ever be able to pass this class. As I sat in the classroom, I could hear a child hood memory looming in my thoughts. A voice of a familiar loved one reminding me over and over that I was stupid. I began to cry and take deep breathes. Quickly turning in my paper and leaving class. I knew I had failed that exam.

I went to my car and drove around for about 15 minutes and then came back to the school. I was still in tears when I phoned the kind gentleman who had encouraged me to return to college and complete my degree. "I can't do it. I feel like a failure. What do I do now? I'll never graduate in May." He listened and went over my options and then encouraged me to give it until Friday.

That night I went home. I still had homework to complete. I decided to try even though I had made my mind up. I was going to withdraw. I had until Friday to withdrawal without penalty and being required to finish paying for the course. I felt as if I were battling everyone from my child hood that never believed in me. I felt silly at my age for feeling this way. It was a very emotional experience.

I went on to class the next day with full intentions of withdrawing from the semester and starting over in February with an online session. With that realization rambling around in my thoughts, there was also the knowledge I would have to redo everything I had just done all the way from the beginning. That kind of made my stomach queasy.

Before I made it to class I stopped by my professor's office and had a chat letting him know my thoughts and asking a few probing questions regarding the grading scale and the online course that would begin in February. I went on to class like normal.

Out of the blue something magical happened. We started studying something I enjoyed. I really liked the new material and I thought maybe I had a half way shot at passing. I was in for the fight of my life. This was on Thursday. Come Friday morning my teacher gave me the grade to my test. I still had until Friday afternoon to decide whether to quit or press on.

Friday afternoon I decided to press on and then I had a bummed-out quiz that evening. My whole world felt like a spiral. I was past the point of no return. I went home after running errands for my family and picking my son up from chess. I meant to set my alarm for 11 pm. I was exhausted. This winter session began at 9 am and got out between 3 and 4 P.M. daily.

Unbeknownst to me the alarm was set for A.M. not P.M. so I did not wake up at the desired time. I did however; awaken at 2 A.M. I promptly got up and started studying. I did some laundry and had a cup of coffee, then another cup and then another cup. I was going over the five different methods to factor an equation. Before it was time to get ready for school, I had only been able to study 3 of the 5. I had studying until time was against me.

Making it to campus I was the first one there. I fell asleep in my car briefly. Then off to class. Took the test and then was wiped out. I couldn't learn anything else that was taught that day because of the fatigue. I made it home knowing only two days were left of the semester.

I told my teacher at some point this class was only comparable to childbirth. There were seven of us. I was the oldest and struggling the most. I did encourage the others when I could. By now I had come to class singing Bob Seager's lyrics, "I feel like a number."

Tuesday arrived and it was finals. My classmates had encouraged me not to give up. Before the Final exam I announced to them, "O.K. So, If I pass it's all yawl's fault for supporting me. If I fail, it's yawl's fault for supporting me." We all laughed and the test began. I absolutely had to pass this final if I were going to go onto college Algebra in January.

I left class not knowing what I had done but knowing I had done my best. I actually had realized two problems I had skipped at the beginning and went back to were really simple problems. I was over thinking everything. A little down hearted I drove home not knowing if I had passed or failed but realizing I was not defined by my grades.

As hard as I had struggled, I truly had learned so very much. For the first time in my entire life I understood things I had always told myself didn't make sense. As hard as I had struggled, I realized, I really did like Algebra and math. What I didn't like was not knowing the answers. I didn't like the problems I couldn't work. I didn't like the way many of the numbers danced around the page or I would write down a three instead of a four. There were times when I simply made simple mistakes. I am convinced I have a mathematical dyslexia. I have never had that diagnosis. That within itself is another article.

Driving home my phone began to ding. It dinged and dinged. Grades were going in. I had to pull over. Finally, I saw my grade. I had passed! It was by a fraction but I had made it. If I had given up, I would not have known the pain of true defeat or the joy of triumph. It would have always been a question in the back of my mind and quite possible a regret. I pushed through what I thought was impossible. I had a strong support system at home, at school and an amazing instructor. I had others at the college encourage me as well. Mrs. Mabry, Mrs. Young, Mr. Calhoun.

This spring semester is something worth looking forward too. I hope you are encouraged by this article. If you ever go to give up, please push through. No matter how mentally painful a challenge can be don't give up. See it through to the very end. Win or Lose. I know my family is proud of me they saw the sacrifice I made at home that 8 days. If you see someone struggling with a class or a goal, encourage them. Every little bit helps. If I can pass an 8-day winter semester in a course I have struggled with since High School, anybody can accomplish anything! Keep on keeping on. You got this!

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Carmen Wilkinson
See all posts by Carmen Wilkinson