[Pictured: Michael Nicholson]
by Bethany J. Royer, B.A. Applied Psychology
I recently read an ABC News article about a 71-year old Michigan man Michael Nicholson working on his 29th degree and I thought, now that’s how it’s done. Though a little curious over what one does with a bachelor’s degree, two associate’s degrees, 22 master’s degrees, three specialist degrees and one doctoral degree; I’m impressed. While Nicholson has taken some flack for being the perpetual student, there’s no doubt he epitomizes never closing the door on learning. Just one of several examples as to why I say, never think yourself too old to return to the classroom.
My first grade elementary teacher taught me this lesson well many, many years ago. Her name was Helen and she believed in being a constant student. She was still attending classes well into her 60s and I found this fascinating as a child. My grandmother was a wondrous, giving, and self-less woman, but I could never imagine her as a student. Yet my elementary teacher, who also happened to be my Sunday school teacher at the time, was one of my grandmother’s peers doing what others found irrational at her age. It wasn’t something I truly came to understand or appreciate until I was older. I think a lot of that had to do with the relative urgency in grade school, junior high and high school about finding one’s future occupation.In fact, by high school it seemed that if one hadn’t made a final decision on what they wanted to be when they grew up, it was too late for college. Yet, I think we’ve all heard of those individuals on one occasion or another that seem to defy the popular notion there is a time stamp on education. The sky can truly be the limit; it’s all about what you want out of life.
Take for instance, Sherry Goodman, a mother of three and “Mamaw” to six, who graduated with a degree in Medical Office Support at 50 years of age this spring. I had the great pleasure of interviewing her daughters and husband, who shared her incredible story. A story that included Goodman going back to school just three years after having been given a 3 percent chance of survival after a motorcycle accident. I wrote her story specifically for the Daily Call’s Mother’s Day edition this past May. How Goodman and her husband were traveling along I-75 throughCincinnati, headed north fromKentucky on the first warm spring weekend in April 2009, when a defective tire sent this once active couple to the pavement.
Sherry suffered a shattered spleen, punctured and collapsed lungs; a broken leg with no tendons to attach the upper part of her leg to the lower part, every rib broken save three, a broken arm and her breast plate cracked. She was given a 3 percent chance of survival, and taking a lesson from my psychology class about how the simple turn of numbers can have more of an impact on the audience one has to look at it this way to appreciate her fight to survive. Goodman had a 97 percent chance of dying.
Somehow, in some miraculous way, through love and persistence of her family who never left her side, to a deep desire to live on, Goodman survived. What followed would be years of therapy and agonizing pain she still deals with today, but none of that stopped her from pursuing her degree. Not her age or having married at the young age of 14, which left her with only an 8th grade education. Though it took some time, Goodman received her high school diploma in 1998, but it wasn’t until the accident that nearly took her life that changed everything.
It’s amazing how a life event can change so much, give us an appreciation as to how quickly time passes and to not take for granted a single second. Some individuals, under far lesser circumstances than Goodman’s, will wither away while others grab life by the horns and not so much carry on, but charge straight through like a bull on a mission. Honestly, between Nicholson, Goodman and so many others out there who are worthy of the title, role model, what’s to stop anyone from pursuing a dream? No matter their ability or especially their age.
There’s really no excuse.