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Gradu Diverso, Via Una

Written by the late James R. May. Originally published in the Oologah Lake Leader, circa 1995. 

booksWhile poking around in the fine print of a Mexican travel guide, I happened across a most delightful quote: “Wherever you go, there you are.” A few years ago I wandered into Oklahoma and waking up the other morning I realized “here I am.”

My intention thirty-seven years ago was to further my education and collect some kind of degree in something. My problem was that when I got into higher education, I really enjoyed it. I liked it too much. The first thing I learned is that knowledge in infinite. Unfortunately, my human existence is finite. Education for me became a feast for a hungry man. I sampled this, took a bite of that, and moved on to a double portion of something else. May I caution you that this is not the way to obtain a traditional degree.

Whenever I had a little money and made some time, I would take another course. My problem is that I wanted the information offered. When I learned what I wanted, I moved on to something else. I ate the middle out of the sandwich of knowledge and left the crust behind. This is the most direct route to transcripts with lots of incompletes, withdrawals and “F’s” for failing to finish. What was difficult for faculty advisers to understand was that I really was finished. The information I wanted was tucked into the long-term storage portion of my cluttered brain and I was on to something else. Another course, another university. My favorite classes were summer crunch classes lasting for hours and packing a semester class into two or three weeks.

Not long ago, I encountered an article about “Nontraditional students.” That certainly describes me. My circumstantial acquaintances would probably use harsher terms. Real friends really don’t care. The upshot was that I gathered hours scattered across all of Texas and six universities, added some crunch courses, plugged in a telecourse and roamed the halls of Rogers State. A class by the author in residence, Teresa Miller, was so enjoyable I took a double portion and ate all of the crust.

Despite my untraditionalist approach or outright weirdness, I have now arrived at where my peers arrived a quarter of a century ago. Do you suppose that a degree, enough hours for half of another degree all wrapped with an honors stole and golden tassel will get me as much of a discount as my AARP card? All things considered, it has been a fun trip. Now where did I put that new travel map?

-by James R. May


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