Last Wednesday, I finished my first year of a 2-year dietetics program at Community College of Allegheny County. I have never, ever felt so relieved to finish something in my life. Not even after delivering my kids after 13 hours of labor or reaching goal after losing a million pounds have I felt so glad something was done.

When I applied to CCAC last year, I thought, ‘It’s community college. Please. How hard can it be? I’ve got a BA already. I know a thing or two about nutrition. This’ll be a cinch!’

Nine months later? Ms. Academic Snob has been silenced. Nutrition assessment, medical terminology, medical nutrition therapy, and their accompanying sidekicks – chemistry, math, and killer case studies – kicked my liberal arts ass. I may know where my arachnoid membrane is (I didn’t even know I had one!) and feel certain my ex needs a palatopharyngoplasty, but my head hurts just writing those words.

While all the sweat and mind bleeds will be worth it in the end, for another year and a half I’ll be offering anyone my right kidney for a left brain. A year and a half, you say? What happened to the 2-year program? Well…shockingly…British Literature and Feminist Theology do not fulfill my chemistry and algebra requirements, and I can’t take advanced algebra or bio/organic chemistry until I know the basics. Considering my algebra knowledge is 30 years old and I got through the chemistry parts of my classes this year thanks only to the graces of my ex husband, I had to add a half year to my program.

Community College: 1
Ms. Academic Snob: 0

But life is good! This old dog needed the challenge of new firsts! A few years ago I was morphing into Bartleby the Scrivener, preferring to do nothing more than wonder what it was I should do with my life. And if I’ve learned this lesson once, I’ve learned it a hundred times:  Wondering and hoping get you nowhere. Getting off your rear end and DOING something nets results. 

Ergo…I will learn chemistry despite my propensity for Jane Austen. It’s a first for me.

Another woman who knows about firsts is my daughter Cassandre. She ran her first (and she swears her last, but that was just her thighs talking) marathon on Sunday.

In April, I posted a link to her blog entry called “My Body,” in which she wrote about why she was training for the Pittsburgh Marathon: “Someone once told me I can’t.”

“My body has survived cutting and neglect, pain and loss, change and change and more change.”

Cassie lives her life with respect for, but above the shadows of, her cutting and neglectful past. She has a clear understanding of her pain and understands the possibility of future pain, but right here, right now, she wanted to run a marathon. And she could and so she did.

Like many of us who blog about what we strive to do and what we accomplish, Cassie was overwhelmed by the support she received from so many people who’d never met her or read her blog before, including someone called “itsjustme”:

“I am a 54 year old woman, in SC, who started running inspired, in large part, by you. So, when you are thinking of people each mile of your marathon, as suggested by Tracy, think of me for a few minutes, even though you don’t know me. You inspired me to become a better, stronger person. Thank you.”

She knows about firsts.

After the race, I posted her marathon results on my Lynn’s Weigh Facebook page because I was so darn proud of her. She wrote to me later that night: “I appreciated every single one of their comments and well wishes. I’m still so humbled by it! I thought of all the people who supported me when I felt tired and found that extra push to finish. I truly appreciated it all. I still can’t believe I ran a marathon, Mom. That’s a shit ton of running. I’m so proud of us!!!” Us being Cassie and her husband, who ran every mile with her, danced with her in Homewood, and held her hand across the finish line.

Go Cass! Go me! Go any one of you who aspire to reach beyond some comfort zone or false belief that all you are right now is all you can be! Even if you don’t make it all the way right away or at all, the fact that you tried sets you apart from the people who think that the way things are are the only way things can be.

 A few other fun “firsts” from the marathon weekend:

Maintaining Diva Sondra came to Pittsburgh for the first time. She ran the half marathon (not her first, but her first one over five bridges!). She also met baby Mae for the first time.
Claire’s first time driving. …sigh…

9 thoughts on “Firsts

  1. I had tears in my eyes the whole way through this post. thanks for sharing such wonderful stories.

    I think I told you earlier: I do not have enough brains left for college. So I admire your willingness to even try and the fact you are succeeding is bonus!

  2. It's amazing how such a challenge as you have undertaken will give such purpose and feeling of achievement to our lives.

    I remember wondering what I was going to do with my life, and once I had made an education decision, I can still feel the excitement of my first college course when I was 43 years old, when my youngest child had left home. Even though I had worked for several years, and was still working, taking that step toward a degree in something that was of interest to me, was when I found out who I was.

    Bravo, Lynn, for what you are doing for yourself and ultimately will be doing for others!

  3. Great post, so impressed and inspired by you Lynn! I just returned to school to finish my BS degree this week. Balancing homework/school with working full time, salsa lessons, being a mom/wife and owner of numerous animals to walk and ride will be a challenge but I know it can be done. I am continually inspired by all the amazing women I know who do so much. Great job!!

  4. I want to congratulate you on your academic year success, and also your daughter on her marathon victory.

    I found her blog through yours, and enjoy both very much. It is obvious that determination, as well as a talent for entertaining writing, flows through both of your veins.

    All of this has reminded me yet again of my favorite movie, “It's A Wonderful Life”. We frequently never know how one life touches another, of the influence that flows from one person to another.

    Again, congratulations, and enjoy your summer vacation!

  5. Congrats to you, Lynn, for finishing your first year! Taking extra time is way better than half-assing it in a shorter time and not fully getting everything. That's my opinion. But, it certainly is humbling to go back to school.

    Congrats also to your daughter! Marathons are amazing to me.

  6. I went back to school community college at 48 with the same this is going to be a piece of cake attitude. I took a heavy course load my first semester and son found it was kicking my ass. I dropped a couple of classes to make it a more sensible load to bare but it was still took a lot of effort to maintain good grade while the kids were breezing through it.

  7. I really related to your story of having to add a half year to your program. When I went back to school to become a nurse, I thought that TWO YEARS was going to be forever. And then I found out how difficult school was, and that I needed those extra courses, and I had to make it THREE YEARS. Now, 26 years later, those years seem like nothing. You'll be done before you know it, and what a wonderful gift you will be to the people you help with nutrition. Because you know about food from an intensely personal angle in addition to all the book learning.

    Tell Cassie I said CONGRATS!! I can't even imagine what it must be like to run for that long!

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