Going back to high school at 30 helped me learn electrical and first-person writing too

When I turned 30, I went back to high school. I was working the evening shifts at the Toronto Star as a copy editor in sports.

I was off during the day and so was my wife. When I was a student years earlier, I took stuff like history and geography. Never shop or electrical.

I never could wire my basement, and I thought this might be a good time to learn how since I had an unfinished basement it our house in Milton.

And since I was off in the day, I could go back to high school and it would be free.

My wife could take typing so she could transition into a new career. It all made sense.

And it all made sense later that I should write about this experience for the Toronto Star.

So, I learned electrical and I learned how to write about personal experiences. It’s a great way to learn how to write.

As my retirement clock ticks down to 35 days, I am counting down my favorite stories. This is No. 35.

It appeared on Sunday, March 6, 1983, under the byline Curt Rush.

Here are some excerpts.

By Curt Rush

MILTON — Walking into high school as the “new kid” can be intimidating for someone who isn’t a kid.

I’m not a kid anymore. I’m 30 and a student at Milton District High School.

As one of eight adults who have turned back life’s clock and returned to high school this semester (there were six of us the first semester), I at first felt eyes peering at me, even when they weren’t, and heard snickers even when there were none. It’s part of the uncomfortable feeling of being out of place.

“The first step is the hardest,” said Kathy Kleyn, 30, who is taking Grade 9 typing. “I feel a bit uncomfortable, but my friends think it’s fantastic.”

I choose to sit at the back of class and try to keep a low profile, though in a flash of bravery I may actually speak up and ask a question.

Concentrating fully on an hour-long lecture, once second-nature, is a struggle at first. Memorizing notes summons up skills long fallen into disuse.

The marks, however, don’t seem to justify our fears. I passed auto mechanics with a 79.

The worry persists that I’ll blow an easy question in class, or that my clumsiness at handiwork will leave me hopelessly behind in projects. It takes some humility to ask a youngster for help. Thankfully, the students are unfailingly polite and willing to assist.

The adult role is further jarred whenever a teacher must scold the class for unruliness, laziness, or for persistent chattering. Though as an adult you have some immunity, you have no choice but to sit red-faced and endure the rebuke.

Being an adult at school is not without its humorous moments. My wife, who took Grade 9 typing, still laughs about the time she was confronted in the washroom by a classmate offering a puff of a cigarette.

As she was about to accept, my wife pulled back, struck by the ridiculousness of the situation. Could you imagine, she laughed, getting caught? What would they do? Call her parents?”

POSTSCRIPT: I never did feel comfortable wiring my basement. I hired somebody. I never have put these electrical skills to any use whatsoever.

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