A week ago Tuesday, thousands of Tooele County’s brightest young minds got the 2017-18 school year underway, continuing their pursuit of knowledge that will lead them into the future.
One day earlier, my not-quite-as-bright (and certainly not-quite-as-young) mind did the same thing as I stepped through the front door of the Social and Behavioral Science building on the University of Utah campus for the first Spanish grammar class of my senior year (version 2.0).
It has been a little more than 11 years since I presented my senior thesis, thus earning my Bachelor of Arts degree in communication from Southern Utah University. It’s one of my proudest achievements, but there was something that always felt missing.
When I first started at SUU, I envisioned myself as a communication major, focusing on both broadcast and print journalism, with a minor in Spanish. It was an ambitious goal to be sure — the combined major meant even more course work on top of trying to minor in a foreign language. But ambitious I was as an 18-year-old kid ready to take on the world — or, at least, college.
I was able to do a lot of things in pursuit of that original goal. On top of working at the campus newspaper and radio and TV stations, I also had the opportunity to go on a couple humanitarian aid trips to Mexico and spent a month studying Spanish in Granada, Spain, during the summer between my junior and senior years. All seemed to be going according to plan until reality sunk in — it really was too much work.
So, my communication degree became my sole focus. My Spanish degree got back-burnered. And there it remained for years and years.
That fact has eaten at me ever since, especially because my Latino heritage makes me look like I should speak Spanish a lot better than I do. I’d long wanted to do something about that, and moving back to Utah — and its relatively low in-state tuition — a few years ago, got the wheels in motion.
And then came last summer, when my grandmother passed away. She and my grandfather had lived in a tiny fishing village in rural northwestern Mexico for 20 years before moving back to Moab a few years back. I’d gone and visited them a number of times over the years, immersing myself in the Mexican culture. She knew how much it meant to me.
So, as I sat talking to her shortly before she passed, she told me, “you will go back and get your Spanish degree.” Not, “I hope you go back and get your Spanish degree.” It was, “you will.” There’s not much else you can say to that except “OK.” Thus, I decided now was the time to make it happen — I was going back to college.
I jumped through all the requisite hoops, and last Monday, I found myself back on a college campus. It’s only been a week and a half, but I’ve already started to settle in to the college routine again, though: finding all the free food available on campus, finding the perfect quiet spot in the library to nap between classes — and, oh yeah, finding time to do homework on top of my duties here at the Tooele Transcript Bulletin. (I definitely have to keep the proper balance between maintaining my grade-point average and my editor’s sanity, because if either one plummets, I’m in trouble.)
It’s a little different being a college student in my early-to-mid-30s, and not just because I’m so much older than the vast majority of my classmates. I find myself taking it a lot more seriously. It’s not all parties and football games, though I do have season football tickets in the student section at Rice Eccles Stadium.
But, one thing’s for certain — it’s never too late to go back to school. This was unfinished business, and I couldn’t be happier to finally do something about it.
Darren Vaughan is the sports editor for the Tooele Transcript Bulletin and a senior Spanish major at the University of Utah. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.