The Wonder Years. Back-to-School in Primetime.

September 4, 2019


​​As a child, when I thought about going “Back to School,” I thought about buying school supplies, book bags (today’s back packs), new clothes and lunch boxes. And I remember the nervousness at the beginning of each new semester—who would be in my classes, whether I would like my teachers, whether I was ready to take on new subjects, etc. It was both wonder and worry.


Following a successful C-Suite career in advertising, I began to contemplate my next phase and the many opportunities that awaited. I thought about how enriching it would be to go “Back to School”. Suddenly that phrase took on a whole new meaning—all wonder and very likely, no worry.


Going back to school as an adult is a wonderful way to explore the world and help inform your next chapter. Whether you choose to further explore subjects you never got enough of in college; learn new ones that didn’t interest you back then; or decide to get a new degree or certificate to start an encore career, going back to school in your primetime can be the best time of your life.


I began taking classes at Boston University. Their Evergreen program allows those over 58 to audit any undergraduate or graduate class for a fraction of the cost that current college students pay. Show up, listen, participate in class, read the assigned readings (or not), take no tests and write no papers. What could be better?


The first class I audited was the History of Rock and Roll (they didn’t offer that when I was in school!) taught by a leading U.S. rock historian. Each class I was drawn back to the soundtrack of my youth as we explored the evolution of rock through to the early ‘70’s. The class so inspired me that I hopped on a plane to visit two of the important centers of rock and roll: Memphis (visiting two of the earliest and best sound studios of the era along with Graceland) and Liverpool, to retrace the homes and steps of the Beatles. What a trip, in every sense of the word.


I followed that up by taking two American history classes—the first covering U.S. history up to the Civil War; the second from the Civil War through to today. Ours and historians’ perspectives on history change over time and I heard things about each era in ways they never taught us back in the day. I like the way it is taught today. Neither instructor assigned a text book. Instead, the readings were books and articles about specific social, political or financial aspects of the times covered. . . a much more well-rounded approach than a simple chronology. This too inspired travel: from the battlefields of Richmond to Lexington and Concord, where I re-traced the steps of our earliest freedom fighters.


A couple of years back I even went back to school in another way. I joined my wife for her 35th college reunion at Wellesley because if I’ve had one regret in life, it was that I attended a commuter college and never experienced all that comes with going away to college. So, I hoped it would enable me to experience a seminal event that I never had—living in a dorm. And I will tell you that after spending two days on a hard, single bed and using the communal bathrooms and showers, my regret was over.


Going back to school can lead to so many things which can enhance your next chapter. In fact, you never know where it will lead.


#BostonUniversityEvergreen #WellesleyCollege #AdultEducation #BacktoSchool #LeaningOut #LeaningOut@Wellesley #Retirement


Adrienne Wax is a LEANING OUT Strategic Partner and Principal of Leslie Andrews Golf

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