by Leticia A. Clark
The older we are, the more we get set in our ways. But what if we woke up one day and decided dreams aren’t just for our youth?
Marlo Shaw, a 46 year old aspiring actress and public speaker from Milwaukee, made that decision. She wanted to be an actress since she was in her sixth grade play. For years, supporting her kids and their activities was her focus. However, her passion for acting still called to her. This year, she decided to move ahead with her goals.
Why now? “I have a passion for performing and enjoy the challenges and diversity of creating characters.” Shaw has now appeared in Butterfly Confessions Stage Play at the University of Wisconsin- Milwaukee, as an extra in the Hematic Web and A Mil with a Key movies , as a model for the Female Take Over Hair and Fashion Show and numerous other projects throughout Milwaukee and Chicago.
Jennifer Wills, 42 from West Bend, made the switch from nanny to a freelance writing two years ago. She now has steady clients and referrals and has established herself completely through her writing. “I enjoy the freedom and flexibility of working for myself.” Wills is proud of establishing a new career in two short years.
Julie Weber, a 35 year old graduate student, is pursuing her Masters of English degree. She originally wanted to get a graduate degree to help her advance in her current career. However, Weber echoes Wills’ goal. She wants to eventually work for herself. “Graduate school will help me refine my skills and grow as both a person and as a writer until I have the confidence to make that leap.”
Erin Mihor, a 34 year old Masters of English student, is pursuing the degree simply because it is something she enjoys. “We tend to think of higher education only as a road to higher paying jobs and not as a way to enrich our lives.” She feels the society norm for a woman, wife, and mother is to put everyone else’s wants and needs above her own. Pursuing an advanced degree is one way she is trying to do things that make her happy regardless of outside pressures.
Mihor isn’t the only one who struggles as a nontraditional student. Nicole Jenks-May, is
a 41 year old principal and teacher at a small Catholic school but also attends Graduate school. She’s unique because she was diagnosed with autism a number of years ago. “I look at the world differently than other people do.” She admits she says yes to too many things sometimes while juggling being a wife, a mother of an autistic son and an advisor to her students. However, Jenks-May doesn’t see her autism as an obstacle, but rather an opportunity to enrich the lives of her students and others like her.
So is there a difference between pursuing your dreams earlier vs. later? Weber worries about stability and money more than she did when she was younger. Shaw agrees and thinks young people may take bigger risks than older people.
Jenks-Mays thinks being older is easier. “Problems are just different. People who have work, lives, families etc. are used to juggling. Traditional students have it harder because they have a lot of free time they have to structure.” She believes knowing how to prioritize is a strength when you’re older, while younger students are still learning how to do that.
Weber and Wills agree that pursuing their dreams is about the freedom to do what you want. The greatest achievement is to be able to have a say over your time and life. Weber said it best: “I want to be free. That is what keeps coming to mind when I think about my future.”