Diary of a Nontrad — Go back to school? Challenge accepted.

Illustration by Tristin Williams

Non-trad – According to Urban Dictionary, a non-trad is defined as “an old fart going back to college.” Other sources refer to a non-trad as any classification of non-traditional college and university students who do not fit the typical model of traditional students fresh out of high school.

Philip J Perez, a 53-year-old father of three, is single and enjoys long walks in the buffet line. He recently returned to Del Mar after several years away.

The non-trad can be the single mom who is looking for a new direction in life or the military veteran who served or is currently serving our country and is now seeking to advance their career. It can be the out-of-work father who lost his job because of furloughs due to a global pandemic or it can be an old fart — much like myself — who is trying for the fourth time to pass college algebra so he or she can finally graduate all while qualifying for 13 degrees once that class is ultimately completed with a grade higher than 69.

So here we are, after credit hours between DMC and A&M-Kingsville and still trying to pass college algebra and wondering daily, “When the H.E. double hockey sticks am I going to need college algebra?” 

In 2009, I was inducted into the Del Mar College Hall of Fame, along with five others … all who passed college algebra. The HOF photos, which are all on display in the Harvin Center, list all of our accomplishments. Mine lists the following: Editor in Chief, Outstanding Journalism student, Founder of the Diversity Awareness Organization and a few other things, but all I see is “Could not figure out the difference between a ‘Rational Expression’ and a ‘Radical Expression.’”

Still, I try because giving up is not an option. 

Einstein defined insanity as doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result. Well call me insane. Now, although Einstein’s theories in physics contributed to mathematical equations used now, would he have passed college algebra? I’d like to think that if he were here today, he would be the typical old fart college student trying to figure out CAPTCHA, trying to find all the photos that contain a traffic light so that he could log onto WebDMC, only to find out all his assignments are on Canvas and then trying to navigate through assignments that have a font so small that he strains his eyes trying to find where the zoom option is, then once he opens the assignment page, he notices 10 assignments due on the same day and each one contains 27 problems and each problem takes a whole page to solve because, God forbid, you don’t show your work.

So it takes about five to eight hours a day to finish one assignment, but wait … there’s more. Somewhere during that time, the non-trad has to work for a living to feed the kids, pay the bills, make sure the kids’ homework is done, do household chores, cater to the spouse, let the dogs out to pee, and, of course, find time to eat and sleep and hopefully remember to shower. 

Not to say the typical college student doesn’t have to deal with some of those problems but honestly, it’s a little harder returning to school after taking a long break to find yourself only to realize you were not happy with the person you found. 

Now, before all you non-trad say, “HOLY CRAP! What was I thinking?” remember that it’s never too late to make a better life for yourselves. Being able to accomplish something is already amazing but being able to do it with all the extra obstacles is totally inspiring and accomplishing those goals can positively affect every one who looks up to you. 

Success is sweeter than candy, especially for an old fart like me. It can be for you as well. 

Eventually, college algebra will be conquered, even if I do have to sacrifice personal funds to accomplish it. After all, nothing great ever happens without sacrifice. 

Until next time, Peace, Love and Fajita Grease. 

One thought on “Diary of a Nontrad — Go back to school? Challenge accepted.

  • February 13, 2022 at 4:47 pm
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    Good luck! I have an older sister who took a break from college and she’s now finishing it up while having 2 kids and a job. She’s still pretty young, but she would also agree that its been difficult!

    Reply

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