Today, like many other students, I attended my first class of the fall semester. I felt excited, a little nervous, and more than just a little sad to see the end of summer. What makes my summer a little different from many of you is that I celebrated two things that most won’t celebrate for some years to come. First, I celebrated the marriage of my son. Second, I celebrated a birthday that puts me in the ranks of those who get to order off the special menu; the one at the other spectrum of the kids’ menu!

As a mature student, my school life isn’t much different than the rest of the students here at CMU. But outside of school, life for mature students is generally very different. Most of us have homes to look after, some have kids, and some are looking after aging parents (that’s my story). In addition to being a “mature” student (I use quotes because I’m not so mature sometimes), I am single. That means that there is no one at home doing laundry, cooking, cleaning, paying the bills, or doing the shopping. Yup, I do it all! There is no one out working to provide financial support either, so I rely on student loans. Some of you also rely on student loans, so you know how much (or how little) I am provided to live on. I can’t make ends meet on student loans, so I also work part-time, and just so that I don’t have to live on rice and skim milk, I host international students with the University of Winnipeg’s English Language Program.

So, let’s see…going to classes, reading, writing, reading, other homework, and more reading, meeting with groups for assignments, going to work, grocery shopping, laundry, cooking, cleaning, paying bills, providing for ELP students, making time for my parents and for my kids (who are older than many of you)…yup, I must be insane.

So, why do I do it? Well, when I was in my twenties, I went to university to become a teacher. But I was a rebel. I didn’t agree with so much of what I was being taught that I felt led to quit. Then came marriage and children. I’d always wanted to be a mom so that’s what I did. When my kids started school, I went to work for my church’s national office doing human resource work. I always told my friend that one day I would be a counsellor. I didn’t know how that would happen because I was, at the time, a single parent and I made a good salary with benefits. I thought I would have to go to school part-time, but that didn’t seem to work out for me.

After a few unexpected and significant changes, I found myself without a job in 2017. Soon after the initial shock, I realised that this could be my opportunity to go back to school and fulfill my dream of becoming a counsellor. The only thing was that I had to figure out how to finance the endeavour. Along with student loans, my part-time job, some pension money (yes, I will have to work for the rest of my life), some scholarship money and bursaries available through the donations of some very generous people, the funding is happening. My dream is coming true…when I grow up, I’m going to be a counsellor.

I have to say that I truly believe that this has been God’s plan for me. For a long time, I have had the honor of helping people with difficulties in their lives after surviving many of my own. God has given me a heart and a talent for this. He has provided the opportunity for me to return to school (disguised as job loss), set finances in place and has given me the endurance to run this crazy race.

Jan Otto is a third-year counselling studies student