Why On Earth Are You Going Back to School?

Going back to school for space systems engineering seems a bit like hubris for a technical writer who’s now in his 50s. So why on Earth am I doing this? I thought I’d take a little time to explain myself to you…and maybe to myself as well. There were multiple reasons, only one of which was specifically employment related.

You might have noticed that there’s been a bit of a pandemic on. This has restricted travel. Or, in my case, even the desire for travel, at least until a large segment of the public and I have been vaccinated. Constrained to places within a day’s driving distance of my home, I’m not going to be taking vacations to any exotic locations any time soon. That means I’ll have money available to spend on education.

While I’m a self-confessed introvert, I do miss talking with people, even if it must be by online video meetings. What I’ve really missed, however, is talking with people about topics that interest me, like human space exploration. It’s cheaper to go to school and learn about space than to move back to Huntsville, Alabama, just to talk shop with people. Plus, Huntsville is likely just as closed down and socially distanced as Orlando. If I’m stuck close to home and communicating with most people online, why not do something interesting with that time?

After a year of pandemic life, I need an activity to give myself some direction. Education is as good a plan as any, and it will keep me occupied, entertained, and focused on a goal for 7-10 years. I’ll only be taking one class per term, as I still have two major clients and a strong desire for free time now and then.

However, after 7-10 years of taking these courses, do I really expect someone to hire me as a first-time aerospace engineer at the tender age of 58? 60? I don’t know. One of the certificate programs Kepler Space Institute offers is on Leadership, Policy, and Governance. Maybe I can pick up some lobbying work in the space community once that is completed. And, given stronger engineering credentials, I might be able to get work participating in long-term space planning. Failing that, I jokingly told a friend or two that I’m educating myself so I can be administrator of Luna City (a fictional space settlement in the future history series of Robert A. Heinlein), if they ever build it.

Honestly, I don’t know what I’ll do when all of this is said and done. I’ve never seen money spent on educating myself as wasted. The knowledge can always be applied somewhere. Plus, I meet like-minded people in my classroom experiences. Who knows what one of those relationships might lead to?

Finally, I’m just happy in classroom settings. Learning delights me because it challenges my brain. And while I keep reading books on my own in a wide array of subjects, I do better when I’m in a structured environment and learning from dedicated instructors who can help connect my disparate readings into something like a useful body of knowledge.

Anyhow, this is a solid, long-term project in self improvement. I’ve done worse things with my time and money. Why not do something that carries with it a little hope for the future?

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About Bart Leahy

Freelance Technical Writer, Science Cheerleader Event & Membership Director, and an all-around nice guy. Here to help.
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3 Responses to Why On Earth Are You Going Back to School?

  1. jesse1968 says:

    As another technical writer, also in her 50’s, I think this is super cool. I also have considered returning to school for another degree/certificate, not only for the end product and potential employment benefits but, as you point out, the enjoyment/interest in the journey (education) itself. I need to get my kids through college first though.

  2. heather says:

    As a returning student myself, I think it’s awesome you’re going back to school. I’m in my late 40s and I’m transitioning from an avionics tech, who wanted to work in the space program, to a technical writer. I love that you continue expanding your knowledge, and it shows me that I continue with education even after I get a degree. Thank You!

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