One of my most memorable terra incognita experiences occurred when I returned to finish my undergrad degree in my late forties. Navigating what was now an online college enrollment process left me feeling powerless—I was unable to understand the expectations. How could I engage in friendly banter with others when there was no line in which to stand? I couldn’t bluff my way through this online maze. Once I finally figured it out, all that remained open for an elective choice was a Geology lecture course. Why had this course not filled up? Was it the course content? The teacher? Was I about to sign up for something everyone else was smart enough to run away from? I knew nothing about rocks, nor was I at all sure I wanted to!
My fingers hovered above the Enter key: You’re making a big mistake! My already shaky confidence ebbed away with every second I hesitated. My options were limited by my lack of familiarity in this uncharted terrain. But, it led me to understand that a place called NOT HOME can be a frightening destination, with streets paved with bewilderment, delusion and fear.
Fortunately, mine was a short-lived panic. The first day of class, I entered an auditorium with 300-plus other students. Three cups of coffee floated in me, enough to drown most of my insecurities. I can always leave, I told myself. No one gets arrested for dropping a course. At the front of the room was an instructor with Arnold Schwarzenegger’s accent, Liam Neeson’s face and the manic wit and timing of Robin Williams. Within days, I was hooked on ROCKS! With the instructor’s eccentric geological humor, terms like sediment, seepage and seismicity quickly became part of our student vernacular. The auditorium became a second home for me that semester; and when it ended, Geology was the course I missed the most.