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Bak 2 Skul

It's been 15 years, three months and 10 days since I graduated, magna comes loudly, with degrees in English and History from Texas A&M.

For the first seven years, I worked as a sportswriter, won some awards and had many adventures. There was a gap year when I got married and worked a soul-crushing stint at a hellhole I'd not care to recall. And for the past seven years, I've been in sales at Public Radio Partners, doing a job I love with people I adore, serving clients that are the coolest in the world, and helping fund my favorite nonprofit, public radio stations, KJZZ-NPR/Jazz and KBAQ-Classical.

But tomorrow - Monday, August 25, 2008 - at the ripe old age of 36, I'm going back to school - taking Chemistry 113, plus a lab, plus a recitation (?) at Arizona State University - so I can (hopefully) complete my science prerequisites in 2-3 years, take the MCAT (pass the MCAT), apply and get into to medical school.

I'm not quite sure of the medical term for what just happened to you, but in the real world, we call it a spit-check. Wipe the emesis off your monitor, and call me in another 15 years when I hope to be able to treat you for it.

Don't worry, none of my other three regular readers saw it coming either. Nor did my parents or my husband or my best friend or my employers or even me. So here's a little background... WAY background:

When I was in high school, I wanted to be a doctor - so much so that I took a one-year, unpaid internship in the recovery room of Schumpert Medical Center in Shreveport. I got to make beds, wheel patients to their rooms, empty urine bags and containers, sort supply cabinets, run mindless errands (that seemed REALLY important to me) and observe stuff that goes on in a hospital recovery room. I loved it.

As my term was coming to an end, one of the surgeons took me aside to have THE TALK: "Stacy, you are really inquisitive and bright. You're a hard worker. You're good with the patients, great with the staff and you've been a tremendous asset to us - we wish you could stay... But when all of the work is done, you're off in a corner, writing in your journal. We've all read your stories and loved them, and I just want you to think about whether medicine is what you REALLY want to do with your life. Medical school is grueling, exhausting, frustrating and hard. It requires a lot of sacrifice from you and your family - but it's only a means to an end - and you have to ask yourself, is that end what you really want, what you're called to do?"

To that end, I took the path of least resistance, accepted a scholarship - tendered primarily because of said writing skills - and enrolled in English at Texas A&M. Afterward, I stumbled into sportswriting, mowed the Ballpark in Arlington, completed the London Marathon, covered more than 100 high school football games, generated hate mail, fan mail and an invitation to the prom, cut sheet metal for a NASCAR Winston Cup Team, watched my very first story roll off the press at the Shreveport Times at 1:30 in the morning and saw my byline atop roughly 2,500 stories before I was done. In short, writing let me live a life writ large.

And then I parlayed the skills I learned in the sports department (meeting deadlines, asking questions, listening to answers, working well under pressure) into a sales gig at Public Radio Partners. Through sales, I've honed my problem-solving skills, fallen in love with radio (but not the soulless corporate kind), and discovered that it's not about my station or my client - it's using our wonderful medium to speak to the client's clients. I've learned to introduce myself unsolicited to complete strangers (not that I had a problem with that in the past). I do more research than I did in sports... and I've learned to be an entrepreneur in my own small way - I'm fortunate to work for really thoughtful people who give me room to try (and fail) new things... including this med school prerequisite adventure.

Which brings me to this new adventure - where did it come from? Why now? Why not?

About two years ago, I started working on my current novel which is medical in nature... and then about 18 months ago, I started playing cards with a bunch of doctors... and then, a few months ago, I had a neat conversation with my oldest friend Penny about what we would have done differently way back when - or what we would do now if we went back to school... and then a few weeks ago, sitting on my couch, I looked up at my husband and said, "I want to go to med school."

"OK," he said, "Let's figure this out."

Now I'm enrolled in Chemistry 113. As far as the med school prerequisites go, I face the most interesting academic challenge of my entire life: Two semesters each of chemistry, biology, physics and organic chemistry, which is what they say separates the doctors from the patients. I'll know soon enough: Back in the day, I satisfied my science requirements for the English degree by taking science for sorority girls, aka, meteorology (and I can draw a WICKED weather map, thank you very much!)

Though I graduated with honors from high school, I recall chemistry being a bitch for me - in truth, I can't say whether it was the fact that my teacher's first name was 'Coach' (it wasn't) or if I was just a typical 16-year-old girl who was more interested in boys and my hair than the periodic table. Honestly, how many 16-year olds know what they want to be when they grow up - and fully grasp what they need to do to get there? For that matter, how many 36-year olds know that?

Taking chemistry, I'll know pretty fast. ... Truly, there is an Everest of steps between today and that far away tomorrow when I can even APPLY to medical school - but if I don't try, I'll never really know if this little itch in the middle of my back is the half-life of an old dream or just me being restless (because I'm certainly not young anymore). So the first step - it's a doozy - but in that, I look to an amazing inspiration: My own mom, who left her safe but soul-sucking job as a bookkeeper to become a florist at the ripe old age of 46.

I figure I'll turn 46 regardless - might as well be a doctor when I do (or at least know that I tried)... and to that end, I'm starting with Chemistry 113 tomorrow afternoon at 5:40 PM.

As I told my professor, I'll be the old one in the front row.