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Old Habits Die Hard

  I haven’t been in school in more than 11 years.

For some crazy reason, I thought between having a full-time job, being a single parent, being involved in charities, extracurricular professional activities, running my household and having a social life, that I could fit in time to get an advanced degree.

Why now some ask?

Why not?

Alright, so I did it. I enrolled at Liberty University, which has an online master’s of business administration degree program.

Our first assignment was to introduce ourselves to the class and that was worth quite a few points. “Hurrah,” I thought, “this is going to be cake.” I had the notion that since I’ve been in the business world for so long, I’d grasp the concepts quickly and easily.

Not so fast. I knew it would be time consuming and require discipline and hard work, but next thing I know I’m buzzing through discussion boards, required reading, quizzes, papers and group projects and I’m falling behind fast.

Since the classes are online and don’t have classroom time, work is rigorous and lightning-speed paced.

My biggest challenge, however, has been following the graduate-level American Psychological Association writing style.

Since being out of school, the only style to which I’ve had to adhere is Associated Press style, which was ingrained in my brain in Journalism school.

I consider myself a sort of freestyle breaking-all-the-rules-because-I-know-the-rules rouge type of writer.

You know, like a freeflow rapper who just spouts off a stream of consciousness and makes it sound kind of intelligible and good. And people actually dance to it.

So following a very strict set of standards is hard for me. I also supposedly can’t use “flowery language.” As my boss and editor put it, “you’re screwed.” She knows my writing well.

I’ve really had to tone down my metaphors and similes and start forming sentences like a real scholar would.

I also have to use running heads and actually cite other people’s writing and create a references page. It truly sucks, but I asked for it.

And on to the procrastination factor. I remember when I was at Tallahassee Community College and Florida A&M University; I would be the one up late, studying for tomorrow’s test and trying to cram in four chapters worth of reading in one night.

It’s funny how that old habit is one that is hard to break. Just last night, I was finding so many other things to do other than schoolwork – things that I usually hate.

Folding laundry. Doing dishes. Vacuuming. I even organized my linen closet. After I couldn’t procrastinate any longer, I hit the books and next thing I know, it’s midnight. And then I’m falling asleep and wishing I hadn’t started so late.

I’m a 33-year-old student who reverts right back to my 17-year-old student mindframe.

I did well in school way back when, but for now, I’d like to strive for more. I’d like to do well and do it the right way.

I have a lot more things at stake: Graduate classes cost at least three times more than undergraduate classes. I have a mortgage and bills and a living, breathing kid to pay for. I have others who have invested in my education.

So, maybe it was presumptuous to expect this to be easy. It’s funny how the things in life we think will be hard, wind up being not nearly as bad as we thought and in this case, something I thought would be pretty breezy, wound up perplexing me and forcing me to change my attitude.

I’m really buckling down by skipping my lunch break to work on school and getting started on everything early and even burning the midnight oil. I ask my teachers questions, I engage with the members of my group projects and I’m committed to getting the writing style as right as I possibly can.

It’s so true about life that we revert back to what we know and what worked for us before, even if it wasn’t the best method.

But, when we receive a reality check and decide to become committed, it’s possible to adopt new habits that help us grow, learn and reach our goals.

Even if you’re not in school, learning doesn’t have to stop, and there is always a new thought or idea that we could embrace – even later in life and even if we thought we knew everything.

As Claude Bernard said, “It’s what we think we know that keeps us from learning.”

><(("> Mandy Stark

Mandy is a ><(("> Friend of Catch Your Limit, a marketing firm with offices in Tallahassee, Florida and Richmond, Virginia. To contact Mandy email her at or to learn more about Catch Your Limit, visit

Posted in Miscellaneous.


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  1. Cathy Schroeder says

    My linen closet is the cleanest it’s been since 1996.

  2. Mandy Lou Stark says

    Ha ha … I know Cathy! I guess that could be a plus … Thanks for the comment!

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