It's Never Too Late To Follow
by Diane Leon
1986 at age 41, I wanted to focus on what fulfilled
me even if it meant less money. I quit my job and worked
with children doing art. I called my mother to share
my enthusiasm about my new goal only to hear, What,
return to school? What for? First you leave a good job
and now this! Where do you think you are going at 41
years old? You never listen to me; you should have gone
to college when you were 18, not now. I hung up
and was determined to make my goal come true.
I thought to myself, Ive been living on
my own since I was 19, what does age have to do with
it? Im an artist, work, exhibit and sell. I can
do this, too. The decision to return to school
was what I needed at 41, not when I was 18.
the New York University
School of Continuing and Professional Studies, and
applied for admission. When I thought about the entrance
exams my heart raced. I told my husband, John, I
only want you and my mother to know what Im doing.
If I dont get in, I dont want to explain
to friends and family.
On a cold evening in January 1986 I sat in the first
classroom I had been in since 1963. Everybody appeared
younger, smarter, and professional. Most of the women
looked as though they just left the office. They wore
high heel black shoes, dark single breasted suits, clear
nail polish, short or long hair pulled back. I overheard
other women tell their story, Oh, I left school
five years ago, and now I want to complete my BA.
I felt like saying, Five years ago? Give me a
break. Ive been out of school for twenty-three
years. I sat there in my blue jeans, orange turtleneck
sweater and took a deep breath and tried to stay calm.
As the instructor passed out the 70-minute Vocabulary
and Reading Comprehension and the Math placement test,
my hands shook as I held the #2 pencil.
After the exams, I waited for the mail each day. As
I shuffled through the bills and magazines in a frantic
way, I worried out loud. How long does this take?
My nerves were on edge. My husband was behind me 100
percent. Dont worry," he told me, "I
am sure you passed. Youll do fine, as I
sat around biting my lip, legs crossed and tense. (John
and I met at The Art
Students League and are soul mates. Hes my
best friend, as well as husband.)
On the other hand my mother said, Well maybe
theyre taking a long time because they let the
people who passed know first. I took a deep breath,
and said, Look, Ive got to go and
hung up. I called NYU. Hi, Id like to know
if someone fails the entrance exam can it be taken again?
While I was placed on hold, time seemed to stand still.
I thought to myself, This is ridiculous to get
this crazy over a test. Finally, the woman on
the other end answered, Yes, if someone fails
you can take it again. I sighed and felt some
The next day a large purple and white envelope arrived
from NYU. I opened
it and held my breath and saw the first word, Congratulations...
I passed. My life would never be the same again. I planned
on a degree in art history.