It's Never Too Late...To Follow
(Continued from 1)
I called everyone to share the good news. Most of my
friends were thrilled, but my aunts wanted to know,
What is art history, and what type of degree is
that? Is this going to get you a better job, more money
or what?" All legitimate questions, but for me
it wasnt about making money. The creative process
is what my life has always been about. Money does not
define success. Returning to school at this stage was
mainly to learn about subjects that have always fascinated
me. But, learning how to manage time
was another story.
Any social life I had over the next five years was
put on hold while I was in school. Staying focused was
crucial. Friends and family had to understand that this
commitment was something very important to me. I needed
to learn how to say no and not feel guilty.
I attended fall, spring and summer sessions. Classes
were held on evenings
or Saturday afternoons. I often looked out the window
during a break and
watched snow fall on Washington Square Park. Then before
I knew it, summer
had arrived and I was rushing across campus in my tank
top, skirt and
sandals. My life revolved around semesters.
The courses taken at New
York University gave me personal experiences that
will last a lifetime. My concentration in art history
also included a full range of liberal arts courses such
as writing, history, literature, sociology, anthropology,
psychology, science and philosophy. Most of the topics
were fascinating because it was new information. However,
some of the courses made me understand life and others
revealed the history of New York City.
For example, my first college class was psychology
with Professor Arthur Schlansky. He has since passed
away, but his words live with me. As I sat among my
fellow classmates, Professor Schlansky asked us if we
knew the secret of a happy life. All of us looked around,
shrugged our shoulders, and shook our heads "no".
Then he gave us his pithy, humorous analysis of life.
Life is like a deck of cards...we are all dealt
our hand. The trick to being fulfilled in life is to
never look over at the other persons hand. Stop
wishing you had what the other guy has. Instead make
the best of what you were dealt and go for it.
As we laughed, I realized how right he was.
My science course conjured up childhood memories. Picking
rocks in Central
Park was always an adventure. On a cool, spring morning
our class met with
Professor Michael Rampino. As he explained how during
the last ice age
approximately 15,000 years ago ice sheets began to move
America, I walked over the remnants of boulders and
studied striations in
the rocks. My geology course made me see Central Park
in a new way.
The most impressionable course was in the summer of
1991. My anthropology class had access to a very important
discovery on the construction site of the Foley
Square Federal building. Workers came across some
20,000 skeletal remains of free and enslaved African-Americans
known as the Negro Burial Ground from 350
years ago. On a Saturday morning at 8 a.m. my class
had special access to visit the site. I slowly walked
down a narrow plank of wood that descended into the
large excavation; I entered sacred space. Today some
400 hand-carved mahogany coffins and skeletal remains
are on view to the public, but on that Saturday morning
I took part in a historical event with my class at NYU.
The 120 credits were transforming and I have never
looked at life quite the
same again. I felt as though everything I learned was
connected. It made
me a whole person. It was now time to celebrate.
My mother and John attended the May graduation set
in Washington Square Park in Greenwich Village, New
York City. I sat in the hot May sun with fellow classmates
and couldnt believe the day had arrived. After
the event, faculty and classmates were introduced to
significant others and everyone had the same feeling,
I thought I would never finish. My mother
told faculty, Oh, I am so proud; Ive always
encouraged Diane to do anything she wanted to do.
I looked at John and just smiled. She was proud.
Getting an education made me see the world in a different
empowered me because I had control over my life. The
best part now is
giving back and encouraging others. I began teaching
in 1995 at NYU in the
School of Continuing and Professional Studies, Paul
McGhee Division. I
completed my Masters degree at NYU, Graduate School
of Arts and Science in
Humanities and Social Thought. I went from student to
Today, when I speak to my mother, she says, I
tell everyone about my daughter the artist and teacher.
See what you can accomplish when you put your mind to
it? I reply, And it doesnt matter
how old you are. Im living proof its never
too late to follow your dreams!
Diane Leon is an artist, writer, adjunct assistant
professor of arts and administrator at New York University
School of Continuing and Professional Studies.