Good evening, dear readers. It’s been several months since my last post and I feel this is significant enough to write about. Before I jump in, I’d like to be frank and state that this is not a well polished post. I’ve tried re-writing for several hours throughout the day and honestly, I need to get it out. So please bear with me as I throw some rusted and sort-of- cognizant words out for the world to see.
Today was the very first day back in school– college to be more specific– and more important: my first day of dedicated education. What I mean by that is, instead of trying to fit in classes at night, while working a full-time job, I’ve cleared my schedule and will be attending as a full-time student. This is a pretty monumental life-event for me. After 12 years of military service and at the age of 30, I have returned to focus on a four-year degree in psychology.
I’m sure this evokes a range of personal responses from “yay…” to “YAY!!!” Regardless, this is a big-fricking-deal to me!
In secret, for many years I had wanted to have the ability to do two things: 1) Travel Europe like a hippy back-packer and 2) Dedicate myself to school. Well, this blog’s creation is a testament to goal one (though through New Zealand) and this post is…yeah, to goal two. In my mind, the only way to have achieved these goals was by some magical and mythical turn of fate: Premature ejection from the military– without the bad conduct discharge, of course.
Well, it took a great deal of courage to leave a lifestyle and community I had become an adult in; even more so to leave at point of such success and regard. Having finally made the decision to leave, early last year, I created a position for myself. Similar to a free-agent, I was able to make my own decisions on what belief system governed my life and where that would take me.
Having completed goal one, I returned to Minnesota where I frequently slept until 10 a.m., worked on miscellaneous art projects (Quite Voice guidance), bought a classic truck (bucket list item), and worked to reconnect with friends and family, back home.
One problem started to come to light: I was running out of money. Fuck, the U.S. dollar really doesn’t go as far in the U.S. as it did in N.Z.! After a few months of working a part-time job, I realized it was time to figure something out.
Enter goal #2.
Going into this, I had been deeply anxious the previous few weeks. Sleep disturbances and moodiness had been pretty normal. I woke up at 4:50 a.m. yesterday for a 6:00 a.m. alarm; drove an hour to campus at 7:00 a.m., for a 9:45 a.m. class, which ended up being cancelled. I used the newfound free time to walk out the path to other buildings and dry run my routes for today. I actually walked in, got a look at all the halls, the specific class room and bathroom locations.
Additionally, I printed out the required syllabi for each course and read and re-read each course site to make sure I didn’t miss anything. Part of this is coming from a place of confused and sporadic online learning (and their now apparent incorrect learning style as it relates to me). The other comes from years of being under-prepared and the ego’s tantrums for looking like a fool. I would be remiss if I didn’t pay homage to the many years of military training which ingrained the “5 P’s To Success:” Proper, Prior, Planning, Prevents, Piss-poor, Performance.
Fuck man, my thoughts are all over the page right now. How do I format this shit to tell a proper narrative that is both chronologically correct and satisfies the neurotic grammar monkey in my head?
Today, the first class, Introduction to Psychology and Data Analysis (Statistics), was a big lead up. Once again, I followed yesterday’s morning routine, though this time my first class didn’t start until around noon. I stood outside of the lecture hall roughly 15 minutes early, because the vestibule inside, was full of other students– there must be roughly 100-150 of us in this class. No attendance was taken; no verification of whether you were supposed to be in class or not. As our instructor put it [our attendance], “In public school, you were required to attend because the tax payers were paying for your education. In college, YOU pay for the education. If you are in this class, we already have your money and it doesn’t matter to us if you show up or not.”
Well put. For a student to receive the four credits for this course, they must complete the 6 exams, worth 100 points each. Outside of that, there is no graded homework, nor extra-credit. The un-grade ‘homework’ is based off of lectures and reinforced by chapters in the optional textbook. It’s that simple.
“Rusty” is one way to put this. My last semester of courses were almost a year ago and mid-way through the semester, I had to withdraw due to a mental health crisis.
My second course, based off Arabic poetry and it’s implications on politics from before the Prophet Muhammad to the twentieth-century, should be interesting. Many of the people in my class seemed to have some educational background in both the geographic area and it’s history. Others, were Muslims who had a personal background. Me? Well I have the background of living and carrying out the orders of the President of the United States while in the military. Granted I have been a tourist throughout Bahrain and Jordan, though I do not feel any more prepared to be in this class than someone who attended high-school geography class. Add to it, it’s a literary course, focusing on poetry… Not my strong suit.
My final course of the evening covered personality as it pertains to psychology. Another large class room, filled with community tables. After a lengthy introduction, our instructors discussed the course outcomes and then primed us with two examples of personality from clips of Office Space.
Fuck this is really shit, at the moment.
I’d just like to flush these thoughts out here right quick. I felt/feel absolutely stupid (read “anxious”) while traversing these buildings and classes. I know, it’s the first day of a new semester at a brand new school, but it’s really been an exercise of CBT: “What evidence is there to support for or against this thought.”
Well, I’ve been an adequate student most of my life. My method of learning that seems to best instill information is through experience–> failure/challenges met–> self-education–> resolution.
When it comes to articulating information, I’m at a loss lately. The words come and go and my brain seems to solidify into this rock-hard mass where the words are frozen in time and the monkey who controls everything doesn’t know what to do. I feel like a fraud. This is going to require me stepping my game up. It’s going to require fuck-off level effort.
What I need to be careful of is knocking my life-balance out of whack by focusing all of my time and energy on over-compensating for a perceived lack of intelligence, just to try and remember this information long enough to pass each exam. Or maybe that’s past experiences of attending school online, amid working a full-time job and trying to meet the expectations of my employer. Shoot, the last two points in history where I was dedicated to a collegiate education was in Kabul, Afghanistan and Manama, Bahrain, where I worked long hours, secluded myself from social life, and tried to fill the voids in my life with double downed effort on both school and work. What I will say is I completed an AA degree while in Kabul and added roughly 15 credits to the now, 36 credits which have transferred to my current school. That’s how I know to operate.
When we were released for the evening, I didn’t want to leave. Sure I’d been at school since roughly 8 a.m., but I just felt this energy around me. Everyone is on a different page; a different schedule and educational path. Some people were done for the day and others still had another course to go. Fuck this is foreign to me.
Put aside my anxieties and fears– which are probably nothing more than being in a new environment and desiring success at the highest level– and observe the positives in this situation.
First, I have the opportunity to start fresh, later(ish) in life. I’m at a point in life where I do not have the obligations or responsibilities which limit my ability to take large risks, such as re-training into an entirely new career field. My family and friends support me through moral and housing endowments. The U.S. Government has my back on tuition (THANK YOU G.I. BILL!!!). I’ve just concluded a regimen of mental health work which has restored me to a place of more frequent positive head space and provided tools to cope through the new challenges. My vehicle is back to being a ‘chariot not to exceed 65 mph’, though adequate for portage to and from school. I have had many months to prepare my environment, based off of years of education, to support academic excellence. Finally, I have 30 years of experience in life to apply to these studies.
Writing that last paragraph a thought popped into my head: “How could you even write this in the first place? Think of your friends who don’t have this opportunity. Don’t be ungrateful.” I really do hope that no one perceives this post as me being a whiny little b. Honestly, I’m so overcome with emotion that I need to share my experience with everyone. I want others to know what it’s like to take an alternative approach, or rather, an out-of-sequence approach to life. This is my experience. My thoughts. My headspace, on day one of the next 2-3 years.
Come back and visit later and together we can see what has changed.
Thank you for spending this time to read my story.