It’s that time of the year again. Office Max commercials are playing non-stop. K-Mart is still trying to stay relevant without using tongue-in-cheek toilet humor. Kids across the country are taking deep breaths as they get ready to head back into the classroom.
Along with them, I am also getting ready to head back into the classroom and I have to admit. I don’t think I will ever be able to get over the first day jitters. I am almost thirty years old and still the thought of classes starting up again makes me shake in that way that starts in your guts and radiates to your extremities. Maybe that’s a stroke, I have no idea. But the point is that I still have that nervous energy that comes along with starting school.
It’s not as if I haven’t been to college. I have been; a bunch of times. This is my second semester at community college and I think I have found the flash-point to these feelings I have had come the end of the summer. It’s not the difficulty of the classes, it’s not the social class system (not anymore anyway), and it’s not the feelings of inadequacy. It the fear of failure while I take real and adult steps toward my future.
See, when I was younger I could totally blame social anxiety, difficult class work, and high expectations as reasons for being mortified about starting another year of the gauntlet that was school. What’s even worse is that I didn’t have it nearly as bad as I thought I did. Sure, there were plenty of people who thought I was a big, fat, sweaty spastic and I am adult enough (for the sake of this blog entry) to admit that they were right to most extents. I was awkward and I tried too hard to make people laugh because I felt that I didn’t have much to offer in the way of anything else. But I had friends and I had a lot of people who casually knew me as an alright person. I would like to think that if a personality poll was taken of my fellow students that the results would show me in a favorable percentage rather than the opposite.
School could have been so much worse and it could have been so much better. The same goes for college. I squandered that whole experience based on selfishness. I tried so desperately to be interesting and unique that I cringe at the one dimensional caricature that I was. Especially when I realize that I could have done so much more with my time. But maybe that’s what it took?
When I decided to turn my grades around in High School was when I brought home another disappointing report card and my mom was so fed up that she couldn’t even yell at me. She was so far beyond mad that she didn’t know what to do. She had seen me excel at essays or other projects if I put my mind to it, so why I would bring home failing grades was a complete and utter complexity. It was that moment that I decided that I had ran out of rope and it was either time to pull myself up or hang myself with it.
I can officially say that the reason I failed in college the first time and through 70% of high school, and 50% of middle school was that I had no confidence in myself and I was far more interested in getting attention than I was with making a decent effort. I would go through these patterns of believing I was worthless and that I should be held back and sent to remedial classes. But once they actually threatened to do that I realized it was no longer a game of how long can I get away with not trying. It was a very real possibility that my friends would all move on without me and then eventually forget me.
So, I busted my ass and got through high school and accepted to a college and promptly went back to focusing on trying to be so many things that I am not and being distracted by things beyond my control.
Ten years later, I am still paying school loans for that year long disappointment but I have jumped back into the race and I am happy to say that it is going well so far. This year I will once again be working my full time job, taking a full course load (mostly online), andworking as a freelance content contributor for an in company magazine. It will be the busiest I have been in a long time and the fear of failure is still waiting in the wings, ready to take center stage in my brain.
The difference this time is that I have a great role model, I know what to expect, and I have medication to keep me from destroying my chances with pessimism and self-loathing.
You know what? I am actually looking forward to school starting. But check back again after my first couple algebra classes. Things could drastically change.