Being that I was 48 years old and just starting college, I decided not to go the fraternity route. I’m guessing that would not go well. I knew that I would feel a little uncomfortable with all of the kids that were 30 years younger than me. There were some in my classes that I got to know a little bit, but no lasting friendships. I was amazed to find a few people at or near my age. People always tell me it is never too late to go back to school. It’s a cliché, but it’s true. People usually thought I was a professor.
I really didn’t have a social life inside or outside of school. Just showed up for my classes, and went home. There were some group projects, but once Covid hit, everything went online. This online format made it even more difficult to make friends. I just kept my eye on the prize, my diploma.
I was in my third semester when Covid hit. It took some getting used to, but I have to say that the university did an excellent job of transitioning to online. The worst part about it was no social interaction with adults. It can get to be a little boring talking to my kids. The couldn’t go anywhere either. My daughter graduated high school during Covid, no big ceremonies or graduation parties.
Personally, I didn’t mind it much. I have no friends or family here in Arizona. I couldn’t travel to California to visit my friends either. What I did was put my head down and study. I couldn’t just raise my hand to ask a question or ask a classmate for help. It was difficult for me to push through, but I managed. I worked 8 to 12 hours per day, 7 days a week.
During zoom classes, my son was a regular fixture in the camera. He would climb all over me to get into the picture. It’s hard to concentrate when he’s climbing on me. Although I wasn’t technically paying attention to my kids, I was still in the house with them. That gave me some comfort and a feeling that I wasn’t neglecting my kids. I got used to the online format and began to prefer it to in-person classes. Mainly for the fact that I had more time to study since I wasn’t driving to the university and wasting gas. In my last semester, I only had one in-person class. I wanted that one to be in person because of the subject matter.
My college career might seem easy, but it wasn’t. I struggled mightily in some classes. For my major, I had to learn a new language as a requirement. Two semesters was all I had in me. I got A’s in both classes, but that was because my professors helped me quite a bit. There is no word to describe how hard it was. My brain just could not remember anything. On exams, I simply froze. That’s how my brain works on timed exams. Plus, I got a lot of participation points. Participation points go a long way in college. I failed several major exams, but still received A’s or B’s in my classes. I ended up getting a language substitution because it was so difficult. My advisor told me that he had never heard of anyone getting a language substitution at the university.
Learning obstacles were extremely challenging. It’s very hard to explain. The main point is that I remember some things easily, some not at all. There is no way to tell what will get through. This is the hardest thing to convince people of. I get told that I’m faking it a lot, that I’m not very intelligent, and I conveniently forget things. It is very frustrating sometimes. Brain injuries are a complex issue and most people don’t understand, don’t want to understand, and don’t take the time to understand.
For every class I took, I had to re-learn how to learn. No two classes were the same. The online format introduced new software that we had to connect to, there was no standard besides zoom. Eventually, I got used to using the software. I always use golf as an example. Golf was difficult for me for two reasons. One, I had to violently turn my head during my swing. Two, when I did do a great swing, I forgot the mechanics of the shot. So I had to start from scratch with each swing. When I forget things, it makes me feel kind of stupid that I can’t remember even little things. This is more true when a person asks me to remember something and I don’t remember it. It doesn’t convey trust in me. I do remember some things, I don’t forget everything.
With all of the obstacles in my way, I overcame them and finished college. They have to mail me my diploma and I will post a picture when I receive it. It is a very proud moment for me. There were doubters and people that thought I would drop out. I didn’t do it for those reasons, I did it to enhance my career opportunities and to have the feeling that I accomplished something.