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Back in the Saddle 

My first day of school

Considering the nightmares from my first trip through higher education -- 11 years ago -- only recently subsided, I have shocked myself by applying to graduate school. In the meantime, to get back into the swing of things and get a few prerequisites out of the way, I am enrolled at UCCS.

Kind of like stretching before the big race.

Upon the first full day of classes, I discovered that things have changed a little, and that I have changed a lot. Surprisingly, I am now a full-fledged adult. Ten plus years of work and life experience provide a very different perspective and attitide than 17 years old and fresh out of high school.

Below details the first day of school as an adult.

Wednesday

6:17 a.m. Wake up and realize that I don't have to work, because I'm back in school. First class isn't until 9:25. Ponder getting up anyway, but fall back asleep before I even envision making coffee.

7:50 a.m. Wake up from anxiety-induced nightmare ('90s style), most likely resulting from the fact that I haven't been in a classroom in almost 11 years. It turned from a parking nightmare, to bloody, gory violence in the hallways, to having my car broken into and books stolen, to running in slow motion and missing class. At least I wasn't naked. Wish I had gotten out of bed the first time around.

9:05 a.m. Pull into dirt parking-lot complex miles from the actual campus, since I didn't want to shell out the $101 permit fee for the paved lot. Circle the dirt lots. Feel like I'm at the rodeo for some reason. Finally find a space near the trailhead. Trails run up and over the giant hill separating the campus from satellite parking. Could wait for the shuttle, but would rather hike. It's Colorado and only fitting that you should traverse a mesa to get to class.

9:18 a.m. Hike in took longer than I thought it would. Seven minutes until class. Six minutes to find coffee. Enter Columbine Hall. How lucky can I get; Starbucks coffee stand right there welcoming me. Who'd-a-thunk. Academia and corporate America. A marriage I'm thankful for, at the moment.

9:20 a.m. Stand outside classroom door and take a deep breath. Wonder why all schools smell the same. Wonder how I can still remember that smell. This time around, though, it doesn't make me nauseous. A good sign.

9:25 a.m. Class begins. There are only 14 people in the room. I'm very visible. Look up at the clock and a slight panic washes over me. I'm actually in the second row; nothing between myself and the professor. There are 125 more minutes to go. What was I thinking? Must actually pay attention -- or at least look interested. Can't nap if I need to. What if I resort to my old academic habits? Even with trusty Starbucks java at my side, there's no telling what might happen. Then I realize it's OK, thinking about all of the meetings I've had to sit through at work, feigning alertness. This is bound to be more interesting. Suddenly feel like an adult. Realize my perspective has changed drastically. Somehow, it all makes sense. Also realize that, possibly, I'm the oldest person in class.

9:30 a.m. Above fact confirmed after introductions, and when professor asks a non-academic question, which somehow pertains directly to my life, I look around, waiting for someone to answer. Complete silence. OK, I have to say something if nobody else will. I blurt out my answer, forgetting to raise my hand.

10 a.m. Deep discussion. As it's an English class, we're going around the room discussing the last books we have read. The focus of this class is women writers and their experiences. Most of my classmates (all female) have recently read academic-type works (which makes sense) or some kind of sensible novel. The last book I read was called Drinking, Smoking and Screwing -- a collection of short stories from before the term PC was invented.

10:06 a.m. My turn. I freeze. Can't say the words drinking, smoking or screwing. I go with the book I read just before that one.

10:45 a.m. Class is over early, being the first day and all. Things went well. Not even bored once. Never had the urge to nap. Even participated. Can't wait for next week's class.

Noon: Been hanging out in the sun watching people while waiting for my friend Amie. Two things really stand out. 1) Almost everyone has a cell phone, and they use it. 2) Wish I had a nicer backpack.

12:15 p.m. Amie and I head to the cafeteria for food. Lunch choices are commercial: Pizza Hut, the Sub Connection, Tao Tao Chinese, the Grille or a piddly-looking salad bar. Decide on the mini version of a personal pan pizza, which if they made any smaller would not be visible in the box.

1 p.m. Head up to the bookstore to see if the rest of my books have arrived. So has everyone else. Abandon that idea, but in the process, acquire free candy, gum and a student survival kit. The sex specific kit contains more candy, a razor, shaving cream, some deodorant, lotion, Nyquil, Pantene products in a silk bag, Playtex tampons and various coupons for "feminine products." Wonder what's in the guys' kit.

1:20 p.m. Standing outside the bathroom waiting for Amie. I'm deep in thought, wondering if returning to school was a good decision.

1:22 p.m. Interrupted from deep thoughts by a tap on the shoulder. A woman asks me if I'm all right. She says I look sick.

1:35 p.m. Arrive at second class, scope out the scene. Rooms are a lot smaller here than at the university I attended, which suddenly seems like a really, really long time ago. Feel compelled to sit in second row again, though left of center with overhead projector between professor and me. I'm not going to look at the clock this time. Notice the presence of older people. Older than me. Uh oh. Pull out my three-subject notebook with built-in pocket folders, my pen and bottle of water. I'm so prepared. I sit quietly, waiting for class to begin. Then, realization hits me like a ton of bricks: I've turned into the student that used to annoy the hell out of me, the well-prepared Girl Scout type.

1:45 p.m. Professor walks in. Looks like my friend Sue's mother. Feel better already.

2:00 p.m. We jump right into things. Philosophizing, analyzing -- lots of theories, lots of discussion. Once again, things seem to pertain more to life than a textbook. This excites me.

2:15 p.m. Reprimanded. Still forgetting to raise my hand.

2:30 p.m. Weird automated sound happening several rows behind me. Nobody else seems disturbed. Realize it's a cell phone. Wow. Cell phones in class. Turn that damn thing off.

2:40 p.m. Debate with the woman a few chairs down from me. She's more anal than I am. She raises her hand. She's brought up some compelling ideas. I like arguing with her. Feel comforted by the fact that there are still students that annoy me.

2:55 p.m. Class is over. I loved it, despite disagreeing with my classmates' ideas. Fascinated by how strange humans are, from a sociological point of view. Look forward to next week.

3:05 p.m. Hiking back to the dirt lot, I realize I participated more today than in all four years of my undergrad career combined. Deep in thought, I run into a yucca plant. Make a mental note: Need sensible shoes, Tevas won't do.

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