31 August 2010
Classes start, for me, on Thursday. PTSD or not, they start Thursday.
I would be very happy if I could write down a list of all of the things I'm going to do to cope, to deal with the crowded streets and the crowded hallways and the people moving around and the lecture halls that will be full. They always are full, the first week, as students show up to find out if they're going to stay in the course or not, or try to get into the course. This semester, I have the added dimension of the freshman class being new here, so I'm not the newest person on campus. It's always better not being the new kid, and then again, it isn't. So I don't have such a list. I have an informal paper that I've been adding to over the summer, as I've examined what went wrong last semester and what I need to do differently.
I've heard from a lot of different places, that if you can handle a deployment, you can handle college. I disagree in part, because handling college is not just a matter of staying stoked on caffeine and ignoring the calendar. A student can't ignore the calendar, ever. College runs on the syllabus, the deadline, and the calendar. Things happen in a certain order, at a certain speed, and it's on you to keep up. As last semester proved to me, it is far too easy to slip and fall behind.
College is also different from a deployment because you don't have your unit with you. If you're lucky, you know some people and have a few friends at the same school, but even if you do it's not the same as the family that was your unit. On the plane ride to the desert, you can look at anyone on the plane and know they'd give their life for you. Walking to class the first day, you can look at anyone on the street and they won't know you're looking at them because they're trying to get to class, too.
It's hard being older than most of the people around me; I'm old enough to be someone's parent. In the military, if you're older, chances are you're higher in rank and have more responsibilities. Younger people look up to you, respect you, listen to you. (Okay, they're supposed to do those things.) In college, you're just an undergraduate, no matter how old or young you are. You don't gain rank until you actually graduate.
I've also had different experiences, both as a child and as an adult, that have changed me and my perceptions. Those experiences have also changed my reactions to situations, which makes me even a little more different. One way college students relieve stress is drink; I don't like getting drunk. Too much of my life, I was drunk instead of fixing what was wrong. So, blowing off steam becomes a solitary activity, something I have to do on my own and be responsible for.
If there's one thing that I have on my list that really matters, it's getting to know my professors, TA's, and especially classmates. I'm going to need help figuring out some of the material I'm going to see this semester, even the material I've seen before. More important than that, I need to be a part of something, be a part of a team, fit in.