30 August 2011

Success in college. And failure in college.

This semester I'm taking a college success class for veterans.  It's geared towards students that are just starting school, or coming back to school. It's also at the technical college I graduated from a couple of years ago. Since then I've done some pretty heavy duty courses. The problem is, I've failed a few of them.

Even so, why am I taking this course? I'm a senior at a top shelf university, fer cryin' out loud. Shouldn't I know this stuff?

Key words: I've failed a few of them. Now I have to pick myself up and move forward.

I'll explain by telling a story: (I will write more about the course as it gets going.)

I'm in basic training at Lackland AFB. I've been having trouble passing inspections and such, and I'm feeling a little down as a result. Even the simple stuff seems hard. There is a certain nth day of training when I first got to put on those Air Force blues- I got to wear them for that one amazing day before I was recycled back a week. It turned out to be thirteen days, because there were two weekends to deal with. The recycle was for seven training days.

It should be noted that at the start of basic training, I had ideas related to being an honor graduate. I'd been through some college, and figured I had a plan.

"Recycling" turned out to be me switching back to fatigues (incoming recruits hadn't yet been switched to BDUs), shoving everything into my duffle bag, and double timing down to CQ. There was a separate room, the dirtbag room, where I and a few others sat and pondered the dissolution of our dreams of flying, fighting, and winning. Occasionally, a TI would stop by to tell us what dirtbags we were, which didn't do much for our morale. (I later learned that the dirtbag room existed to give the admin folks in the squadron office time to transfer us to a new flight and let our projected training school know we'd be late in arriving.)

Now I've been sent up to my new flight, along with a couple of other airmen. I report to my new TI, completely screwing up my reporting statement as he sits behind his desk and glares. He pulls an AF Form 341 from my pocket (thank God I'd filled out new ones while I was in the dirtbag room), looks me dead in the eye and says "Airman, you just used up your Get Out of Jail Free card. The rest is up to you."

Then, he tears up my 341, tosses it in the trash, and told me to GTFO his office.

I'd already completed most of my training with my old flight. The obstacle course and firing range were done, as well as some of the classroom modules. So, I ended up pulling a lot of dorm guard duty. Not fun or exciting, but it wasn't much stress, either. I kept a pretty low profile in my new flight, making sure things were polished and buffed and ready. Did what I was told, got my shit straight, and passed inspections.  Once my new flight caught up to my training level, the rest went pretty smoothly. We got our blues, and our town pass, and we graduated, and we went on to tech school.


"WTF does this have to do with PTSD or college?" you ask.

My answer is this:

As much as this blog is about success in college, it is also about failure in college. I cannot change what happened last semester (if you missed it, I got myself dropped from the university for a semester). I can, however, take stock and see where I am. I can do what I know works, and for those things that didn't work, I can do something different.

I failed in almost everything I did last semester because PTSD got to me, and then depression got to me, and then I stopped going to class and doing homework. I stopped leaving my apartment. All of those study skills I thought I knew flew right out the window. Kinda like the last few days in my first flight.

I know what I need to do, and I'm capable of doing it. I can read, I can study, and I can think. But I'm doing something wrong, and I need to go back and review what I know and see what works and what doesn't. I may need to practice some old skills, or learn some new ones. Actually I need to do all of that.

The message here is that if what you are doing does not result in success, then you need to approach what you are doing in a different way. (I did that in my second flight in basic training-- I stopped giving a shit about blue uniforms and started giving a shit about making sure my green uniforms were perfect. Then, when I got to wear the blues, I gave a shit about those, too.)

For me, that has involved mindfulness therapy, a change in medication, getting out of a destructive relationship, and binding myself to a strict schedule (that I am still getting used to following).

It will require that I do a hell of a lot of work this semester-- work that isn't about making up lost ground, but is instead about learning and relearning what success in college really requires.

Don't be afraid of changing direction, even when it's as a consequence. (That's a statement to me as much as it is to you.)


  1. Quick Question:
    Do you ever actually forget you have PTSD??? Or have I reached an entirely new level of stress?
    I think I've simultaneously misplaced my keys, credit card, phones (Yes, I have two just in case I loose one) and sanity every day this week.
    Nevertheless, best of luck with school and such this semester!

  2. I've "misplaced" my keys, followed by frantically searching and tearing up my entire apartment-- only to realize they were attached to my belt loop the entire time. :) There are times I can forget, but they're never permanent.


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