31 January 2012

End of Fall 2011 - Part I

And so another semester ends.

It’s not quite over, I have a take home final exam to finish, and as many writing assignments as I can write before tomorrow to do. By all measures, this semester was another ugly and messy train wreck. Fall 2011 was supposed to be the semester that I get my head straight and got everything fixed.

Looking at my grades, it wasn’t. Not at all. In reality, getting my head straight is what ultimately happened. It just took until the week before final exams. (Oof.)

During the beginning of the semester, I tried to have at least some social life. I managed to convince several women to join me for coffee (dates! yay!), which resulted in me being out the price of two coffees each time. I’m convinced that women my age, especially those who attended my university or are associated with it, are not at all comfortable dating a student. It could also be that they see me in jeans and a hooded sweatshirt, and they’re not impressed. Meh. I have enough self esteem issues without people looking down on me for that. So I let go of dating for a while. I’m single.

For most of the second half of the semester, I beat my head against the wall (no, not literally) trying to figure out where I’d gone wrong. What had happened, when had the train started to wobble, what I could do differently. I couldn’t make it to class most of the time, because most of the time I was scared. Once I’d fallen behind, I couldn’t bear going. I felt guilty and ashamed. That feeling got worse, to the point where if I didn’t have to go to work, I didn’t leave my apartment.

That’s the way spring semester was, too.

In the classes I did manage to attend, I looked back and noticed a few things. One was that noise really bothers me. Lots of people talking and moving around begins at annoying and ends at my hands shaking. Another thing I discovered was that I’m uncomfortable with gaps-- those times when a handout is distributed, you work on it for a while, and then go over the answers right away. There’s too much noise in the room for me to concentrate when that happens. (It should be noted that in my university classes, the “hand stuff out and work on it” nonsense never happens.)

The *other* thing I noticed that as long as it was just an instructor talking and me taking notes, I was fine. My mind did drift here and there, but my Livescribe pen was recording the audio-- I’d just make a note that I needed to review at that point. That part went pretty well. The notes I was taking were making sense. I also had binders and Livescribe notebooks for each class, meaning I was basically prepared. Hmm. In other words, once I got to class, I was pretty much okay.      

I still couldn’t get anything done at home, though-- at home, I was pretty much feeling crappy and depressed. I’d tune out for hours at a time. Some mornings I’d see the sun coming up, and not have a clue what I’d been doing since I got home at 0115.

Tuesday night, I made it late to the final meeting of one of my classes. There was a group project, and the presentations were being done-- the assignment was a funny skit, in Spanish. I hadn’t made the group meetings and really hadn’t done anything towards the assignment-- it scared me. This is the class where I’d stopped trying to answer questions during class, and just concentrated on taking notes. I felt it was important to get there, though. So I went.

After that, I went home, and after a while, pulled out and started working on another of my classes where I had a large number of assignments overdue. I had some initial computer issues, which I got fixed. Then I started working on the assignments, and kept going through several hours into the morning. Breaks to order food, breaks to walk to the neighborhood convenience store for 0430 munchies and soda happened. Other than that, I was sitting at my desk gettin’ it done. World be damned.

Wednesday I had a final exam to take online. I got that done with five seconds to spare. Although I hadn’t studied the material, I knew enough to know where the answers were. I also remembered enough from other related classes to make things easier. I was able to focus on it, at least enough that I think I did a halfway decent job.

All of this, put together, sounds... encouraging. There’s more.

I took a “college success” course this semester, a study skills course where everyone in the class was a student veteran. In cramming as many missing assignments as I could into the last few days, I was also looking at how I learn and some of the adjustments that can be made to rescue a student that’s having difficulty with classes-- that’s what the assignments were about.

Somewhere, I’m not sure if it was before or after the two custard filled Krispy Kremes and liter of Diet Mountain Dew, things about me and college and PTSD got a lot less foggy.

The hardest part-- the most difficult thing to do-- has been to admit one thing. I’m a disabled student veteran. That being said, my existence needs to take that into account at every turn, or this isn’t going to fucking work.

This was written immediately after the end of exams week.

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