Over the First Hurdle

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Tonight was my first college class.

I was scheduled to have a morning class today but it was cancelled by the delayed opening due to Harvey, so the evening class was my introduction.

I left the house at 5:00 for a 6:00 class, and even taking the back roads and avoiding the gridlock that is Interstate 35 during rush hour I still took most of that time.

Tonight was basic introductory stuff. We went over the syllabus and got a few pointers on how to study. The instructor seems to be fairly easy going but is very no-nonsense.

In other words, precisely the kind of person that triggers my anxiety.

I sat in the back of class tonight and raised my hand when appropriate, took basic notes, found out that the book that the course catalog gave for this course was not the one that was being used (and so it will need to go back to the bookstore for a refund to Texas Workforce Commission, who paid for it – we will instead be using a free-online book from Rice University that I’ve already downloaded), and basically tried to look like I was paying attention to stuff that was already covered on the syllabus that I’d read front to back before coming to class.

After class, I went to the front and presented my instructor with my accommodation letter and note sharing authorization. He asked me what this was, I told him, and he responded with “Okay, I don’t need to keep this. So summarize what you need from me.”

And I almost froze like a deer in headlights.

I could feel the panic welling up inside me as I tried to give him the information that he requested. My mouth went dry, my mind started to race, I started stumbling over my words.

And then I stopped for a brief second, closed my eyes, took a deep breath, and continued.

This time I was clearer, more calm, able to focus on what it was I wanted to tell him instead of rushing words out to fill empty air. I got my message across to him, and he responded with what he could do. Quizzes would be a logistical problem, so I told him that I would do my best to take them in class, but that I might need to go to the testing center for my midterm and final exams. I also told him that while these accommodations were established for me, I’m going to do my best not to need them. He wished me luck but said that if there’s anything that I need from him to let him know.

I stopped at the restroom on the way out and by the time I’d finished up he was waiting for the elevator, so we went down together. While on the ride down, I asked him about his policy about bringing bottled water to class, and told him that I’m on a few medications that cause dry mouth. This is an accommodation that was specifically requested for my algebra class but somehow didn’t make it over to the accommodation letter for biology. He said that the campus “doesn’t want seven course meals beside computers,” but that a bottle of water was fine. He went on to state that I shouldn’t bring curry into class, because “it would distract [him] and [his] Cajun sensibilities.” I had a laugh and we went our separate ways in the parking lot.

The second interaction with the man was just fine. No panic, no fear. I’d managed to successfully fight it down.

So that was tonight’s introduction to college life. I’ll get a taste for what a typical class day will look like on Wednesday with both classes in session, and then I get to take a day off for Labor Day next week before really getting into the groove of the semester.

I’m not proud of the momentary panic attack tonight, but I am proud of how I handled it.

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