Stuff Gets Real

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Tonight I had my first bit of panic since starting this process of going back to school. I got an email from my biology instructor detailing where class notes can be found, as well as the syllabus. It’s the first communication that I’ve received that was class-specific and it took me aback for a few minutes while it finally sunk into my thick skull that classes start in less than 48 hours.

Somehow it all felt unreal up to this point – the meetings I’ve attended, the hoops I’ve jumped through to get registered, all of it. I don’t know why it was the letter from my biology instructor that finally drove it home. It’s not a bad thing, mind. It was nervous excitement that I felt more than fear, although there was a good chunk of fear in there.

I really hope I know what I’m getting myself into.

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Consistency of Habit

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The above picture is a screenshot from my phone of Duolingo, the language app that I have used to learn Spanish and now Italian. I have another app, Elevate that I use for grammar, math, and short-term memory exercises. I do both of them every day. And according to this snapshot, I have been doing them both every day for a year straight.

When I started this streak, I didn’t honestly think it would last this long. I was just happy to be learning something and not just sitting at home twiddling my thumbs when not watching movies or playing computer games or reading or doing the occasional household chore. Being on disability seems like it might be all fun and games, but let me assure you, having no schedule and little to keep you busy gets very old, very fast.

I think that’s one of the reasons that I’m so happy to be going to college after all this time. It gives me some structure and some short- and long-term goals to work towards. The short-term goal is this semester, and the long-term, of course, is the degree.

Speaking of college, I got word today that I’d gained a spot in both classes that I had waitlisted for, and I accepted a spot in one of them. The other begins ten minutes after the first one ends on another campus, leaving me no possible way to get from one to the other in time.

The part that makes me happiest about this is that it means that I’m only going to miss one day of classes when I go to California next month on vacation. One day is going to be fairly easy to catch up from, especially with the syllabuses in hand. It also gives me five days a week that will be class-free, time that I can spend studying or keeping up with my chores or taking time for myself.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – I’m glad that it worked out that I could only take two classes this semester. I would have hated to get back into the habit of going to class and studying with a full class load. I can save that pleasure for later semesters, when I’ll need to keep up with the program.

I’m worried that my checklist items will fall by the wayside given the more pressing use of my time, but I feel confident that I can keep at least most of my checklist going even while in school.

Seven more days to wait.

Small Victory

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Granted, it’s the weekend, and the trips weren’t far, but we went to the store and then later swung by a friend’s place to pick up something and stopped off at the drugstore on the way home. And I drove both times.

It’s still a big deal to me to have a day where I do all the driving. I’ve been scared to do so for so long, it feels both wonderful and weird to get back behind the wheel like this. And it’s going to take some getting used to for both of us. It’s habit at this point for me to take the passenger’s seat, and it’s habit for her to automatically get behind the wheel. It’s going to take a little bit of effort for us to break that habit, but I think it’ll be relatively easy to do.

Seven more days to go before classes start. I’ve been excited, but I’m also starting to get nervous about it. My mind keeps trying to wander off to a myriad “what if?” situations but I’m being diligent and stopping those thoughts almost as soon as they appear.

I just hope that will continue once the classwork starts coming in.

What a Weird Day

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Real short post tonight, since it’s bedtime.

Woke up at 2:45 am and decided to start trying to grab my waitlisted classes. It wasn’t until after 8:00 that the website finally let me log in, and then it was another 15 minutes before it would show me my schedule. Turns out that I can’t register for the waitlisted classes for some reason, even though it shows there’s now room.

Went back to bed at some point in the morning and didn’t wake up for good until after 2:00 pm. Everything’s been thrown off kilter from that.

Hopefully tomorrow will be a little more like what I’m used to.

Ready As I’ll Ever Be

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(Today’s going to be a real short post, because I’m real tired.)

Today I put the finishing touches on most of the stuff that I have to do before classes start on the 28th. I got my student ID card made – I look appropriately awful in the photo – and I picked up the textbook for my Biology Fundamentals class. Both of these I did at the Round Rock campus – the fourth Austin Community College campus that I’ve been to in a week. I parked on the south side of campus intending to walk past the west side of the 3000 building to get to Admissions and Records in the 1000 building on the west side of campus, only construction had the pathway blocked, so I had to walk clear around the east side of the 3000 building to come back to the 1000 building to the west. I got in there, wiped the sweat from my brow – it was 101 degrees out, by my car’s reckoning – and thankfully only had to wait for a moment to get my photo taken, and only a couple of minutes after that to get my card handed to me. I went from there to the northeast side of the 2000 building to the bookstore, and then walked back along the east side of campus to get to the parking lot on the south side. And that was the end of my exercise for the day. Between the heat and the fairly long distance (by my standards, anyway) I was done.

And that’s that. The only preparation I have left to do will be next weekend, when I pick up a couple of three-ring binders, some loose leaf paper, and a scientific calculator.

I can’t believe that so much has happened just in the past few days. I look back at everything I’ve done since last Thursday – the meeting with the departmental advising specialist, the appointment with my psychiatrist, the area of study information session, registering for my college algebra class and picking up that textbook, then finding out that biology fundamentals would be authorized by Texas Workforce Commission and registering for that class and picking up its textbook, the meeting with student accessibility services, the appointment with my psychiatrist, picking up a parking permit and a student ID – this is the busiest week that I can remember having in a long time.

And because of that, and because there’s not really that much to do, tomorrow I’m taking it easy. I think I’ve earned that.

But Wait, There’s More!

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Yesterday I registered for my first college class. Last night, before I went to bed, I checked my account with the school. I had a zero balance. It was a great feeling to fall asleep with.

This morning I had a meeting with the college’s Student Accessibility Services office. My counselor was very pleased that I’d gotten the application done before the meeting, and after we got the introductory details out of the way, we started going over the accommodations that she recommended for me. Despite a letter from my psychologist explaining that I’ve been improving recently, my counselor approached my situation from a standpoint of what the stress of school could cause in someone with my diagnoses rather than what I’ve been exhibiting. We decided on a list of seven accommodations designed to help me learn – six of her own recommendation, and one that I requested. We then went on to examine the class that I had registered for, to see if I was taking a class taught by an instructor who’s not as accommodating of students in my situation. The verdict is that the instructor is not the best choice, but tolerable. There are two other instructors that she would recommend for that class, and I’m waitlisted for a class with one of them. (I signed up for a class that I knew would have seats in it, but then put myself on the waitlist for a class with more desirable hours. If a spot comes open when they get to me, then I get to attend that class instead.) We chatted for a while longer and then she went to scan all my forms, and that’s when I got an email.

Last Thursday, I wrote about my meeting with an advisory specialist in the Health Sciences department, and how much it had added to my list of things to do before I’m accepted into the sonography program. There’s one part in particular that I want to bring to your attention:

Back to Anatomy & Physiology I for a minute. There have been so many students that have taken and failed this course since it was instituted that they now give an assessment test that you need to score a 70% or higher on in order to place into A&P I. There is a list of test objectives, so you’ll have an idea what to expect on this test. That list is six pages long. I can either study for it on my own, or I can take Biology Fundamentals, a course that exists only to be preparation for this exam. Because it’s not part of this or any other degree program, it’s almost certainly going to have to come out of my pocket and not be covered by my agreement with Texas Workforce Commission.

In my Thursday afternoon letter to my counselor at Texas Workforce Commission, who’s underwriting my education as part of the Return to Work program, I explained that I understood that this course wasn’t going to be covered, but would she allow me to take it anyway? I hadn’t heard back from her until today, and she had unexpected news. She was going to authorize payment for the Biology Fundamentals class!

When my counselor with SAS returned to the room after scanning my documents, I told her about the email, and she sat right down and helped me find a suitable class for me to take. Or rather, she tried to. Her computer was locking up on her and preventing her from registering me for the class that we’d agreed on, so she told me that she’d get to it later in the day. I asked her if it would be helpful for me to try and register when I got home, and she said it would.

On my way out, I noticed that parking permits were sold online and at the cashier’s office, for cash only. I was going to put it on my debit card, so I signed into the system on my phone and quickly had a receipt in hand. I went to the cashier’s office, told them I’d just sent the transaction in, and they looked me up in their system and handed me my parking permit.

I went home and signed onto the course offerings and registered for an evening class on Mondays and Wednesdays, and then waitlisted myself for one in the morning on the same days. (That made it impossible for me to get both classes that I’d waitlisted myself for, as one ends right before another begins, and they’re on different campuses.)

In the afternoon I saw my therapist, and told her that her letter to SAS was perfectly sufficient and explained what accommodations I’d been given. We discussed that, and all that’s transpired in two weeks, and it was at that moment that I realized just how much stuff is happening to me in a very short period of time. She asked me if I was proud of my accomplishments, and I told her I was. We talked more about school and life in general before the end of what was a very good appointment.

I left there and went straight back to campus to try and pick up my books. I was able to get one, for college algebra, but I’m going to have to go to another campus to pick up my textbook for Biology Fundamentals. That’s a trip that’s going to have to happen tomorrow, as I’d run out of time to do anything else before picking my wife up from work.

So that’s my day. It seems I’m going to be taking six credit hours of classes this semester, although only three will count toward my degree program. It’s going to be a very quick turnaround next semester, as I’m going to have to take the entrance exam for Anatomy & Physiology I around the time I’m doing finals in order for it to allow me to register for that class in the spring. My plan for the spring is to bump the courseload up to a full 12 hours and attend A&P I, Introduction to Physics, and a couple of my co-requisite courses to get them out of the way.

Spring is going to be a busy time, but I’ll prove to myself this fall that I can handle it.

One last thing. I checked my account with the school this afternoon after I’d registered for Biology Fundamentals. I had a balance of something over a thousand dollars. I checked it again just before writing this blog post. It was back to zero again. Both classes have been paid for, and both books have been credited to my account. So far this semester I’ve paid fifteen bucks out of pocket, and that was for my parking permit.

I’d be lying if I didn’t say that was the best feeling of all.