A Map

A Map

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Adventures in Higher Education, Pt. 1

or, 'How I Stopped Worrying About the Bomb and Sat On It' ayyyy


I feel ancient, oh so ancient, so elderly, creaky, and grayyyy..

I work at a large state university in the southern U.S. One of the major benefits of being an employee at this university is that you can take one course, tuition-free, per semester. You can even work on a degree this way, though it's far more time consuming.

After watching my vocation (printing) dying a protracted, ugly death over the years and experience severe job scarcity, and also realizing that I'm careening willy-nilly toward 50, I decided to do something to change my life. I decided to use my benefit to try to finish my long-abandoned English degree. Why English? Certainly there are better and more profitable degrees out there. Well, for one thing, I want to try to finish up as quickly as I can, and given the restrictions of the tuition-free benefit, I decided to see how much of my ancient history would transfer and how much time I could cut off of the process.

The last time I went to school, Frankie Goes to Hollywood was still a thing, okay? It was a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away. Ancient history. As of this writing, I still haven't received a transcript credit report. Apparently, there is only one person who evaluates transcripts for the entire university and I think maybe they're really swamped.

Also, I really didn't want to bust my ass working for a degree in something that I had zero interest in but would likely garner me greater salary choices. I'm too old to be fucking around with something that bores me just for a few extra dollars. I'm looking at this as long-term happiness, not long-term wealth.

So after going through all of the paperwork and planning and rigmarole, I started classes in the fall semester that began just this week. With no transfer credits and no clue what prior education credits will and won't count, my adviser told me to start with something I knew I'd never taken before. Since I need a foreign language credit, I chose German. I know, fuck me, right? But it's cool. My mom is German and I always wanted to learn.

Here are some thoughts on my first day of college in over 25 years. [SPOILER ALERT: I'm being mostly sarcastic].

1. Sweet candied Jesus, these kids are so young. It's just one enormous sea of zit-filled faces, and all of them have the thousand yard stare of OMGWTFBBQishappeningtome that college brings. I remember that feeling from when I was 18 and fresh out of the suburbs, in college and away from home for the first time.

2. Seriously. See the picture above. Aside from the odd aging body issues, my own perception of my own age is very warped. Inside, I still feel like I'm about 12. Once I stepped into a classroom full of 21 college freshmen, I instantly felt old as dirt.

I just feel so fucking old. I mean, I have shattered dreams older than these kids. Weeps softly into my laptop bag,

3. I'm so glad that I'd been studying German using the Duolingo app on my phone. Holy crap, the professor just jumped right the hell on in into das Schwimmenbecken and I was the only student who had the faintest clue what he was going on about. I cannot recommend Duolingo enough. Seriously. Go to their web site and sign up. Right now.

4. The greatest decision of all in this was to buy new shoes. Good shoes. I have great new shoes. They're walking shoes, trainers. The best. I don't care where they're made, they are the best shoes in America. It's a long haul from my office to my class and I have to make it twice a day, four days a week.

5. I'm also very grateful that I've been taking walking exercise every day for the last month in preparation for all this soul-destroying walking in the August heat. Did I mention it's a haul? It's a million miles from my office to my class--uphill, sideways--and I can't drive because there's no parking anywhere and all of the parking spaces that do exist are guarded by level 1000 Deathgoblins.

6. I bought a new laptop for this, mainly because my current laptop and desktop are both 8+ years old. The desktop decided to go tits up during my move, and the old laptop has one foot in the grave. I hauled this new laptop to class on day one, and was promptly told to leave it behind. The foreign language department expressly forbids laptops, tablets, and smart phones in class. Thank god. The damn textbook weighs about as much as my laptop and so my bag was as heavy as two anvils that first day.

7. Adulting = prepared. I looked around the room on that first day at 21 freshmen, only 8 of which had the textbook. One of the 8 is renting hers. The problem with that is the book isn't just a textbook, it's a workbook, and we are required to write in it. Yes, they will be checking. Ha-ha-ha-ha--oh, wait. I spent $185 adult American dollars on a book I won't be able to sell back to the bookstore because I have to write in it. Fuck!

8. Being a big ole chubby gay bear, I have to say damn, there are some cute chubby boys on this campus. Emphasis on the "boys". I'm old enough to be the father of pretty much any student on campus. I have books older than these damned kids. Weeps softly into my laptop bag, which is strategically placed over my groin as I run away.

9. I was so stoked to discover that so many college stereotypes haven't changed in so many years. Bro-dudes who have hot bods but who are otherwise ugly as fuck, and who run around with no shirt while leading a bike or holding a skateboard? Check! Murderous flocks of Heathers-style Mean Girls? Check! Bleach-blond sporto jock bros who all look identical and resemble the blond actor who played the asshole villain in Karate Kid? Check! Terrified teenagers who dart across campus hoping to not be noticed by older predator bullies higher up on the college food chain? Check! Creeps, motorheads, geeks, sluts, bloods, wastoids, dweebies, dickheads? Check! Clusters of activists and people trying to get you to sign up for something? Check!

10. New to my college experience: 1) irregular clusters of pale vegans hiding under large, shady trees like vampires because OMG THE SUN IS SO HOT YOU GUYS I LITERALLY CAN'T EVEN (actual overheard conversation); 2) "Urbros", i.e. white dudes who art way, way too into rap culture. Even the black guys look at them like they're aliens; 3) Precious McPrincess touchy trigger kids trying to make it across campus without being triggered by... something, anything; 4) Confusing, gender-fluid kids. Now, I'm gay, and I'm pretty open minded, but as an old dude, I'm just like WTF is happening here? Did I miss a memo? God love ya, and more power to you, but I am really confused by this stuff.

So the tl;dr version is: I'm 49 and went back to college to finish a degree. It's a little overwhelming, and daunting, but I'll get through it. My feet hurt. I feel really old. Get off my lawn.