Honk honk, motherfucker.
The professor called on me in class today and I locked up faster & tighter than the doors of a BMW in a bad neighborhood. Two seconds after he moved on I completely understood what he was asking me and I felt like a total idiot. I got tripped up on "Woher kommst du", a phrase I have heard and spoken many times. I know what it means, but in that moment, I was all durrrrr.
I'm older than my professor. He looks to be maybe early 30s. After class on the second day, I ran into him on the quad and he stopped to ask me how things were going, ie. if he was doing okay. He stood and vaped and listened while I told him he was doing fine. He's a bit nervous and it shows. I didn't tell him that part, though. Maybe I should have.
The truth is, I'm nervous as hell in class. I'm so much older than the other students and I feel entirely self-conscious. I just don't want to be seen as the weird old dude. This is difficult enough a sit is without adding social anxiety to it, too.
The more interesting thing is that I will occasionally see one of my classmates on campus and they wave and say hi. They're nice to me. As of yet, no one has been mean, or laughed at me, or been rude. On day 2, I passed by one girl who called to me, "Hey, German 101! You're in my class, what's your name?" We had a nice hallway conversation before she ran off to talk to a girl she knew.
These are good kids for the most part. I know that not all of them will make it. It's just a statistical fact. I'm already placing invisible mental markers on the ones who probably won't. I feel bad for them. When I was 18, I was one of those kids. I didn't make it. I was forced to drop out for financial reasons. I finished one years of collage and my parents were like, "sorry, son, we can't afford this anymore". I tried it on my own for another year or so, but it was too hard and I wound up sliding into a career in printing because it was available and I enjoyed it.
I know some of these freshmen are struggling and some won't make it through the academic year. I don't want to repeat that trajectory at age 49. Somehow, that seems like it would be doubly painful and sad.