I was with my ex-girlfriend Bekki in the fall of 2009 when I was a student at a local community college. I was 18-years-old, didn’t manage my priorities correctly and ultimately finished the semester with a 1.9 GPA, only completing one of my five classes (while not properly dropping the other four and receiving F’s). The one class I completed was an 8am Tuesday/Thursday English class, the only time of the day I felt like I could relax, because my relationship with Bekki was a colossal shitbag disaster. Yeah, that one class I completed, I only made a C in there when I should have made an A, but my dumb ass didn’t turn in the final term paper and I half-assed the final exam.
After a five year hiatus away from college, I returned to that same local community college in 2014. Now, in 2017, I’ve managed to take that 1.9 GPA and raise it to a 3.3/borderline 3.4. Redemption has been mine, but damn, it was a long, painful journey!
In a nutshell, I’ll tell you what happened in the fall of 2009: I was an in-love 18-year-old dating an immature girl that was still in high school. I prioritized that relationship over my personal goals and mental health. I got myself so wrapped up in making sure she was happy, I lost sight of what was going on in my life. I didn’t consider the consequences of my choices at that community college at the time.
You can read about my experience with Bekki in another post. I linked to it in the first line of this post.
2010-2013 were the biggest wastes of time in my life. Especially 2012 and 2013. I did not accomplish a single thing in those years.
I was handicapped by fear. I knew I had to return to college and make things right. But how? But when? I’d say “now“, every time, but I was so scared. I remember, back in April or May 2013, it was a late night, and I had my TV set to TNT. I was watching the NBA playoffs featuring the Oklahoma City Thunder and Memphis Grizzlies. I loaded up my local community college’s website. I was so nervous… I had to go use the bathroom, so I did, and when I came back I closed the page, closed my laptop and ate six Snickers ice cream bars instead. Complete and total avoidance.
On June 1, 2013 I walked to the top of a pretty big mountain at a park here, alone, and I talked to myself out loud. “I will give my self one year. One year. One year to get my shit together and go back to [my local community college]. It’s now or never.”
I’m not so sure I got my shit together in 2014, but I signed up for classes about two weeks before they began in August 2014, and here I am.
Fear is a bitch. Fear is a friend. Fear is a two-faced motherfucker. I mean what I wrote in the title of this post. It is absolutely a double edged sword that can either drive you to do great things or paralyze you with complete and utter inactivity. I’ve been on both sides.
I knew I had to return to college in 2014. I had to make things right. I wanted to, deep down, but I was so goddamn against wanting to be around new people. Specifically, younger students. Nowadays, I don’t care about that, but back then, I didn’t want to be judged for being an older guy, even though I was only 23 in 2014. It’s funny, thinking back, about how silly that insecurity was.
I used Nike’s “Just do it” slogan to fuel me, I reckon. Also a dash of, “What’s the worst that can happen?” in my mindset. “You fail? Fuck it; everybody fails”. Everybody makes fools of themselves. Everybody is a error-makin’, failure-havin’ human being.
When I signed up for classes, I decided to go ahead and do public speaking. Get it out of the way. I’ve always had a narcissistic enjoyment for my voice. When I was in high school, I wanted to be a sportswriter and a sports broadcaster. In 11th grade, my sports marketing teacher — she was a babe — told me I had a hypnotizing sportscaster voice. That got to my head. I knew that deciding to get public speaking out of the way would push me out of my comfort zone. I was hardly around unfamiliar people in 2010-2013, so putting myself out there and doing public speaking after barely being around anybody was a fucking huge, but fucking awesome, challenge.
The best part about it, and I’ll never forget this because it makes me smirk, is that the two girls I sat next to — Alexis and Whitley — told me that I was just so calm and that envied that about me, when it came to speeches in class. I always volunteered to go first whenever we had our speaking days. Because, my theory was always, if you go first, nobody is really going to pay attention to what you are saying, because they are going to be too worried and anxiety-riddled about their own speeches. I never understood the people who tried to stave off doing it! You have to do it, anyway, so why not get it over with so you can relax!? I’ll never forget — right before Thanksgiving break in 2014, we had a speaking day, and a few people didn’t want to get their speech over with, so our instructor said they’d have to do it after our holiday break was over with. Are you fucking kidding me? You’d rather stew over it during your entire break rather than get it out of the way?!
Most of the students in there were second year students that were just about ready to graduate; they had put that class off until the last minute.
Anyway, the “calm” comments they made about me? Yeah, inside, my heart was pounding, but despite my heart pounding with anxiety, I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that I could do it. I guess that’s why I appeared calm. It was nerve racking, but I knew had the ability to stand in front of a group and talk.
Fear paralyzed me in 2010-2013 when I’d spend all day crying/stewing over Bekki or otherwise wasting my time in other useless endeavors.
Fear drove me to return to my local community college in 2014.
I have a lot to do and a lot to work on. But when you are faced with fear, you have a choice to either do nothing or to take action. If you take action, typically you’ll face your fear and figure out if it’s just a phony — and 99.9% of the time it is. When you doing, you never find out and you only stay in one place, never moving or growing or evolving.
Life without pain is a life without challenge and a life without challenge is a life without growth.