Back to School with Memes

I just survived my first full week of college!

...Well, first week of college in a decade. I got out the five star notebooks, wrote the papers, lost my parking pass, and even met with fellow students for a group project meeting. I am officially a student.

And saying that makes me feel both excited and accomplished, and like I’m going to have a panic attack.

When I left college the first time it was because I was almost done and just offered a dream job of leading my own community outreach department at a local nonprofit. I had only minor general ed to finish up, so the plan was to take the job, and finish up the next semester online. Because of timing I ended up even walking in the graduation ceremony before I was done.

Then I took the classes while working full-time, doing life, and it didn’t go well. Not because of the classes themselves (although I’m pretty sure biology will always be a death sentence for me) but a lot of life happened that semester. I won’t get into it, but let’s just say it was a incredibly dark time. I flunked them all. Then more life happened, much better life, but still lots of change and busyness. Then more life.  And 10 years later I never finished my college degree.

In October-ish after many internal arguments and a whole lot of courage later I decided to actually finish school. Why courage? On top of the massive amounts of shame I have felt for the last ten years, school in general is terrifying for me. School years was a rough time. Not just that last semester or because everyone hates life in junior high. Academically I am deficient. It’s not my thing. I try really, really hard to get c's.  My thing in college was interning. Interning I could do. It involved a lot of common sense, asking questions, and showing up. That I can do. Remembering things for tests, and writing grammatically correct papers is what I cannot do. Academic anxiety. It’s a thing. I’m pretty sure.

As most things the more time passed, the more I fearful I became. The more I didn’t deal with it, the bigger and bigger thing in my head, much like the Fib from Outerspace or my waistline. Mixed with the shame of never actually finishing going back to college has been a source of impossibility for me for a long time.

Yet somehow, I’m doing it. It took the first class, and actually finishing a full week’s worth of work for it somehow to sink in.

So now I’m back. Once I got over the anxiety from looking at the work load and actually did it, it wasn’t as horrible as I thought. Then again, it’s only week one.

I love this program and I know I will be a better creator, problem solver, and ministry leader when this is all done. But on a personal emotional level, dealing with shame is always a good thing. Like my idol Brene Brown said:

“Owning our story can be hard but not nearly as difficult as spending our lives running from it. Embracing our vulnerabilities is risky but not nearly as dangerous as giving up on love and belonging and joy—the experiences that make us the most vulnerable. Only when we are brave enough to explore the darkness will we discover the infinite power of our light.”

We are only better when face our fears. We are only stronger when we overcome shame. It’s all part of becoming the person God wants you to be. Being fearful and shame-filled is never apart of that. I’ve already noticed a difference in myself. Yes, I’ve had lots of nerves and anxiety to overcome far beyond this last week because from the very beginning I knew that if I went back to school, I'd have to own up -publicly- to the fact that I never finished. Be completely vulnerable and open to others disappointment.That was a hard pill to swallow. It would be so much easier to pretend it happened. But I had to own my story, first by accepting it. 

For this part of my story, confessions wasn't the entire piece. I had to fix it. I always wanted a degree, it's a incredibly important thing to me. I won't get into all the levels of why, but let's just say it's not just a job thing but a heart thing. So to really own my story, I had to fix my mistake and go back to school.

But then my academic anxiety would kick in and tell me I could never crack it.

And then for some reason I decided to sign up for a special accelerated program, where everything is compacted into five week classes, which means you have 20+ hours of homework a week for each class. We had homework due on the first day of class. I spent two full days after classes last week just breaking down in just being overwhelmed. I was ready to quit. I'd never be able to carry this workload. But I decided to at least try. And, shockingly *sarcasm*, it wasn't as bad as I thought. 

Well, now that I killed it my first week (I at least turned everything in) I have that amazing feeling you get when you are released from shame: freedom.

That is nothing short of awesome. 

The shame is still tugging at me. The question of if I am good enough to even finish this program is in the back of my mind. But there is a little section of my heart that feels lighter. It feel's happier, and like I may be able to actually conquor this mountain. It’s fighting back the shame and questions with a much larger sword and shield now. For today, that’s everything.