As you may or may not know, I’ve been planning for the past year or two to return to the University of Central Florida (UCF) to finish a Computer Science degree I started ages ago. It’s always felt like an open sore in my past; something I started and should have finished, but I couldn’t. Emotionally and mentally, it was impossible for me at the time. But I’ve worked hard over the past few years with my psychiatrist and the Office of Vocational Rehabilitation. I feel I’ve made a lot of progress in my personal life.
This year, I eased myself back into the college life by taking a statistics course (which would transfer to UCF and fill some needed credits for my degree) at the local community college in the spring. I was able to get an A in the course, which was a huge confidence boost. In the summer, I took Biology I (and lab), which again, would transfer and fill necessary course requirements for my degree. Since January, I could feel my confidence and eagerness to return to UCF in the fall building.
But it’s funny how everything changes once you’re finally faced with a big change.
I left with plenty of time to find parking, get to class, and even sit around for a while on Monday morning. I was feeling good, emotionally—at least consciously. My digestive system was another issue. Every mile I got closer to campus, my stomach pains got worse. I’ll spare you from the details, but by the time I was able to park and run to the nearest restroom, it wasn’t pretty. What started off as (most likely) unfortunately coincidental stomach issues began a positive feedback loop of stress, worry, and more intense digestive problems. I had gotten to campus, but I was feeling like crap, and feeling like crap made it easier for me to realize I was stuck on this campus—2 and a half hours away from my home—all day. Surrounded by people.
I found my first class without too much difficulty and was able to sit through some residual stomach cramps, but my poor class scheduling left me a full 6 hours before my next class. In desperation, I searched all my familiar old hiding spots for some solitude; temporary relief for those of us with social anxiety. But every obscure corner I went to was crawling with students. I was trapped on campus, but worse yet, I was stuck in a sea of people.
It’s difficult to explain social anxiety to those who don’t suffer from it. It’s not just that I’m shy or introverted. It’s not even that I dislike people in general (though my opinion on that can depend on context). The best example I can give is that a crowd of people, or a room full of people, to someone with social anxiety is exactly like a tiny elevator to someone with claustrophobia. It’s like the feeling of drowning; when the panic finally hits, you have very little control over your actions unless you’ve practiced… a lot.
So, failing to find a sanctuary of solitude, I retreated to my car, and before long I found myself driving back home. I never did make it to that statistics class, but I was able to find one other class I could swap out for it. An Intro to C Programming course I, honestly, didn’t need; it’s a pre-requisite for everything in the Computer Science major, and I had been granted course equivalency my first time around at UCF, but since I re-enrolled and was changed to the new catalog year, the equivalency had been erased. So instead of filling out paperwork, some weeks of awkward miscommunication and trying to coordinate between SPC (where I took my first C programming class, almost a decade prior) and UCF, I decided to just take the damn course, as there was an opening almost immediately after my first course.
There’s a silver lining to this story, however. On Wednesday afternoon, when I showed up for my first lecture of the Intro to C class, the professor mentioned that “advanced” students could complete a special assignment and meet with him in his office hours to be exempted from the rest of the course, be given an A, and be given different, more challenging assignments for the semester. So, in other words, I already know I have an A in one class at least.
As for class I dropped—Statistics II—I plan on taking that in the spring instead.