My first step
What career field do I choose for college?
This was an agonizing choice. I had always worked in the engineering field. I knew I couldn’t pursue an engineering degree simply due to my intellectual disability. It is extremely difficult for me to do complicated math. It was just too difficult. I know this because I tried to practice math at the high school level. My daughter’s math classes were too hard for me. Math came pretty easy for me prior to my brain thing, but now, nope. I can read blueprints and engineering drawings all day long, they were still difficult for me. So engineering was out, and any field where there was a lot of math.
My best option was in the social sciences and government work. Over the years, I had built up a great deal of knowledge in international relations. How the world operates and interacts, trade, finance, development, and so on. I read articles on world affairs on a daily basis and began forming my own opinions on matters of international interest. It wasn’t prolific reading, but I learned quite a bit. It was also obvious that I had a lot to learn, I was not an expert by any stretch of the imagination. But I wanted to be an expert in something. An international relations degree would give me that opportunity. So that’s what I chose to study.
Where do I start?
The obvious choice for me was to start with community college. I had a lot of credits from when I went to community college in the early 1990s. The credits were still good. I was shocked, but happy that they transferred.
Since I had the GI Bill for serving in the military, I knew that would help pay for college. The only problem was that it had been 17 years since I served, and the GI Bill runs out after 10 years. There’s always some hurdle you have to jump through. It was a long and arduous process to get my GI Bill back. I had to prove that I was disabled and that’s why I didn’t use my GI Bill in the allotted 10 years. The folder I have for all of my medical reports is over 3 inches thick so I had to go through each one to find the pages that prove that I’m permanently disabled. Needless to say, it was a pain in the ass.
The down side
There’s always a down side and it’s a little complicated. The post-9/11 GI Bill is different than the Montgomery GI Bill. I served until November of 2001. 9/11 happened in September of 2001. The Post-9/11 GI Bill says I had to have served for at least 3 months after 9/11. This meant that I was only one month shy of it. The difference between the two GI Bills is the 9/11 pays for school AND gives you a monthly stipend. The Montgomery only gives you a monthly stipend. I wasn’t complaining TOO much because I still received the monthly stipend, which is tax-free. But it didn’t pay for school which meant lots of student loans.
I was in school! That’s the upside. Me, 47 years old, an intellectual disability, it was truly the unknown. I had no idea if I would be able to learn at a high level, or even learn at all. It was scary, but I had to try. I know there were people who doubted me and my abilities and my intelligence, but I had to prove to myself that I could do it. There’s no denying it, I was excited to see how it would go.
The first semester
I signed up for 3 classes at the community college. I didn’t want to take too many classes and overburden myself the first semester. January of 2019 is when I began my collegiate career. I’m pretty sure it was 3 classes, but I can only remember 2 of them. An English class and a lower level math class. It was amazing, I remembered some of the math for the first month or so. Then I remembered nothing and was confused a lot. My hard work paid off and I got an A in the class. What was more amazing is on my first research paper in almost 30 years, I got an A on it. I knew then that I didn’t lose my writing skills and that I knew I could do it. It was a revelation.
I wouldn’t have known unless I tried. Looking back on it now, I wonder if I would have returned to school if I was still married to my ex-wife? I don’t know and if I could ever answer that question. In retrospect, it doesn’t matter. I accomplished something amazing in that first semester and it let to greater things. It was extremely difficult and time-consuming, but I did it with no help from anyone. It was my brain that did it. I can’t begin to describe the feeling of accomplishment after so much pain and agony I’ve had to endure.
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