Imagine going to college for the first time after suffering a brain injury
January 12, 2015 was my first day of school at Oakland Community College. I was anxious, angry, and absolutely terrified. I had never been to college. I was still very deep into my injury and embarking on a new future career as a nurse was the last thing that I really wanted to do. I was planning to start a new career, but I couldn’t have it until 2019. Why would I wait 4 years to get a job? When I was 19 years old, I joined the Detroit Police Department and within 6 months I was a Detroit Police Officer. The entire process was done, finished, and I out serving the citizens of Detroit. For this next step, I will have to wait four years to get a license. Four more years until I would get a pay check again, and 2 more years until I would find out if I would be accepted into the nursing program. Oakland Community College has a very rigorous nursing program and only except around 200 applicants. Deep down inside, (maybe not all that deep), all I wanted to do was go back to law enforcement.
A few days before class, my wife and I went to every classroom and I took a picture of the room number and the building where each class was located. (It didn’t help. I still got lost. I would call my wife at work so that she could tell me how to get to my next class. I couldn’t risk anyone knowing my secret. I was a new college student.) We went to the bookstore that day too. I got my books for the first 3 classes. She taught me how to use D2L and showed me how to get to the ACCESS office if I was lost. The ACCESS office assists students with disabilities. I wouldn’t be alone there, but it sure felt like it. I can’t say how many times or how she did it, but she would somehow be outside of my class waiting for me when class was over.
My very first class was Stress management. My wife thought it would help me with some of the issues that I was facing. I walked in and noticed the back of the class was full of, “cool kids”. In my mind, I was one of them. I was still, “young.” I didn’t realize, (yet) that I was now the, “middle child”. I wasn’t young, but I definitely wasn’t one of the old guys.
The only seats left were in the front, next to the professor. So I grab a seat, and a very nice older gentleman soon follows and sits right next to me. It was a blessing and a curse. After some dialogue, this gentleman was returning to college after a career change. Who knew? This eased my stress a bit. If he could do it, then I can do it, right? It was comforting to have someone else that would pay attention in class. As soon as I was getting comfortable, a younger gentleman walked in and as he was about to sit near us, some of the, “cool kids” yelled, “Oh, you’re not going to sit back here with us…you’re going to sit up front…with the old heads?” I thought to myself, “Really, on the first day of school God!” My wife always says that I’m either the Hulk or Bruce Banner. I have no middle ground since the accident. I can’t really go home and tell my wife, (who will tell my doctor) that I got kicked out of school on the first day because someone called me old. So, I refocused my attention and got into the lecture. Luckily it was just a reading of the syllabus and the expectations of the professor. Just like that, my first day ended quickly.
Here is the run-down: I lost the expensive wireless headphones that are around my neck in the picture within the first few weeks. I still have the cross body backpack that my wife got me just for school. I still wear hoodies and jeans during the fall and winter, (and maybe the summer months if you listen to my wife) because they’re comfortable. I lost a few pounds. I gained some grey hair. I’m some what okay with being the old guy in class.
As I look back at the picture, that guy did not want to go to class that day. He wanted to stay home, watch television and eat sweets all day. Fast-forward four years; I am in that rigorous nursing program that accepted about 200 applicants and now counting down the days until graduation.