Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Real Gurl Goes to College: College and Lollipops DO Go Together

I am now in my fifth week of college and I am settling in pretty well.  Running with A's in my classes, with the exception of algebra.  I have no idea what I will be getting in that class.

It's kinda scary.  We have had plenty of homework and classwork but no quizzes or tests and the mid-term is next week.  I feel like I am getting it during class but you know how tests go....fear grips me and it all goes straight out of my head!  Sometimes that happens just with the homework!  So mid-term next week...YIKES!

I missed my algebra class last Thursday because I was sick so today I stayed after and worked on the missing homework and today's homework.  The teacher was there and another student and we worked through it together.  That was very reassuring but still, the test looms in front of me.

But the good news is, no matter what actual letter grade I get, I am doing something extraordinary.  For many years people near and dear to me have suggested I go to college and I said, "never, ever!"Those are the magic words, aren't they?  Never say never.  In spite of my resistance, here I am and I can honestly say that I am enjoying it.  I love the feel of the pencil to paper and the joy of working together with those at my table.  We share our knowledge and experience like a team.  It is a thrill to be able to say that I understand it and I was sad to miss class on Thursday.

Yesterday I bought a couple of bags of Caramel Apple Lollipops and brought them to Writing class.  All of sudden I felt hesitant to bring them out, thinking the kids would think I was silly.  But oh no!  They were soooo happy and thanked me profusely.  

(You have to understand something about me.  To borrow a phrase from Zoey on Nurse Jackie: "In my world there are prizes.")

There were enough lollipops to bring them to Algebra today and at break we passed the bag around.  Again, it brought joy and smiles to everyone.....especially the teacher.  Because for a few brief minutes the class was actually quiet.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Real Gurl Goes to College: Never Woulda Thought

Math has never been my strong suit.  Of all the classes it was so intimidating.  I never felt confident in math and if I scored well on homework or a test it felt like I was really fooling everyone.  If only they knew that I wasn't as smart as I seemed!

I was one of the kids that tested well and put in algebra in 8th grade.  I remember the few of us who were selected for this honor.  We really thought we were big dogs.  We were taking algebra.  It sounded so....HIGH SCHOOL!  But it wasn't long before I looked around the classroom and everyone seemed to be getting it but me and on top of that, they LIKED it!  I felt lost and left out.  I don't know how but I got enough points to get an okay grade and passed.  

Passing only brought new problems.  It meant that I was automatically placed in geometry as a freshman.  In my particular class, I was the only freshman amongst mostly juniors.  I was very intimidated with theorems, Pythagoreum and such, as well as high school in general, but I made an effort to keep up.  It proved to be unsuccessful and it wasn't long before I skipped class for the first time ever, avoiding the problem and making it much worse.

Looking back, I realize that in my younger years learning and education came very easy to me.  I wasn't used to having to put forth so much effort.  I was easily the best reader and was the spelling bee winner every week in second grade.  But as classes like geometry required more and more, and I failed to step up, I got further and further behind.  Finally, giving up, I managed to get a D, passing, and did not take any further math.  This affected my confidence in all of my other classes as well.  People thought I was smart and I kept pretending it was true, but I felt more and more alone as I kept up pretenses.

Today I am in college for the first time in my life and my placement test showed I should start in algebra/trig.  I was dubious that I would be successful so I chose to start in algebra.  In addition to that, I chose to have algebra class on a day with no other classes.  I wanted to be able to focus on math alone without any other distractions.

Now, three weeks in and I am relieved!  I have worked at staying up with the teacher, following the classwork closely and I don't stop until I understand.  This week I was ahead of the entire class and waiting on them and actually helped other students with the classwork!

This has been a big boost to my morale and even to my thoughts on future schooling.  I have realized that I CAN do it and the success is encouraging and fulfilling.  I am facing some old fears and overcoming them.  I simply cannot believe it.  Algebra.  I never would have thought.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Real Gurl Goes to College: Writing 115 and a Little Something Extra

I am sure you are thinking that it's about time I had something good to report about my writing class.  I am here to oblige.

As I entered the class today, I was giddy with nerves.  I was turning in my very first collegiate writing paper and I was all wound up from anticipation.  Today, THE UNICORN paper was being handed over to Hippie-Boot-Political-Crass-Teacher Person.  I had no idea how my paper would be judged.

After all these days of non-combative confrontation, my only concern has been that it would somehow lead to a bias against my writing and thus a poor grade.  I have been trying so hard not to even appear argumentative but somehow I don't think I succeeded.

At any rate, she offered to give extra credit to those who would read their paper out loud to the class.  After a couple, two or three papers were read, I volunteered.  Hoping not to speed-read or run out of breath because of the nerves, I sat at the front of the class and confided my true story.

Imagine my surprise when at the end of my reading, not only did the class clap and say "that was awesome" but the teacher went out of her way to vocalize  and emphasize how really awesome she thought it was.  It seemed genuine which caught me off guard but I was appreciative all the same.  Hippie or not, she has had seven books published and so if even she can see some value in my writing, then I call that lagniappe, which is to say in french, " a little something extra".  I am still glowing from the review!

Writer's Note:  You can read the actual paper on the blog post entitled, The Unicorn Paper.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Real Gurl Goes to College: The First Day and the Third Week

The first day of college I was all wide-eyed and cautious.  Without one bit of surety did I think I belonged on campus.  I had been told by more than a few folks that I should go to college, that I was smart enough.  But it just never appealed to me.

I am in my third week now and I am throwing on my messenger back almost like a pro and I don't get lost in the wrong hall that looks just like the other one...at least not as often.  I have come to accept that parking takes a minimum of 30 minutes and that as the days go by there are fewer and fewer students in my classes.  It is also imperative that I dress accordingly with layers, because I am hot natured and at any moment may be burdened by being too warm.  

In my writing class, with the hip teacher who wants us to argue about politics and God, we actually had a girl come to the point of fists in the air ready to fight for her food stamps, welfare, unemployment and student aid.  The funny part was she was fighting someone on her own team, and a newly returned veteran from Afghanistan at that!

I find it amusing that after four writing classes, each with a different spin on the politics and God arguments suddenly became a discussion about art yesterday.  While the passion was still there for some, it was a much more palatable discussion and no fists were formed.  

Call me crazy but I am much more comfortable in this environment.

But this teacher is itching for a heated debate so I am sure we will get into it again.  It is the political season, after all.

More to come....

College Blog: Real Gurl Goes to College

Hey Friends,

I am now writing a separate blog for my journey through college for the first time in my life.  Please feel free to join me at http://www.realgurlgoestocollege.blogspot.com and join the nonsense and mayhem of my adult attempt at a higher education!

Love to hear your thoughts!


Friday, October 5, 2012

Real Gurl Goes to College-The Unicorn Paper

Many of you have been following on Facebook so you know about my disdain for the title of our first writing essay.  See original post below:

So I am not very impressed that my first writing assignment topic in college is unicorns. Why not make it My Little Pony? Sheesh. That's what you get when a teacher trying too hard to be hip lets a class choose the topic....

 Here is the finished product.  Let me know what you think!


            It was about 18 months ago that I was stumbling through life, broken, bruised and sore from a divorce that happened seven years ago. I was slowly moving forward but feeling like I had a perpetual sandbag on my shoulders that I could not shake.  Though I am not a drinker, but more of a thinker, I tried several self-help books, specifically the manuals from Alcoholics Anonymous, to no avail.  Desperately, I was trying to find steps to lift me out of the dark past into a new life, but the right steps eluded me. 

            By chance, (which is not the right word at all because it was more than chance), I called my church to ask to use a room for a ladies friendship group. One phone call… just that one phone call started a deluge of significant events.  It was here that I met Holly. 
            There are many legends and meanings that can be attached to unicorns, but one reminds me of Holly: “A symbol of strength, endurance and hope.” For the purpose of this writing, Holly is my unicorn because from the very start she was a beacon of these things. She wisely walked me through some desperate moments, always offering hope if I would have the strength to endure the process.  She was my God-given guide through The Genesis Process, a set of workbooks designed to bring one to a lasting recovery.   

            I say recovery though I have never faced down an addiction to drugs or alcohol but rather my own demon, an addiction to approval. It was Holly and her quiet strength, eyes that knew me, and her constant questions of accountability, that kept me pursuing my new beginning.  This new beginning was to address my constant and abiding need to please others, without regard to the personal outcome.  It would include learning who I am and how to give that back to others in need. 

            Being alone after my divorce, I was now in my forties and in my own place for the first time in my life. The noisy, busy, family life was gone.  To say I was lost and did not know who I was only gives a small glimpse of the pain I was experiencing.  
            The day I met Holly, I was only looking for a place to meet.  Little did I know, as she allowed me to share my story for nearly two hours, that I had met someone who would become such a friend, confidant, and mentor. After I had unloaded all the sins of the past, nearly exhausted from crying and at a loss as to how I arrived at this state, she looked at me with piercing brown eyes and said, “Would you mind if I mentored you?” 

            Suddenly and without warning, there was the help I had been seeking. For nearly six years I had battled, waging war with myself and searching fruitlessly for direction.  I constantly asked everyone around me if they knew what was wrong with me.  Suddenly someone was reaching out to me and seemed to know something I didn’t.  It was especially sweet to later realize that help came as I was looking to help others. 

            Her eyes continued to burn into mine as she pelted me with questions of my commitment.    “You will have to promise to attend a class every week,” she said. “And you have to promise to do the assigned homework,” she continued.

            This time I answered rather meekly with “O.K.” and she added “Be on time”.  I was in such need that had she told me to jump off a bridge I probably would have done it.  I trusted her from the very start. 

            And so began the most transforming six months of my life.  Holly held the reins perfectly as she kept me on course and held me accountable for my behaviors and actions.  The enduring strength and constant hope of a unicorn began to take root in me.  

            To describe my Forever Friend as an inspiration is an understatement and to call her a unicorn is even more so, but for the sake of Writing 115 I will.  The truth of the matter is she was a gift from God.  Through her love and guidance, I have not only begun to uncover the Real Gurl inside, but it has led me to my passion: counseling other hopeless women to find their Genesis, or new beginning.  I learned a wise truth:   that ruin is a gift for it is the road to transformation.  My life will never be the same.