First-Day-Of-School Jitters At Any Age

Caela Reilly, Staff Writer

I woke up on the morning of Sept. 8 with a particular kind of anxiety that I had not been felt in a long time. At 25, I was facing my first day of school after several years. The last time I had attended school was in 2017 when I was 21, the average age for a college student. Between 2015 to 2018, I was a student at Brookdale here and there. I decided to officially drop out in 2018 because my heart just wasn’t in it. I started working a full-time job instead.
During my 3-year hiatus from attending school, I worked a full-time job, frequently changing from one unfulfilling position to another. I felt as though I was working so hard for nothing; no benefits, horrible pay and working a job I hated with a corrupt administration. Flash forward to March 2020, in the midst of the pandemic, I was laid off. It was shocking to say the least and as much as I hated my job, I had no plans to keep myself afloat.
I moved in with a friend to protect myself because my mother was working amongst Covid patients in the hospital. Then, I applied for unemployment just like 6 million other Americans.
Two weeks turned into two months, and after giving into early pandemic staples like “Tiger King,” and TikTok to cope with the horrors of the world, I decided it was time to make a plan. I weighed all my options and came to the conclusion that I had grown so much in the last few years, so why not give college one more try?
My first semester back at Brookdale started in the Fall of 2020, as a pre-radiology major. Everything was virtual because of the pandemic. Even then there was a sort of awkwardness about it. Here I was, almost 24 years old amongst people just out of high school. Though I’m sure no one noticed but myself, I felt weird about it. I was so different from these people and there was nothing we could relate to since I was almost 7-8 years older than all of them.
The floods of doubt began almost immediately; how can I do this? How could I stay organized, or keep up with my grades, and deal with the added anxiety of living through a pandemic that didn’t seem to be getting any better? It was more difficult now than ever. Back when I first attended, I had responsibilities, but now I’m an adult with even more on my plate. My head was constantly spinning with thoughts of schoolwork, money, personal issues, and my personal life.
I would be lying if I didn’t highlight the struggles of restarting my academic career as a person in their mid-twenties. The beginning of it all came with insanely dark times. I made sure to set myself up for success beforehand, even creating myself an at-home classroom, but I took most of my classes from my bed where I would remain for most of the day. I withdrew from my social life and was forced to face things I had been avoiding for the longest time. It all happened at once, and I was more unprepared than I had anticipated.
It took me time to find balance and get myself moving again. I forced myself to have some type of routine and to get out of bed every day. I put myself into therapy to help with any personal issues that could be hindering my success and overall wellbeing. Things were a lot better by the summer semester. Now, it was time to plan my return to campus for this semester, fall 2021.
In August, I registered for two classes on campus, and three online. I wanted to have some time to be able to start working again, after almost two years. I interviewed for a student worker position in the Bankier Library, that way I was able to create my own schedule. The best thing I could do to feel better about everything was to put myself back out there.
My first day of in-person classes was insanely nerve-wracking. I felt like I was back in high school. I was thinking about my outfit, if I was going to get lost, how would be perceived by the other, much younger, students, all of it. I picked out my clothes the night before and drove to the campus to make sure I would be able to find the building. Being virtually alone for two years will make you do crazy things.
My first class was Introduction to Poetry; a class I had attempted in my last semester before dropping out but failed. I was the first one there, but the classroom door was locked, and I awkwardly waited outside for the teacher to arrive. I chose the second row to the back, as to not seem too eager by sitting in the front or too unbothered by sitting all the way in the back. My classmates piled in one by one. “She looks so much younger than me…I wonder what they’re thinking about me.” These unrealistic thoughts ran through my head.
My second class was World Civilization, a history class. The first class consisted of going over the syllabus and introducing ourselves using icebreakers. Icebreakers is something I have done throughout school my entire life, and also something I’ve hated doing my entire life. I got through it with my heart pounding in my chest. I wanted to keep my head down and get my work done in both of my classes.
As the weeks went on, I started to become more comfortable. No one was actually thinking about my age, and I was excelling in my courses. I enjoyed going to class, and my professors enjoyed having me.
I think what I’m here to tell you is that, if you’re thinking about going to college in your mid-twenties like me, do it. It has been the most rewarding experience for me even throughout the difficult parts. My head is less clouded than it was at 18 years old when I first entered Brookdale, and I wouldn’t change this journey for the world.