The Bernie Madoff saga played on the screen as I drifted off to sleep. I caught bits and pieces of it in between excusing myself for a snore. The Accounting Ethics professor concluded the class with a lecture but as hard as I tried to focus, the information just wasn’t sticking. It was a nice change of pace getting back into the familiarity of college courses and reengaging my mind into the world of business in the summer of 2010, just a few months removed from what seemed to be an endless hospital stay. But something wasn’t quite right.
Through lectures I had a hard time focusing. I couldn’t go very long without falling asleep. But a sense of panic did not set in until I started my first quiz. As a friend held up the paper for me, not only did it feel weird to have to relay my answers to someone else to write down, but I was realizing the self-doubt that began to creep in.
Why was I having such a hard time reading, processing, and remembering everything? Was it the high amounts of medications I was on? The sleepless nights staring at the ceiling wondering what was next in this journey? Or had my brain actually endured some type of undetected trauma that did not come to light until exercising it in an academic setting? I kept my fears to myself, unsure of their validity.
School had always come so easy to me and I figured a loss of mobility of my limbs would have no effect on my aptitude in the classroom. But it persisted. The panic associated with feeling as if my intellectual abilities had taken a hit only added to the anxiety surrounding how to balance maneuvering around campus in a 300 pound chair while needing someone else take notes for me. This array of emotions made me realize one thing: this was not the time to jump back into classes.
After that initial summer course, I held off on going back to school for the next few years as other opportunities presented themselves. Then, earlier this year some time freed up so I started the process of looking into finishing the business degree I started in 2007. Class kicked off this fall and I re-acclimated myself with the likes of Business Management and International Business.
Here are five things I learned during my hiatus from school:
Each step in the road is vital to the entirety of the story:
Interacting with a few people regarding starting back to school has left me feeling as if they’re saying, “Oh good, you’re finally ready to move on with your life.” I don’t believe any of the time I wasn’t in school was wasted. In fact, the break was crucial.
With more time available to read, write, and contemplate life, speak, meet with high school guys, start this website, etc., these last few years have turned out to be the most important season of my life to date. I found out who I am. In many ways I’ve better understood what my role is. And most importantly, I discovered who God is.
We each have our own race to run:
It hit me when I was signing up for classes… I’m going back to college with students almost 10 years younger than me. Taking a class that my peers completed nearly 5 years ago can be humbling. Not to mention that on top of that, the same peers are well into careers while I still share a hallway with my parents. Comparing myself to others can leave me depressed…which is why focusing on the race God has marked for me is all I need to do.
Trying to please others never ends well:
“Are you taking classes yet?” became what I heard more than anything during my break from school. Many times I was left wondering, “Is that what I’m supposed to be doing?” Was I looking to find approval from people rather than God? Over time it became abundantly clear that entertaining the idea of doing something just because it fit in with the social norm was ridiculous. This begged the question, who cares what anyone else thinks?
What excites me isn’t always going to excite others:
I may enjoy learning the nuances of the business world but you can bet that I am much more excited for Sunday afternoons and what is to come of the hearts of my high school guys. When I express my excitement about this to some people I have often gotten a blank stare or the deflecting response, “That’s nice… Are you taking classes yet?”
Regardless of the response of others, I love getting to witness firsthand God propelling the transformation process from boyhood to manhood. Sunday meetings have undoubtedly become the highlight of my week. And if others don’t get excited about the same things? That’s completely okay.
It’s never too late to finish what was started:
I really was not trying to use a cliché. Too late. Finishing a college degree in nine years may not make me sound like a high achiever, but you better believe I’m going to have that degree from the University of Cincinnati eventually. It’s never too late to take the next step. It’s not too late to finish strong.
Contact info: Ryan.S.Atkins@Gmail.com
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