College Daze

As I walk through the outside eating area behind the cafeteria on my way to class in the General Classroom South building, I see walking in front of me two girls wearing matching varsity jackets from a Miami-Dade High School. I see groups of kids, cliques of various persuasions. Skateboards abound, bicycles too. Both are good ways to get from class to class quickly. There is a palpable atmosphere of learning. But it is redolent of the 12th grade.

Twenty years have passed between my previous life as a student and my arrival at FAU in the fall of 2002. It was a huge adjustment for me and countless others who got tired of where we were and what we were doing. We all came back to school for as many reasons as you can name. I want a degree to improve my employment options and to learn something.

It seems a great deal different than before. Perhaps a 40-ish man views the world-at-large markedly differently than a 19-year-old who lives at home, or did until leaving for college.

Many of the teens and twenty-somethings that go to FAU find it hard to relate to a guy like me. Some see me as a daddy substitute, someone to disrespect who WON`T derail the gravy train. Others see a hardass teacher, or “Five-O,” an undercover narc, an adult raiding their sanctuary, or that cool uncle who tells a dirty joke when their parents are out of the room.

One of the hardest things about returning to academia after so many years is developing good study habits. After over a decade of work, coming home, clicking on the TV, hanging with my buddies, seeing my main squeeze, reading lots of books – mostly non-fiction, just for the sheer enjoyment, I needed more. More money (of course), more respect, and creative and artistic fulfillment. You know what I mean? My first semester I took only two classes. I wove in Geoffrey Toobin`s book on the O.J. Simpson murder trial, The Run Of His Life, along with my assigned reading. Managed to get two Bs.

This is one of the most important and significant times in a young person’s life. The experiences, the good times, and the personal and business contacts made could last a lifetime. I can understand why so many of my contemporaries cherish their college days and the people they met along the way.

It can be so fun. I was joking the other day with another non-traditional student I had a class with last fall. I said that when I receive the mock diploma at Commencement in December, I’ll burst into tears and wail, “I don’t wanna go-oooooooooo!” She said, “No you won’t.” Graduate studies is an option. Then I’LL be the professor! Ha ha. Kiss my ring!

This is a grand time in my life as well. I have enough life experience to navigate treacherous waters, with enough energy, moxie, and libido to enjoy it. To those of you who have dreamt of going for that degree that eluded you umpteen years ago, or who just want to take some continuing education courses as a way to self-improvement, go for it! It’s never too late to be great.