I have decided to take the leap and return to school after a 20 year hiatus. Doing this at 41  is a challenge in itself, but doing it with RP raises the obstacles to brand new heights.  On my first day, I walked into the concrete jungle called the quad and was assaulted by the sun glaring off the stark buildings and hot pavement.  Even with sunglasses, my vision is obstructed by the sun and I have to make my way slowly to the shadows so I can orient myself. Orientation to new surroundings, especially in large crowds, is always a challenge but  I find my first building and head inside for cover.  I realize that I am long overdue for some new sunglasses that will block out more of the light, but thankfully I can wait inside for my first class to begin.

The first class of the day is Psychology.  There are about a hundred people waiting outside the classroom, half of them enrolled and the other half hoping to add the class.  I try to get as close to the door as possible, because I know it is essential for me to sit in the front of the class.  Even with my glasses, I don’t see that great and if I sit anywhere but the front, the images on the board will be a blurry nothing.  I find the perfect seat and wait for the teacher to arrive.  The room is brightly lit and I wonder if it is going to be a problem.  My eyes are already feeling sore from the sun.

Next is math, so I head outside and find the most shady path to the shiny new building that houses all the math classes.  This building, called Franklin Hall, is really brightly lit and I hesitate to take off my sunglasses when I get inside, but I don’t want to look like a total stoner freak on my first day.  I find the math lab and it is filled with rows of desks holding desk top computers.  My math class in entirely online.  Now I really start to worry.  The bright glare of the computer under the harsh lighting of the room is bound to cause me some problems.  But, I forge ahead determined to make the best of this new experience.  By the end of the hour, my eyes are burning and I have a low-grade headache.

My last class of the day is English, also in Franklin Hall and under what feels like the brightest fluorescent lighting I have ever experienced.  There is about thirty minutes between Math and English and I take that time to rest my eyes under sunglasses, but they are already totally fried from so much light exposure so thirty minutes isn’t nearly enough. When class finally starts, my eyes are tearing and burning and I can barely stand to keep them open.  I try to pay attention to the professors introductory lecture and read her handouts, but I find it almost impossible to focus on the content.  All I am aware of is how much my eyes hurt.

Finally, after another hour and a half under the glaring lights, class is over.  I head back out into the sun to wait for the bus home.  By the time I walk into my apartment, my eyes are aching and burning and all I can do is lie on the bed with my eyes closed and try to fall asleep.  I feel discouraged and different and even let myself go through a few minutes of  the life is so unfair rant; but then I come back up out of the self-pity and start thinking about how to fix the problems.

I am faced with RP challenges every day, but those challenges lead me to finding solutions.  I had to experience my first day back to school exactly as it was, so I could find the solutions to make this foray into education the journey I know it can be.  I made an appointment with the eye doctor and I am getting the long overdue pair of new sunglasses and another special pair of glasses just for wearing in class, so my eyes are protected from the overhead lights.  There is always a way and sometimes there can be great reward in finding it; like a great new pair of super cool sunglasses.

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