I never planned on returning to college midcareer, but one brain injury later and here I am. For many people, returning to college with students who were mostly half your age would have felt like a step back, but in spite of everything, I felt like I was given a gift. The combination of my vast life experience and my newly acquired skills was going to be the beginning of something extraordinary. I would describe the whole experience as unexpected, unique, challenging, and exhilarating.

It provided me with everything that’s always brought me the greatest happiness in life: challenges that, at the time, I thought would break me, lessons that made me question everything about myself, people that I wish I never had to meet, people who will forever be in my heart and have made me better. I was exposed to some ugly truths about what it is really like out in the world for people who are neurodivergent and I was blessed beyond belief with knowing that there are people out there who will move mountains to help you succeed if you just keep going. That has always been my superpower; to keep going even when you feel you are standing still, even when you feel there is no point, even when you feel you are moving backwards. Keep moving your body, your mind, your emotions, and things will fall into place. It’s not easy, but it’s that simple.

The other epiphany I never expected to have after all these years and all my life experiences was the realization that I don’t think I ever grew up until I was forced back into college. See, I never took things seriously until now. For me, there was always going to be time in the future to start a project, or figure out how to budget, how to say no and how to say, “I’m lost, and I need help.” Coming back to college at my age taught me that there are some things in life that must be taken seriously or paid special attention to and that is what I think being an “adult” is. An adult is a person who knows when to take things seriously and what to take seriously. During these last few years, I learned that being responsible with my finances is one of the most important parts of life that needs to be taken seriously, not just for obvious reasons but because numbers are the most honest things in life. Numbers will never lie; they will always tell you exactly where you’re at and if you’re smart you will listen. It’s taken me years to learn that my grade three teacher was correct when she wrote on my report card that I needed to be more serious and focused about my schoolwork. Who knew?

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If there was one phrase to sum up my entire collegiate experience it would be, “I made it!” It is the greatest reward and achievement anyone can ever have. Make it through a conversation, make it through a test, make it through an hour, a day, a meal. This simple achievement is nothing to be scoffed at. Congratulations to all my fellow students who made it through every single beautiful, ugly, unmanageable, remarkable, and unremarkable moment of the last school year.