You should’ve told us you were here. We would’ve made this experience much different for you.”
I was sitting in the Special Student Services office having an apparently overdue meeting with the head of the department. I had asked my mom to attend the meeting with me, because I had no idea how this was going to go.
I wasn’t even a month into my college experience & I was barely making it. I had dropped a class, was already failing another, and was told I had a 25% chance of graduating on time, had to walk a minimum of 20 minutes to each class, was losing weight at a rapid pace, and lied to my cousin telling him going to the same school & living in the same dorm was pretty awesome.
All I could think was; I don’t want to be this kind of special.
I was DONE.
This nerd in a bowtie was telling me how I should’ve begun my college career. He never yelled but was constantly condescending. I’m not sure how I actually ended up in that office but within 5 seconds of being there I knew I was in the wrong place. The whole situation was wrong. I had gone to SSS wanting to turn things around. Now all I wanted to do was turn around & pretend I had never been there.
What Dr. Bowtie never listened to, although he heard it because he was told repeatedly, was that I never intended to need help here. The reason why I chose this school was because I wouldn’t need help; that is until they tore up the whole campus to the point where they stopped shuttle service for the year & didn’t bother to notify anybody.
I had done what every other self-respecting prospective freshman had done the year before, right down to the student led campus tour. The only exception was that my mother was the one in the tour group with the obnoxious notepad, which I’m pretty sure she filled at least half of. This was the 1st school I was visiting out of the 6 I was applying to. It was going to be a long experience.
Only to be rewarded with this kind of treatment.
I don’t remember much of the meeting these days. But I could barely remember it a week later as well. I was so angry with how things were going I think my brain just shut down & went into self-preservation mode.
I know he made a plan which involved me moving into another dorm as soon as another room became available. He didn’t even ask me if I wanted to move, he just assumed I would. My room was far from the nicest thing on campus & the location did suck, but I actually got along with my roommate so I didn’t want to mess that up. Once I was told the possibility of both of us moving wasn’t an option I wasn’t moving.
Another point to the plan was to move all of my classes, into one building if at all possible. I later found out this wasn’t because my classes would mostly be in the arts building which was already full to the gills with 3 departments (we occasionally had department meeting in the lobby spilling into the hallway) so naturally putting Freshman Composition in there too totally makes sense.
I really wasn’t the biggest fan of this idea either. I had had a doctor write a letter to the housing department with my admission paperwork asking that my classes and room be on lower floors in the event of an emergency. Everything was. Case closed. Also my classes were scheduled with at least an hour to spare but two or three between classes was more common, by sheer luck. If my classes were all in the same building was I supposed to just sit in the building all day? Can we all say dull?
Should I even bother to point out how much of a disturbance that would create for just one student? I had a feeling that they would try to keep this as quiet as possible. But I also knew word would get out, or people would just put it all together, and figure out I was the cause of all the upheaval. It wasn’t going to make my time at college better; it would blow it all to hell. I made it to October. I could make it to December and reevaluate for January.
This hardly seemed like the reasonable accommodations the Americans With Disabilities Act was aiming for. I had made it 18 years with very little help. There was no way I was going to let it all go now, and certainly not like this.
Besides who goes into something knowing they’ll need a lot of extra help. Isn’t the idea to blend in? If you need a lot of extra help isn’t that a sign that this situation may not be the best for you? I don’t get up in the morning and consider how much the world owes me just to be able to do what I want. Life doesn’t work that way, but for some reason I think Dr. Bowtie had other ideas. I just couldn’t figure out if it was coming from his head or through interacting with so many other students though his career.
Wherever all of this was rooted in wasn’t for me.
If I was going to turn this whole thing around I had to do it myself.
What I’ve learned from this experience is that just because it’s labeled as help doesn’t mean it actually is.
I never went back to that office.
Never returned a phone call from them.
I ignored they were there.
But I wasn’t done after all.
And so help me God I wasn’t going to be their kind of special.
*A similar version of this post first appeared on an old blog on March 13, 2012