Back to School anxiety for Adults


All these back to school posts from parents with anxious kids has reminded me of when I went back to school as an adult.

I know that anxious feeling all too well.

When I went to Tafe for the first time as a 22 year old to complete my first block of assessment as part of my plumbing apprenticeship, I was so scared I nearly quit.

If you want to give your anxiety a work out, arrive at a Tafe where you know no one and you’re the only girl standing by yourself because all the blokes have congregated in groups and made small talk about cars and tv shows you’ve never heard of.

My first week at Tafe when I started my apprenticeship was anxiety hell.

I think I cried everyday in my first week. Not at Tafe. Usually on the way to and from Tafe.

And then two remarkable things happened.

First, I found out my teacher used to work with my dad long ago, in fact at one time my dad had been my teacher’s boss. My teacher remembered me as a little girl. He couldn’t understand why I didn’t have the same surname as my dad. I explained because I was married. I would have been confused too.

The second, was I ran into my cousin’s husband which meant I knew someone at Tafe, even though he was studying to be an electrician. Seeing a warm, friendly, recognizable face amongst the sea of male tradies was reassuring.

What got me through those first four weeks were prayer, phone calls to my dad telling him I don’t think I could do it and visits to the library where I would read the Courier Mail front to back at each smoko break. By block 6, I was over reading the paper and studied a Diploma in Fashion Styling via correspondence. In 2009 I graduated with a Certificate IV in Plumbing and Drainage and a Diploma in Fashion Styling. A girl has to be both practical and stylish. 🙂

Having gone through back-to-school anxiety as an adult, I believe it’s given me confidence to deal with new situations more easily.

I think the biggest cause of my anxiety was simply wanting to fit in and the sooner I realized I stuck out like a sore thumb and would NEVER fit in, the sooner I was able to let go of those anxious thoughts and get on with what I had to do.

By block 4 I was all over Tafe. I had my smoko routines set up, despite constant invitations from the apprentices to have lunch at the topless waitress bar up the road.

My Tafe experiences stretched my capacity to cope with my anxiety. I wonder if it helped me avoid being an anxious mother? I don’t know how many times I yearned to be a stay-at-home mum while studying my apprenticeship. And funnily there are times when I’m in the thick of motherhood and I wish I was welding some copper at Tafe or digging up sand to install some drainage. Someone slap me!

I prefer my life much better now.

It’s been 6 years since I was at Tafe doing my plumbing apprenticeship.

I remember the relief of never having to go back there once I finished!

That was a fist pumping satisfaction I was glad to have experienced.

Have you ever experienced back to school anxiety as an adult? How did you confront it?

I’m linking with Essentially Jess for IBOT.