Returning to School – The Other Side of Fear

Written by Todd Bates

After withdrawing from high school, incarceration, and overcoming alcohol abuse, I assumed my fears were under control.  You will discover in this paper, how I learned to manipulate fear, and return to school. The purpose of this paper is to inform you of the major obstacle of fear, which I needed to overcome before pursuing a college education.  Returning to school requires discipline to conquer your fears and obstacles to earn a college degree. Although intimidating, you can achieve your goals.

We begin my personal journey with a small word called fear.  The word fear is a common word and one with many individual meanings.  I have several fears such as, heights, wasps, and loneliness, but never imagined I would fear returning to school.  I have always enjoyed school for the most part, but found difficulties keeping up with the other students.  High school was an enjoyable experience. However, due to a physical confrontation with another student, causing the loss of my senior credits, I withdrew from high school.  With the carefree mindset of a young teenager, I had little understanding of what a diploma actually meant to the workforce until several years later.  Was I afraid of never finding decent employment?  No, I worried about other selfish wants such as a girlfriend, and moving out of my parent’s house.  Fear was an illusion to me that would quickly appear, and then disappear. Nevertheless, this would quickly change several years later when fear poked its dreary head around every corner.

After relocating my wife and young daughter to Illinois, I obtained a newfound career working for a state prison.  The profession paid very well, but also came with a hefty price tag of stress due to working long hours, and hostile inmate environments’.  While working one evening, an inmate approached and threatened me.  I felt a knot in my throat when he mentioned the names of my family members.  At that moment, his plot to extort me began.   The extortion scheme plotted by the inmate, led me to perform an unspeakable crime to save the lives of my family. Due to a forced decision, I was fully intent on trafficking narcotics into a state prison system. Before I was able to enter the prison, I was discovered, arrested, and then incarcerated for my crime.  You may ask yourself, “What does this have to do with returning to school?” The response may surprise you later in the paper.  Approximately one year later, I returned to humanity a rehabilitated man, so I believed.  The confinement experienced in prison altered me.  I was not cheerful, outgoing, or adventurous any longer. Panic marched into my lifetime once again.   I was fearful of people and what I thought they did to me by conviction.  I shunned the community, and created a personal incarceration within.  The isolation forced me down an entirely different path. The route directed me to a new obstacle I was about to encounter, called alcoholism.

My existence had been difficult to maintain after my release from prison.  I began alienating loved ones, or any person for that matter, around me.  The relationships formed with selfishness, self-pity, and guilt were my only friends that I trusted to support me.  Little did I know, but this dysfunctional relationship was a turning point in my life.  I was terrified to confront life on its own terms.  I created a false sense of happiness with alcohol use.  The substance quickly dissolved the pain inside, only for it to resurface like a fishing bobber of guilt the following day.  Fear had escorted me, hand in hand, down the lonely and dark path to alcohol abuse and the alcohol abuse piloted me to fear.  The road formed an immeasurable circle and quickly became a vicious cycle.

Reaching my all-time low in life, I confronted the problem and admitted myself into a nearby treatment facility.  Therapy disassembled a boy, and reassembled a man. I was gifted a second chance at life, and would not take life for granted again.  After leaving the grounds of the treatment facility, I was amazed with my newfound senses.  The colors were brighter, the air cleaner, and most of all, the fear subsided.  What would I do with my newborn life?  Could I possibly return to school?  The answer lies ahead.

I was eager for transformation and ready to leave the adversity I invented.   Blessed with a supportive family, I embarked on a voyage filled with dreams and goals.  Leaving the past following, I relocated to Ohio to live with my older sister.  My wife and daughters remained in Illinois patiently awaiting my self-discovery.  Yet again, I left behind my family, but this time for a different reason.  I must better their lives, and not just my own.  I wanted something new, something different, and Ohio is where I found Ashford University.

I found the small town of Ashland, Ohio welcoming.  There were numerous jobs available, places to visit, and plenty of wonderful people.  The quest for employment had begun.  Unbeknownst to me, my past would catch up with me, and end the chance of gainful employment.  I applied to several positions with the hopes of being hired.  I was able to acquire two interviews, but after the criminal background check returned, my gamble of being hired failed.

While sitting in the living room one day, basking in my own self-pity, I decided to do something about my situation.  I had thoughts about returning to school a few times, but lacked the motivation to pursue the challenge.  My time had arrived and I applied for financial aid assistance.  I remember second guessing myself and thinking I was insane for returning to school at my age.  I wanted a better life for my family and proper education was the only option.

Now that the financial worry of a college education was unimportant, due to me qualifying for financial aid, it was time to locate the right university.  At this point, I had no fear of higher education, and welcomed the benefits of pursuing a college degree.  I discovered literally hundreds of online schools and thought the choice would be impossible to decide.  Three days later, I received a phone call that would change my life forever.  It was from Ashford University.

It was early in the morning when the call arrived from Ashford University.  Her name was Brittany Cole and was one of the universities Admissions Counselors.  She was extremely motivating, and very knowledgeable.  I expressed my concerns of pursuing a degree at my age, and she quickly relieved my hesitation.  We discussed several choices I could explore in pursing my Bachelors degree, and decided on Applied Behavioral Science.  I chose this field to become a substance abuse counselor and eventually a licensed psychologist.  The degree would enable me to “pay it forward” to others in need, in addition to satisfying my own interests.  Furthermore, I am willing to complete whatever is necessary to complete my degree. I constantly seek new motivations to complete my academic career.

I learned to overcome a number of fears in life.  The obstacles placed before me were flattened.  Am I afraid of the academic challenges I must confront?  Yes, but with hard work, time management, and motivation, I will have minor difficulty achieving my objectives.  According to the statement “once adults get back into the classroom, they are more motivated to learn than when they were younger.” (Viana, 2011 para 3).  I have more respect for education.  This is an accurate statement, and one that I will remember.  I am more open minded, and willing to learn in my middle adulthood than I was as an adolescent.

So, let us end our journey of overcoming the fear of returning to school, and reflect upon what you have learned my story.   Returning to school requires you to conquer fears and obstacles, to earn your degree.   Although intimidating, you can achieve your goals.  Are you living in fear of returning to school?  Many of us tolerate our fear everyday, but we must realize that on the other side of that fear, is courage.



  1. Todd says:

    What a great paper Todd…. I admire you for your determination and your forward motion…..if anyone is going to achieve “it”,it’ll be you. I’m looking forward to seeing not how far you go but rather where you go because no matter where you do go…’ll go far!!!

    • Hello my friend!

      Thank you very much for the comment! What you said really meant a lot to me and I truly thank you for being a great friend. Yes, I have had several battles in my life, but we each are given our own set of obstacles to overcome. My path in life is a bit “curvy” at the moment, but I have no doubt that I will end up right where I am supposed to be!

      I wish you the best Todd and I hope you enjoy my other blog post as they help get a few things off my chest!

  2. Silver Moon says:

    What an amazing paper! You have always been a rock for me and when I read about the trials you have gone through, and the fears, I am just in awe. I am so glad that you have made the decision to go to school, it is so hard but worth every minute – and penny. Wish you lived closer to us, I know where I’d be taking my son!

    • Thank you so very much for the great compliment! We all have these trials in our life Silver Moon, but each of us handle them differently. There will always be someone who is suffering worse than you or I, but all of this happens for a reason. You have inspired me to activate this blog (it has been idle for over a year) and I truly thank you for being who you are! I would be more than happy to help where I can with your son, or anyone for that matter, so you just call on me when needed! Although we are far apart, the internet has no boundaries, therefore, we are right next door to each other!

      Have a fantastic week!

  3. […] The Other Side of Fear ( […]

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