From JC to PJ (Psycho J)

It all started in September…

First of September 2017, I felt excited and anxious at the same time. A group of 300+ students entered into an amphitheater for their first course on the History of Psychology. It was an international program and there were more nationalities, hair dresses, and spoken languages that I had ever experienced in one place. I scanned through the huge amphitheater and wondered "what have I committed to?". Who was I going to be for these kids? A father? a study buddy? A cool Dude? A weirdo? A nobody? An eccentric? or a guy in a mid-life crisis…It was the beginning of a 3-year journey which would maybe give me an answer to this question. 

My first grade…and endorsing the cloak of a Nerd…

I had kind of forgotten about studying and study etiquette. For example, standing out already with my few remaining white hairs, I made it even worse for myself as I questioned openly in the amphitheater the lecturers. The Professors sometimes were amused and would engage in a dialogue about my inquiries while the rest of the amphitheater was checking their phones and laptop wondering how long this would last; sometimes these same professors would simply ignore me and would leave me with my hand raised in the air. Within a week, everybody had noticed me... so for sure I was not going to be a "nobody", but one of these embarrassing and annoying nerds that belong to every classroom.

I started to study harder than was necessary to pass, and to my surprise, it felt that the ambitious and driven 20 years student in me had just been resurrected. Putting the hours, using the knowledge of my life experience, I got very good grades. This drew some students to me as they thought I could be a good guy to study and do projects with. So I definitively became a study buddy to some students and this was my break-through to start having a social life at Uni...

And I got my first coffee, followed by my first party invite…

This led me to spend more time at University and I started to have coffees with the students. I always made a point of paying for coffees so more students started to show up. Psychology students are primarily girls and so I became the envy of my middle-aged friends when they discovered that I was spending my time having coffees with 20 something ladies. A few of them started to enquire about what it would take to go back to Uni. "It is easy" I answered, "leave your job, sell the Porsche and buy a cool bike". None of them followed my advice... I became a kind of father to some of these ladies, advising them about their studies, their spending habits, or how to deal with their noisy roommates. From coffees, I got included in WhatsApp groups and it was only a question of weeks before I got invited to student parties…not only the very public ones but also the ones from the inner circle of popular students. This felt like graduation…I was being included.

Not being one of them and feeling like one of them…

Now, going to Uni became so much more fun. I was amongst these youngsters, not one of them. But it is not how I felt…as soon as I was parking my bike and going through the entrance, I forgot about my house, cars, kids, and wife and it felt for a few hours to be one of them. I opened-up and so they did, the coffees were no longer about studies and project assignments, it was about their lives, it was about my life and I realized I had made some very good friends, I was completely at ease with them and they also seemed to be with me. 

As the 1st year passed, I realized I would be back the following September. I was hooked and I left my job so I could continue hanging out at Uni and finish my program...

Growing up with them…and experiencing grief...

As I moved into year 2, I was less inclined to read the whole 750 pages+ books for each subject and started to buy and trade book summaries. They taught me the tricks on how to study smart in these days of fast internet and YouTube tutorials…there was no longer any need to study hard…I was coming of age and they were teaching me the few tricks I needed to free-up time. Time, they needed to free up as they all had side jobs to make some money. I was the one without a job and now learning to be smarter with my studies, I had more time on my hands. This is when I started my professional coaching training in parallel and my coaching practice business. It was a time of intense studies, personal work on myself, and learning the ropes of entrepreneurship. 

And then it happened. I had made a friend in that first week back in September. He had dared to sit next to me in the amphitheater, and we had become friends. He was like a son to me and he was an excellent student so when we were together we only talked about philosophy, theology, and mysticism as he didn't need my help with assignments. He was so mature, I was so impressed by him, he looked like the version of myself I would have liked to be when I was his age. His maturity and deep insights into life came at a price though and it was hard for him to not see the despair and ugliness in our modern world. During that second year, he departed, leaving behind this world and life in which he could no longer find meaning. 

I was shaken to the core because I didn’t see it coming. I had to console his parents and I felt as inconsolable as they were, I also felt guilty to not have been able to prevent this tragedy.

I started to come less often to Uni and started to watch lectures online, busying myself with my life outside University. I accelerated the pace of the study so I could finish all my exams by the end of year 2. This was a year of transition, I was graduating before the official end date.

Merci pour tout…but what is the answer?

Year 3 was only about completing my thesis and I could choose to be with my dear friend Luisa. It was great to work seriously with her on an interesting but difficult research project. With COVID19, everyone started to work remotely and my Uni days were over, they became Zoom sessions, like the rest of my coaching business. 

So, who was I to them?

For each of them, I was probably any of the roles I have described earlier depending on what they needed to find in me. But for all of them, I was JC, the funny French man who would allow them to check their phones while I distracted the teachers with my questions...and a good guy to have coffees with because he seemed to have an answer for everything and he always paid the bill at the end.

And to me, who were they?

They were friends who helped me navigate Uni and it feels that when I entered through one door on that 1st of September 2017 and when I left by the exit this last June 2020, I had not only graduated, I had grown-up thanks to them. 

Merci to all the students whose paths I have crossed and who will recognize themselves if they read this article.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *