On Nov. 2, I had a chance to leave Texas ChalleNGe Academy for four hours and spend that time with my mentor, Andrew, a family friend that I have known for a few years.
We decided to go to Katy Mills Mall, and we ate at a Chinese restaurant. It felt very weird not being supervised by a team leader or having other cadets eating with me. It felt strange choosing my own food. It seemed like a new experience, and I felt clumsy and dropped my chopsticks, a couple of plates, and my drink. I finally got it together but felt very self-conscious as I was eating and couldn’t even eat all of my meal.
Once we finished, we walked around the mall and talked, but I still felt out of place. Because I was wearing my uniform, I felt like the center of attention and felt like everyone was watching me. After being here at TCA for the past four months, I really felt like I was on a new planet.
Before coming to TCA, when I went to the mall, l I wore black or blue ripped, skinny jeans and I had a nice haircut. While I was in the mall, I wore my TCA uniform, which consists of tan cargo pants, bulky black boots, and my gray winter PT sweater. I kept my hat on to cover my shaved hair. I have been uncomfortable before in certain situations, but never to this extent. Even though I felt uncomfortable, I was glad to get the time to visit with my mentor and begin developing a relationship with him that will last when I leave TCA.
After walking and talking, we came back to TCA a bit early. It was there that I stopped and realized that more than at any other time in my life, I have made changes. I am appreciating things that I used to take for granted like malls and blue jeans.
I am glad that I came to Texas ChalleNGe Academy. It’s helping me to see the things that are most important in my life and giving me opportunities to achieve success. It is showing me that I can achieve my goals.
So looking back on Mentor Day and my experience at the mall, I learned a few things. I know that I will be better prepared to go back to the real world. It will be like seeing an old friend, and at the end of the day, that will be okay.