Sometimes I feel like no matter what I have accomplished, I have yet to accomplish anything because I have yet to complete my very first goal. I know some people say that a college degree isn’t worth the paper it’s printed on, or that you spend so much money chasing a degree that it doesn’t pan out, but still, at the end of the day, I always wish I had finished college already.
I was the kid who wrote in her diary at the wise old age of 8 that all I wanted in life was an education. I believed then, as I believe now, that education opens doors. Even in elementary school, I saw education as the only way out of poverty and dysfunction. I believed it was fundamental for everyone to be on a journey of higher learning.
Back in high school I was a super star student. I made excellent grades. I was in all of the honor classes. I was such a nerd that I worked as a nanny to afford summer school so that I could take things like Economics in the summer and free more room in my schedule for French and A Capella Choir. I was an officer in the Marching Band and the Captain of the Debate Team. I won all sorts of awards like “Outstanding Female Debater” and “Free Enterprise” and I still have my “Who’s Who” coffee mug. I was even one of the speakers at my graduation.
When my Senior Year was winding down things looked VERY promising for me! Fourteen colleges had not only accepted me, but offered me some kind of scholarship money to boot. Pepperdine, McMurray, McNeese, and Whittier were the front runners in my mind. But somehow I couldn’t take a step through any of those open doors. In fact, only recently have I sat back and realized just how many opportunities awaited me.
I will never forget my younger sister begging me not to leave her. The desperation on her face that day was something I can’t even describe. Only as our journey has twisted and turned over the years have I come to understand the depths of her bi-polar disorder. Maybe I should have jumped on the first train out of town, but I didn’t, I stayed and started college at the University of Houston. I’d like to say it’s all her fault, but the reality is that she gave me an excuse I must have already been searching for.
Things started out great at U of H. I was a rising star on their debate team, I was having a blast, but it didn’t take long to burn up my scholarship money and by the end of my sophomore year, I was locked out for being $9,000 behind in my tuition. I’m not sure how it even grew to that amount, but I still have that letter in the bottom of my desk, the one that gave me 5 days to bring my account up to date or face lock-out.
At that moment, a lot of things were crashing in on me. That little sister had spiraled down a dark path. I had the standard relationship-with-a-loser that every college freshman seems to endure finally ending, and I was feeling kind of lost. In addition to emotions that were spiraling out of my control, I was also dealing with health issues. I was diagnosed with epilepsy and everything about the future seemed so uncertain. I couldn’t keep up.
Then one day, in a Wal-Mart parking lot, my life took a different direction. What was supposed to be one date to rescue my self-esteem turned into a lifetime. I became a wife and a mom instantly. I never looked back. But the fact that I didn’t get my little piece of paper to prove to the world that I have a few smarts always bothered me.
So, a few years ago, I went back to school. I had to start from scratch and I was down to the final stretch when things for my little sister fell apart again. She’d had 4 babies in 3 years and couldn’t take care of them. CPS placed them in my home and suddenly we had 7 kids. I tried to work, go to school, be the PTO president, raise 7 children, but it was all way too much. (Did I mention that they all four came in diapers?)
I had to let a lot of things go. I quit writing for the paper, a hobby I enjoyed. I had to step back from the PTO, an organization I believed in, and I couldn’t manage school either. That degree went back to the bottom of my priority list. But after 3 years of dealing with CPS and caseworkers and court hearings we finally adopted the kids in September and our journey changed directions once again.
Now, I have slowly put a routine into place. It doesn’t always run smoothly, and I am forever learning on the job, but last night I got online and started the ball rolling one more time. It’s time I go back and get my piece of paper. I’ve waited for 18 years to do this right. I applied to a program that will take into account the credits I have earned and the life lessons I have learned and in the end I might finally have the one thing I dreamed would open doors for me.
Wish me luck, I’m going back to school, AGAIN!