Thankful for my education

School was never about learning, but survival...

My daughter and I went to a department store last week, and she exclaimed with (semi) concern and delight, "Back to school supplies!!!" My daughter loves school. Granted, getting her to complete her homework in a timely manor is a lot like pulling teeth out of a crocodile, but since she's gifted, she likes the freedom to explore concepts, and solve problems- on her own timeline. I literally never felt excited about school as a child. Since I was chubby, and generally used as a target for rhyming slurs, I dreaded the drive to school to see what fateful assignment was posted on the entrance to Jackson Elementary. This paper instructed my mother on supplies, a list of my classmates, and the name of my new teacher. It was a lot like a prison sentence for me. School was never about learning, but about survival. If I hid in the bathroom stall during lunch hour, the bullies couldn't find me. Number one goal? Be invisible. Learning didn't make the ranks in priority.

Enter black lipstick...

As time marched on, I found subjects that intrigued me. I became more socially acceptable with my peers in Jr. High, and made friends that shared my mutual adoration for New Kids on the Block. I was drawn to subjects like writing (duh), art, drama, and photography. If I could create something with my emotions, history and Algebra were tolerable. Barely. I often scoffed at the education system, arguing the old standby, "When am I ever going to use this in real life?" In high school, I toyed with the idea of going to photography school in Seattle, or becoming an actress. I couldn't imagine someone intentionally succumbing to a life of academia. Sure, I loved the classes that nurtured my inner artist, but as my music tastes evolved to Pink Floyd and The Cure, I found less optimism in my future, which fuelled the rebellion that was starting to emerge. Enter black lipstick.

Eyeroll in the direction of college...

I was so angry and swallowed by my abusive boyfriend, that years passed without as much as an eyeroll in the direction of college. After graduation, I found myself single and searching for direction. Since barista work didn't appear to be a long-term career goal, I took my last shot at late admission. I barely remember taking the SAT's, (which I didn't even know you could study for), so I was admitted to Boise State University on probationary status. I had to prove myself. Who can blame them? I was looking for something to do with my time, while hoping to find classes that might ignite a real desire for learning. Little did I know that core classes were required before digging into the meat of the catalogue: ecofeminism, film history, or social problems. I loved stuff like that. No, I got intro to everything. Bo-oring.

As I have mentioned before, transitioning to adulthood was challenging for me- as I struggled with depression, and posttraumatic stress. At the time, people could have labeled me as lazy, slacker, or a future nobody. Frankly, I thought I was all those things. My self-esteem had been battered for years, and I thought I was just too stupid for school. Plagued with crippling anxiety, I wasn't able to make it to class. Consequently, I was forced to drop out with failing grades -further proving to myself, that I was a failure. After a couple of years drowning my feelings in bad choices, I found my footing, and walked toward life again. 

I wasn't stupid...

First stop- school! It was on. I wasn't kidding around anymore. I had learned enough from the school of hard knocks (not my first choice for higher learning) that you don't get far without a real education. I could have all the potential in the world, but without guidance and critical thinking skills, I was likely to stay exactly where I was in life- in crappy apartment number 14, and scraping by for laundromat money. No thank you. Something magical happened. Instead of looking at the professors as the enemy, I realized they were on my team. Instead of skipping class because I could, I didn't want to miss the next lecture in African American Lit, because I actually did the reading. Before I could blink, I was on the dean's list. You know what? I wasn't stupid. It turned out that I had a whole wealth of curiosity and hunger for learning that had never been honored before. I soaked it up. In fact, I loved it so much, that it took me ten years to finish all the way to my master's degree. I couldn't decide on a major! Not only that, but I spent a good share of time building my resume to be the best possible candidate for grad school. I was a teacher's assistant, research assistant, volunteer, you name it- it was another accomplishment to get me where I was going. Once I had a taste for it, success was intoxicating.

Adventures in intentional academia...

Serious times, but my cheerleader kept me going!

I could write a book on my adventures in intentional academia. I loved everything about college. I loved buying school supplies, books, reading through the syllabus the first day of class, and picking the perfect spot in the auditorium to sit all semester. I miss studying in the student union between chunks of class time with an iced white chocolate mocha from Moxie Java, and the smell of the library late at night when was the only one on the floor. Attending screenings of a new political documentary for extra credit, and making new friends as the real bonus. I miss the walks across the quad in the fall when the leaves welcome new thoughts like a warm grandma's hug. Living on campus, riding around my pink cruiser Schwinn, building relationships and growing in knowledge and skill until I was able to fly on my own. Both graduations. A catharsis of my initial failure, overshadowed with staggering success. All the sweeter, for the fight. I am so very thankful for my education. Not only am I able to work at a job every single day that brings me joy- but I know without a doubt, that I can do anything I set my heart and mind to. Happy Gratitude Tuesday. What are you thankful for?

AM