About a year ago, a friend of mine read a piece of non-fiction I had attempted that included the following line:
"I was about to graduate from high school, something I thought I would never do."
She highlighted this line and made the comment: I just can't believe this.
I had to laugh because my "now" friends don't know me like my "then" friends do, so I can see how that line may surprise them. But it is very true. And I've come a long way, baby.
School was never difficult for me. I'm not saying I was highly intelligent, not at all, it just came easy. I think it does for some people, and I was lucky. Really lucky, considering that I attended so many different schools in my life: 20+ and still counting. But it wasn't the school changes that made me write the line above.
I was a teenage runaway. Twice. The first time I was only gone for 4 months. I was fourteen, so getting back into school was easy when I finally came home after that eye-opening summer. But the second time wasn't as easy. I was gone almost a year, and by the time I made it home, I was 17. My friends were in their Senior year, and I had missed a lot of school. Oh, I had learned a lot in that year, but not anything that would ever show up on a comp exam---and several things that my peers would never know. Thank God.
Honestly, I wasn't sure I wanted to go back. I had seen a lot of things in the previous year, and looking toward the future, well, it didn't look very bright. College wasn't going to be an option. I lived with my Dad and we were very poor. A job seemed like such a better idea at the time. But I had a history of not choosing the 'better' idea, so I did go back, thinking at the very least, I would get my high school diploma.
It's hard to go back and be a kid when you have already been an adult, and I wasn't very good at that. Luckily for me, I lived with my Dad, who understood, and just stood by me and let me try to be both. I showed up to school drunk more often than not, I missed enough days the last semester that it is a miracle they allowed me to graduate, and I was listed with two others in our high school yearbook as "The Best Partiers", if that gives you any indication of how things went.
But I did it, and I got that little piece of paper, which never is far from me. Do you know where your high school diploma is? Mine is right here, within reach of my desk---and I look at it a lot. Of all of the bad decisions I made as a teenager, that was, undoubtedly, the best decision I made. It took me a few years to get my life in order, but when I was ready, that little piece of paper was ready too.
I discovered over the years that I liked school. I liked learning. And although I learned a lot on the street, it was strength of mind that made me powerful and gave me the most joy. So I kept going. And haven't stopped.
Today, I graduate with my Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing---my second Masters degree. I will add that to my Bachelors in History and Business Administration and my Diploma in Nursing.
Tomorrow, I will start looking at what is next. I want to learn Spanish. I want to learn to ballroom dance. I also want a law degree and a PhD.
I think I'll do them all.