I’ve often wondered where I might be had I pursued my studies. I’ve gone to college three times, and each time life got in the way and said I had to quit. Each time was my once in a lifetime opportunity, and each time Fate took it away.
I think maybe I jinxed myself when I thought I’d be one of those smart high school graduates and just give it a year before I enrolled in college. See a little, I’d said. Learn some things about life first, I’d thought. Go some places, do some things.
A lot can happen in a year.
I first enrolled in community college when my oldest was five months old. I was what the old folks called an ‘un-wed mother’ in shameful whispered fashion. The finish to that sentiment was “…with little hope of a future.”
My life was painted as very grim, and apparently there’d be a lot of life to live grimly raising a child all by myself. After all, as I was deftly informed, no decent man wants a woman who already has a baby. And we all know that finding a decent man, to marry, is every woman’s necessity. Without that, and without a college education to accompany him, she might as well just shrivel up and die, useless to the rest of the world, with nothing at all ever to offer anyone or anything, not her child, and certainly not herself.
So I did what was expected and married the first man who professed an interest in me and an acceptance of my daughter. Later, he adopted her and even loved her as his own. Somewhere in the midst of the getting married part, though, I found we needed employment worse than I needed to attend classes. So I gave them up.
My second attempt at college was when my oldest was four years old. Her dad was supportive of the idea and helped with the house and Oldest while I studied and attended classes full time. Just after enrollment, I discovered I was pregnant. At some point before the end of the first term of school, I miscarried. My nerves were shot, I was an emotional wreck, and it was all I could do to pass the classes I was in. My goal had shifted here. It was not to eventually graduate but rather simply to not fail. I didn’t want to have to repeat these classes when things settled down and I was able to return later.
It was a long while between my second and third attempts. By trip three Oldest was twelve; Youngest was two. I was at the end of my second marriage and determined to give college the old college try, if for no other reason than to prove to myself that I could do it. And to prove to Dippy that I wasn’t too stupid as he’d often suggested.
To give you an idea of his level of support, he once told me that I was just an ignorant holler honey with no hope of ever crawling out of it.
I think his words were provoked by my accent.
But I couldn’t do it this third time either. Life got in the way – again. My full time weekends off job turned into part time and flexible, which meant I was pretty much on call from day to day. I struggled to finish what classes I was in, and then dropped out again at the end of a term with another clean slate. I sought out more hours at work, and finally, finally, I gave up on school.
Completely. Never again. It was over. My three-times-a-charm bracelet was broken, irreparable, scattered like the shattered dream it was on the winds of the wings of long-forgotten butterflies.
And then I found the decent man I was told didn’t exist, the man that would not only accept me as is, but accepted and helped me finish raising my children.
He was a third, too.
Every fall I get the urge to sign up again. Husband and I have, at various points during our ten plus years together, discussed going back to school, and I’ve always been too scared to actually go. I’ve been known to purchase a text book from Amazon and study it on my own while having no affiliation with any college or accredited program at all. Since that third attempt I’ve never really believed that I could ever pull it off. I already gave it my best three shots – one at each stage where the opportunity to go was at its greatest. Fate intervened each time.
It’s not nice to fool around with Fate. She is not to be tempted.
I’ve taught other adults, in a classroom setting, in a subject at which I’d excelled. I’ve volunteered with those programs that tutor and help adults prepare for their GEDs. I even held a job at a community college without benefit of being a student just so that eventually I could get the employee’s discount. Parenthetically, as you might’ve guessed, that didn’t work out either.
I’ve assisted my superiors by composing educational material for use in their own topics of study.
But it’s been sixteen years since the last time I was a student in a bona fide classroom.
My boss suggested the other day that I pursue my studies. She said it would help me with any career goals I might have.
It was a strong suggestion.
It made me hear the quiet flutter of butterfly wings, off in the distance, carrying a promise and just a breath of hope.