This is going to be a long post, I can feel it. So settle in, folks.
Yesterday I turned in my second-to-last college assignment. (I am taking a summer class over the summer and then I will be officially done, but I am having all of the end of college feelings now, because I am going to walk across that stage in two weeks). Naturally, I am beginning to do a lot of reflecting as this semester comes to a close.
Around October of 2012, I celebrated five months clean (that’s a long time!) and decided to beg a college to accept me. I had dropped out of CU in a fit of shame with mostly C’s and D’s (the A’s and B’s were in random classes, like political science and the history of feminist literature). After my first two year try at college, I had nothing to show for it. I had almost zero transferable credits (when applying to classes, I would look at course titles and think, “that sounds cool!” and then sign up. My freshman year at CU, I took a Russian History course because I thought it would be edgy. I went to two classes and failed the course. Turns out, Russian History is not my thing), I had done no extracurricular activities (unless you count a fierce dedication to Wine Wednesdays and getting high at 4:20 twice a day), and I hadn’t been honest with my family in two years (let’s go way back and go to my “sober” senior year of high school, and call it three).
Of course, I have to acknowledge that during my time at CU, I was the most depressed I’d ever been, and the only reason I survived is because there were people surrounding me who loved me very much. I couldn’t feel a whole lot, but even at my lowest points, I could feel that love. My freshman year at CU, so many of our peers died, we had to start joking about how they were “dropping like flies” and we would wonder who was going to go next. Sometimes we were right. And we all had our routines for coping with loss. We would hear news of someone else, and I knew exactly what all of our friends were going to do, and I would look for the party.
So, needless to say, I did not know how to college. And when I got clean and decided not to kill myself, I did not really know how to life (I am still figuring that one out, one day at a time). And I wasn’t even sure I wanted to go to college. I wasn’t sure I wanted to stay clean. UNTIL one day, I was complaining about my career counseling because I was afraid I wasn’t going to find out what job was meant for me. My counselor and I had found that I needed a job where I was a valued member of a community, where I was held accountable, and where I worked with adolescents. And we were sort of letting that sink in to see where it might lead. I was talking to a friend’s mom about this, and she said, “you know, that sounds like a teacher, and you sort of seem like a teacher, why don’t you be a teacher?” I’m not kidding y’all, I went to my car and I burst into like a weird happy sob. I’m really feeling that moment a lot right now. I can feel it like it never really ended. Life made sense, for a second. (Life doesn’t make sense most of the time). Suddenly, I felt such a powerful force of purpose and meaning.
The next day I went to my career counselor and said, “I am going to be a high school English teacher.” I knew it should be high school english because I have a deep love of literature, comma usage (I’m not promising that I’ve mastered any of this), and the thoughts that come from reading and writing.
Finally, I was okay with the idea of not going back to Colorado (I’d wanted to, because I did not want people to think I couldn’t hang, but let’s be real, I couldn’t). I decided to go home to Austin because I needed to be with my family (honestly, I sort of just pictured living with them for four years, let’s all be grateful that didn’t happen), and I wanted to go to a small school where I wouldn’t be lost in the woodwork. So I begged St. Edward’s to accept me. I’m not kidding – begged. Every chance I had. I had to explain an arrest, and I was straight up. I said, “yo, I was stupid as hell, there was a lot of other shit going on under the surface, and now I’m clean” (I didn’t say it like that, I said it in a very formal, page-long way). And in my essay I talked about how community had saved my life, and how I wanted to be a part of a community in college, so like, please let me in and I’m going to try not to mess it up.
They let me in under academic probation and I had to take a study skills class and meet with an advisor once a week who would help me keep track of my homework and make sure I was going to class. I was like, yeah, okay, that’s all? It was amazing, I still have my acceptance letter.
I’m getting so emotional right now, this is amazing. This journey and this school is amazing. It’s amazing (sorry to say amazing so much) because I did mess it up. I messed it up a lot. And they never let me stray too far. And I stayed clean. One day, I got a phone call from one of the higher up people of the school, one of the deans or vice presidents. She said, “hey, you wrote a blog post on your blog that said you were sad, and you haven’t shown up to class in three days. Please come talk to us, we want to help you if you’re sad.” (This was my first semester and I shared my story with anyone who would listen, and I shared my blog with all of my professors, and I made a lot of people uncomfortable). So I went to talk to this nice woman who had called me. I thought they were going to ask me to leave the school. I thought maybe I was too much of a liability. Instead, she told me about disability services and how I qualified for accommodations and she introduced me to the student disability services at the school. They are a group of angels that live in the basement of Moody Hall. Angels. And I got all sorted out and they helped me understand that sometimes I can’t get out of bed and that is not my fault and if I communicate with the support system of the school, I can be accommodated when a spell of depression comes. And boy, did those spells come.
And the professors cared so much. And I didn’t have to keep explaining my story. I would hand in a 504 form at the beginning of the semester, and when I got depressed I would say, “hey, I’m having a problem with my disability and I am going to take my extra absence today, and I am going to need help on this homework assignment.” And I didn’t have to go into my whole story or explain myself to anyone.
I took a math class that first semester and wow, was it hard (for the St. Ed’s people, it was “Math for Liberal Arts,” which I know is supposed to be really easy but it was so hard). And my professor was the sweetest professor I had at St. Ed’s and she helped us so much. I sat in the front row, and I went to class, and I went to extra tutoring to figure out what compounding interest is. I got an A in that class. The first grade higher than a C I’d ever received in a math class. Half of that is because I worked hard, the other half is because the professor cared enough to help me learn it. (Not to say that other math teachers hadn’t cared in the past, I just hadn’t cared).
When Trevor committed suicide, I was torn up. I called my advisor and my disability counselor and said, I don’t know how long I have before I go totally crazy, but I’m not going to be at school the rest of the week and I’m going to need extra support for a while. And they said okay and I emailed a few professors to tell them what happened and wow were they there for me. This was my second semester at St. Ed’s. I especially remember my fiction writing professor telling me that I could go to her office and talk to her about life any time I needed. And I wrote a story about Trevor, and wrote as though he hadn’t killed himself, and she was so compassionate while also giving me feedback on character and plot development. I never went to her office to talk about it, even though I’d wanted to. Just knowing that she was there for me was enough.
The school of education and the friends I’ve made are the parts I’m avoiding talking about because I’m already crying and I just don’t have the words.
Basically, my friends mom, whom I met two times, picked my major for me. And this major totally suits me. It’s hard work, it’s a lot of theory and breaking down language and understanding how students learn. And it is also so much love.
I have been so deeply cared for and pushed to my full potential by those surrounding me in the school of education. My peers, (mostly) ladies who have been there for me since my very first education class to my last one. Professors, who have shared their knowledge and wisdom with me beyond what I needed to know for my own future classroom. I am so wordlessly grateful for every experience, every tear, every time I fell down and got back up. I learned how to ask for help, I learned how to keep going when I thought I couldn’t go anymore, and I learned that I love learning and I love teaching.
I will likely get all sentimental again in the post I write after graduation, so get ready for that.