Wednesday, June 1, 2011

The Graduate

She hated grade school and high school. She was one of those kids who had a struggle with her weight and some of her peers weren't very nice about it. It didn't help her desire to attend school with them.  Her self esteem was low, as it is with most kids of that age, but no amount of parental encouragement could over-ride the words of classmates. 

She was a smart child. If she walked into the classroom and breathed, she'd learn something, without making any effort. She did learn well, but she did not  exercise a muscle to let anyone know it. That, too, was partly peer pressure. She used to tell me that she didn't want everyone to call her a 'nerd'.  She didn't bring a book home, I don't know if she did her homework, or even if she had any! Nothing we did could encourage that girl to do her best at school.

I remember those days of middle and high school. It's such a hard time, trying to figure out who you are, what you want to do with your life, as you try to mentally keep up with the changes your body is undergoing. If that isn't enough, you are more aware at that age than you were in grade school, that other kids are 'better' than you are, have more than you do, are more popular than you are. 

All that aside, she graduated, somehow, with her class.  After that, she went to work at delis, at the movie theater, babysitting....wherever she could find work.  She had no interest in going to college, though I was sure she pull off the studies.  She worked hard at her jobs and was put into positions of authority at some of them. 

In 1996, her older sister, the one who would be a life-long student if given the chance, had a number of talks with her and finally got through to her. The next thing I knew, the two of them had hatched the plan that when the older one returned to New Paltz college in the fall,  the younger one would go as well.  They'd share an apartment, and the 'sage' would guide the 'newbie' through the loopholes of higher education and all that goes with it.  Sounded like a good idea.

It didn't work out quite that way.  Sometimes other things happen in life to sway our plans and they did. Over the years, she worked and financially struggled. She became the mother of two little girls, and she ended up raising them alone, with some help from her family, but mostly alone.  One day the light dawned. She needed to do something to make a better life for herself and her babies.
She enrolled in the community college.  She continued to work full-time and carried a full time schedule of classes.  We all chipped in to help with child care so that she could get her education.
The load was too heavy for her, both time-wise and financially.  She cut back to part time. After doing that for awhile, she completed what she was taking that semester, and then she didn't re-register.

The time came when she determined that she wanted to finish and get her degree.  She signed up to take a part time schedule, one class here, one there, sometimes on campus, sometimes on line.
It's taken her nearly ten years, but she's finished and graduated, with a 4.0 !  I knew  she could do it, if she set her sites on her goal. She's a determined, hard worker, with a good head on her shoulders. She's a good mother, and she's a responsible woman who is maturing to make wiser decisions. In so doing, she is making a better life for herself and her daughters. 

And these days, my graduate doesn't even care if people might call her a nerd!