I never had a clear vision for my life. I never had big dreams as a child. My dreams included a childhood with wonderful parents like those on TV. My dreams were often fantasies of a life without abuse and abandonment. The vision for my life was a short-term one. I wanted to grow up and get out of my house. As a young girl, they taught me that my options were limited. I wasn’t pretty enough, smart enough, or talented enough to expect anything but ordinary. My goal was to find someone to marry. The purest goal was to marry a pastor and to be able to play piano and teach children in church. I should have some education just in case my husband died or left me. My life history and self-esteem assured me those were viable options.
I worked out a wonderful plan with a high school friend. We both applied to a college that was two hours away from home. This assured us that we would not be able to live at home. We would be roommates and help each other along the way. The day the letter from the college arrived with my acceptance was a joyous day. My friend received her acceptance that same week. I would soon be free.
My joy was short lived. My grandmother’s explanation that day was a familiar event in my life. She said she was very surprised the school accepted me. She explained that she only let me apply because she knew it was futile. I would not be going to college away from home. I was also accepted to the Baptist College at Charleston only a few miles from home. By the way, that college accepted everyone who went to my private Baptist High School. I would live at home and commute.
I was 17 when I set foot on campus. I drove my little blue Dodge Dart to school every day. I hated everything about the school and my life. In October that year, I met a young man. He was a senior and very charming. We began dating. My grandmother did not like him and that was his best trait. In Dec. of that same year, we eloped. I managed to complete two of the classes I was taking. That was the end of my college career. I spent the next semester supporting us while he finished school.
When I was 20, I became pregnant with my son. I was able to take a class at a local community college during that time. My love of learning and education was still alive. I have dreamed of returning to college since that time. Every time I thought it would be my time, something got in the way. My husband didn’t approve, I had two children, I worked full time, there was no money, etc. During those years, my husband returned to school (seminary) and was successful in obtaining two master’s degrees.
I am now 61 years old. I have made some very radical life changes in the past few months. I recently registered at the College of Charleston, a four year liberal arts college. Since I am over 60 and don’t work full time, I am eligible to take classes free. I only have to pay for books and incidentals. I will take my first classes in January 2013.
I have no idea how I am going to do this. I haven’t been in school for…well you can figure that out. I still need to work part-time and I am going to have to figure out how to get health insurance. I am currently paying over $500 a month for COBRA. I don’t qualify for social security until August of 2013. Since the college is in downtown Charleston, I will have to figure out transportation and parking. I am going to have to take math. NO, please don’t make me do that.
Many people will question my timing and decision saying it is irresponsible. I find myself asking those questions as well. However, I have family who is supportive of my decision. They just seem to accept me as I am and smile when I do things such as begin taking Karate and going to college at 61 years old. I have amazing friends who are encouraging me and assure me I can get through all of it including math.
You see, I have a new vision for my life. I want to be the person I was designed and created to be. I want to see my dreams come true. One of my biggest dreams is walk across a stage in a robe and have someone hand me a piece of paper that says I have a college degree. I made a promise to a friend before she died that I would not give up on this dream. She believed in me and taught me to see the world without the old scarred and scratched lenses of the past. She won’t be there to see me walk across that stage, but she will be with me in spirit. For my family and closest friends, it will be a journey I invite you take with me. And there will be one heck of a party (sorry, but no alcohol) at the end.