I’m a simple girl. Quite frankly, I prefer no pretenses, false promises, or praise. If I’m good, fine, that’s great. If I’m not, I’ll work twice as hard to make myself better. In fact, I’m so simple that until recently I had no idea there was another world out there. A world outside of this small, northeastern PA town that I come from, where dead end jobs and alcoholism are expected, if not encouraged. I’m almost thirty years old, and I’m still learning things like how to speak correctly, how to act in a public, and how to pretend I can find my way around in “polite” company.
To put it bluntly, (and maybe this honesty might bite me in the ass later) I come from nothing. I come from a two bedroom trailer in the sticks where I lived with my grandparents who were middle school drop-outs. My grandfather was a talented, self-made man who learned a trade and secured himself a comfortable federal job, my grandmother was a stay-at-home wife, and my mother was a high school drop-out with her first kid under her belt at 16. By 20, she had two. My dad was a scumbag loser who never was around. Yes, my family is a statistic, and I am too by extension.
In school, I was always a little different. By the time I went to kindergarten, I was reading and writing. From then on, I was always in the top of my class. My grandmother was so proud of my work, decorating the cardboard-like cupboards of our trailer with it, and constantly encouraging my greatness. She always pushed for me to try new things, to come out of my shy shell, and to realize that I could do great things some day. I remember her telling me, “You’re going to go to college, and you’re going places. You won’t be stuck here.”
Somewhere along the way, I got lost on this winding path we call life. In my world where education is ignored, and sometimes frowned upon, I ended up following several wrong roads, from friends,and boyfriends, meeting my father and dealing with my mother’s boyfriends, to drugs, drinking, and recreational sex. I became a statistic, a teenage bride, married at 19, three kids by 27, and no education. The girl who graduated near the top of her class made a few wrong turns. Guess I skipped school the day we learned to read maps :0
Ok, so the point. Because there is a point to this tragic sob story. I remember how my grandmother, so simple in her sheltered innocence, thought that by going to any college would automatically open doors for me. She truly believed that I would fit in on the premise that I was smart. You know, I don’t think she ever realized how hard it would be for me to break the barriers of both of these worlds. The blue-collar barrier where people don’t want better, just don’t believe in better, and the white-collar world where people will cut you off at the knees just so you don’t get ideas about possibly bettering yourself.
So I’ve made it through. I’m graduating in May, barring some disaster, I’ve published work, and I’ve done darn well on my own. I’ve muddled through the mess of Educationland on my own. I’ve filed my own financial aid forms since high school, I’ve beat my brains against the wall reading and interpreting literature that I should have read years ago, I’ve been working on my degree for damn near six years now, I’ve researched graduate schools on my own, begged for reference letters, and debased myself by asking questions that everyone “should” know in a perfect world. And this is a world that I still truly know nothing about. Tonight, someone told me I should probably apply to some smaller schools because they don’t know how well I’ll do at the bigger schools I’ve applied to, or even if I’ll get accepted. Wow, talk about a feel good moment!
Yeah…. so my question is this: What’s wrong with wanting? What’s wrong with fighting and clawing your way out of a rat-trap life, and pushing for the best of possible things? What’s wrong with trying for the best? Isn’t it better that I apply to my dream school, like Penn State, and get rejected, than to not apply at all and never know? What’s wrong with wanting something better for myself, my kids, my family, and even, my world?