Recently I graduated from University of Texas at Arlington with a BFA in painting. It is a proud accomplishment that restores 25 years of loss. I wanted to share my story below.
Loss, Redemption, Restoration
When I was 15, I experienced a great loss. I didn’t realize it at the time, nor was it anyone’s fault but my own. As a teenager, I was searching. I didn’t know what I was searching for, but I knew there was a key to my success and happiness somewhere.
As I journeyed through high school I received offers for my name to be put in the “Who’s Who in High School” each year. It puzzled me as to why only other guy and I were the only ones included. He would go on to graduate as valedictorian a year later, but it didn’t seem possible that I could do the same.
I was not the most “street smart” person by any means. I just saw everyone as the same. I saw cliques and such, but it really didn’t sink in how I fit in. I was good at athletics, but I didn’t see myself as a “jock.” I was good at academics, but was surprised when the “smart girls” wanted to be friends with me. Instead, I felt more comfortable hanging out with the girls that went to my church. Those girls weren’t “jocks” or particularly interested in getting A’s. But what we did have in common was low self-esteem. I didn’t have the same value system as they did, but I still felt more comfortable with them.
Unbeknownst to me, my father had the same experience in high school. He hung out with kids who had “low self-esteem” or were punks as he called them. I didn’t think my friends were punks, I just didn’t feel intimidated when I hung out with them. His answer to the “problem” was to transfer me to “homeschooling.”
In the late 80s, homeschooling was still a risky thing. Certain counties were prosecuting families for truancy. My parents were pretty isolated from the community, so there was much going against them. My father “pigeon-holed” his experience over mine and was sure I would end up a drug addict. (Of course I had already turned down the opportunity to try cigarettes and the idea of smoking anything else didn’t attract me).
It seems unlikely that the prospective future valedictorian and track star of the class of 1991 would give all of that up to please her father, right? How stupid would that be? The idea of giving up scholarships and college offers and the expectation of success after graduating college is absurd. After all, why would a parent do that to their child?
This is why I believe it did happen:
1) I am an INFP-T. What is that? Remember the Myers-Briggs test? Google it or Look it up. Basically, I am an idealist. I value ideas over logic or reality as some would say. I am also a variety seeker, a perpetual searcher which makes the grass always seem greener on the other side.
2) I was naïve. My parents kept us kids pretty isolated from close friends and family. It worked for them, why not for us?*
3) I was naïve. Religious beliefs isolated me from others. Even though my day-to-day existence said others were valued and okay.
4) I was afraid. The world seemed a frightening place to me. I relied on the strength of those I trusted over my own perception and thoughts.
Fear was a deciding factor that created the tipping point. If I trusted myself and valued those around me on a day-to-day basis, I would have seen the opportunities around me. If fear didn’t dominate me, I would have asked more questions and developed other relationships that built trust beyond my parents.
Being a variety seeker and not recognizing that characteristic made the present redundancy of daily life seem suffocating. I wanted to experience new places and people. Some wisdom would be to look at the next two years as time to research and plan where I was going. College would have been the perfect place for me to experience the new. Sadly this was before the internet where I could virtually explore campuses and other possibilities from the safety of my home. Therefore the opportunities of planning were unknown to me.
There were plenty of signs on my path and there were people there to help, but I decided to homeschool after my sophomore year. It was May. Oregon was warming to the idea of summer. I was saying good-bye to friends and taking pictures of us together. (No selfies, yet.) The weather was sunny and freedom called out to me.
But when I answered, it was not there. I started work and bought my own car. It took me a total of nine months to complete the curriculum that my parents set out for me through an accredited school, but I took two years to finish instead of starting college early, as I continued the foolish journey I had started. The idea of going to the local junior college brought out feelings of loss and shame. Yet, I did not realize it would be okay to go back to high school.
When my friends were graduating and enjoying the glory of commencement and family parities, I had nothing. My father, who so closely watched me, didn’t share in my “accomplishments.” The things I thought I would gain did not appear. The better life I thought I would have was not there. I worked. I wondered. What went wrong? What mistake did I make? Where was my glory of being 18 and being finished with childhood? Where was the scaffolding to lift me to the next step of my journey in life?
These questions have haunted me for a long time. I recently graduated from college cum laude. Only now, I am remembering the same emotions I had at 18 and 19 years old which then motivated me to write this post. Remembering has created a path of history. I realized I attempted to start college three times before I succeed to enroll in Weatherford College in 2009. It feels good to overcome the loss and pattern of failure. Now I have a history of overcoming and perseverance!
It’s time to start again. It’s time to begin a new season in my life. I am no longer overcoming the lost glory of my youth anymore. I have accomplished my goal. I am resting in this glory. Who I am and what I do is not defined by loss anymore. The past is truly in the past now!
“Forget about what’s happened;
don’t keep going over old history.
Be alert, be present. I’m about to do something brand-new.
It’s bursting out! Don’t you see it?
There it is! I’m making a road through the desert,
rivers in the badlands.
Isaiah 43:18-19 MSG
Thank you for reading about my journey. I will continue to unfold the events of my past as I move forward into the future. I hope my story entertains and encourages the reader.
I enjoy your comments and hearing of your own victories.
*The rest of the story of my family’s home schooling adventures may be shared at a later time.