At my homeschool graduation ceremony, I received around a thousand dollars in gifts from friends and family. I decided right then and there that I would spend it on the first month of classes at the community college in the city. I didn’t have a plan, I only knew I had to do something, had to get out of our house, had to fill my time while my boyfriend and I tried to talk my parents into letting us court and marry. (You can read that story here.) I had an idea that I would take all music classes so I could be better educated to teach my piano students. I didn’t know anything about how to fulfill certain credits, or what credits were, how to get a degree, how to plan your college years.
I was completely ignorant about how it worked. But that didn’t stop me. I’ve always been stubborn like that.
I walked onto campus the first day of school and sat down with an advisor. He was a little baffled about what my plan was and why I’d waited until the first day, but said it wasn’t too late. I handed him my GED and SAT scores (I had taken the COMPASS test just for kicks a few months before). He determined I wanted to be a music major (I didn’t know what that meant but I figured he knew what he was talking about), and signed me up for Theory 101 and several other classes, including some general education classes and an art class that fit an elective credit. I was euphoric. I was going to college!
The next day, I drove the 1 hour drive from our home in the mountains to the college campus in town. I was nervous as hell. A real classroom?! But I put on my confidence face and walked into my first class, an art class. I was amazed at the diversity of people there, and a little scared of them, but determined to be friendly and make friends. I still remember that I was wearing a very long, full blue skirt with a large, collared button-up blouse that was 3 sizes too big. With my long hair in braids, bangs curled to perfection, I was the perfect model of a stereotypical homeschooled girl. And everyone knew it but me.
The teacher was not excited to have a new student that started a day late, and had no supplies. I didn’t know I needed supplies. She gave me a list and I was appalled to find out how much they would cost. But I had a couple hundred left over from paying tuition so I knew I’d be OK. Until I discovered with each class that I’d need textbooks and that textbooks are outrageously expensive. I will never forget standing in the campus bookstore, totally lost, and handing my list to a helpful volunteer who found everything for me. Between the books and my art supplies, my leftover cash was wiped out. I knew my parents could never afford to pay for me, I didn’t know what financial aid was, and I would never be allowed to get a real job to pay for myself. But I was determined to have one great semester and not think too far ahead, just figure it out as I went.
There are so many stories I could tell about those two years.
I could fill pages with memories, some funny, some cringe-worthy, all that point to a spirited young woman who had determination and resilience, but who was thoroughly unprepared to be an adult.
Who didn’t even know what she didn’t know. Who gradually went from a skirted conservative homeschooler full of trepidation and fear of the world, to a person in her own right.
I could tell about how when my art teacher asked what our favorite artists were, everyone said various contemporary artists whom I had never heard of. I blurted out “Thomas Kinkaid”, much to the amusement of several students and the outright disdain of the teacher. Apparently Kinkaid was not considered a real artist in real art circles.
Or the time I finally found out what “gay” and “homosexual” meant after someone told me one of my friends at school was gay and I had to look that up in the dictionary. At 19 years old. I was fascinated and figured he was a cool person so it didn’t matter. He didn’t seem like more of an evil sinner than any other evil sinner. He was an educational friend to have for a girl who had never heard the word “penis” before and had no sex-education. He treated me with friendliness and thought my ignorance was hilarious and endearing.
Then there was the time I explained to one of my instructors that I couldn’t get the scholarship he was offering because I didn’t have a social security number. His reaction told me that this was so far from normal and it was the first time ever that I questioned the weirdness of not having identity. I credit him with helping me go through the grueling process to finally get one.
I cringe at all the times I was asked out on a date but didn’t really know what was happening.
Then there was that logic class that pretty much was the beginning of the end for many of my Fundy homeschool beliefs. Now I know why they say college and education corrupt good Christian kids. Because the majority of everything I learned from the likes of Bill Gothard and Joshua Harris and Ken Ham and our Abeka history books didn’t stand a chance against critical thinking and logic.
Explaining why I had a secret boyfriend but didn’t go on dates was another awkward memory I’d rather forget. Also explaining why he was secret and why I was so worried about my parents when I was an adult, not a child.
I cringe thinking about the clothes I wore that were ill-fitting and “modest” and frumpy. When friends took me shopping and I tried on real clothes that fit me right, I realized I was attractive and an adult and maybe I didn’t have to dress like my parents wanted me to all the time. I bought shorter, more fitted skirts and tall boots and tights and tops that were cute and fit me well. I even bought my first pair of jeans and sometimes changed into them in the car before going in to school because I didn’t want to deal with my parents freaking out over my clothing. I wanted so badly to have some freedom and independence but was still so afraid of what my parents would say, even to the point that I was worried someone who knew them would see me and tell them I was dressing immodestly at school. Eventually I got over that, with much fighting and “rebelling” and standing up for myself. You don’t get over having “obey your parents” drilled into you from birth overnight.
I ended up getting a job as a live-in nanny for the remainder of the two years I was in community college. I moved out of my parent’s home under much protest from them, but determined to find my own way and finish school. Caring for kids was something I knew and did well, and we were happy, my charges, their mom, and I. I paid my way through the next two years of school by nannying. I started buying my own clothing and got a stylish haircut at a salon, and realized I needed car insurance. My employer gave me a cell phone and I was able to talk to my boyfriend whenever I wanted to, which was heavenly.
In those two years, I grew up a little bit. I grew a backbone. I discovered the world was so much bigger and better than I’d ever imagined.
As my relationship with my parents got worse, I became more confident in who I was and what I wanted in life. It would be another decade before I really broke free from all the crap that was my past, but those two years were a good start.
I look back, and I cringe. About everything. I was so unprepared for the world, for being an adult. I had to figure it all out by myself and it was overwhelming. I understand now the funny looks I would get from my instructors and friends. I knew nothing about financial management, banks, insurance, medical services, dating, sex, rent, bills, taxes or anything else that suddenly I was responsible for. I made a lot of mistakes and didn’t know it til years later. My parents were neither supportive nor a hindrance. I think they thought this was just something I got in my head to do and they didn’t really care. They gave me gas money to get to school until I moved out. They wouldn’t sign the FAFSA so I couldn’t get financial aid once I figured out what that was. They didn’t like me “out from under the umbrella” of their authority where they couldn’t see what I was doing and who I was with. I never really talked about my life in the city with them. I hid much of my self and my new, blossoming thoughts and changing beliefs We fought a lot when I went home on weekends. Our relationship continued to get worse until I got married the end of my 2nd year in school.
They had no idea how to prepare a child to be a functioning adult outside their homeschool bubble, and no idea how to have a relationship with an adult child.
I had no idea that I could be an adult, or what that meant, that I had a right to make my own decisions and plan my own life. It was a gradual dawning and a painful process.
Due to a number of reasons, not the least of which was my ignorance on how degrees worked, I ended those 2 years with 70 credits and no degree. I got married, started having babies, and my husband and I went through a lot in the first 10 years of our marriage. I am now 31 years old, and at 29 with four small children, I made the decision to go back to school. I’ve been taking classes online to finish my BA and have plans to go on to grad school when my youngest starts Kindergarten. I’m now a senior at a state university. I know the ropes this time. I’m doing well. Still pulling great grades and enjoying the learning experience. I’m planning a career and that makes me happy and gives me hope for the future. I wish I had known more and finished my Bachelor’s before having children, before life got more complicated, but here I am. Hind-sight can’t help me now. There is only the future and it’s a bright one.
My kids like to say fondly that I’m not a real grown-up because I’m still in school. They have no idea the irony of that. Someday, maybe I’ll tell them.