Wednesday, May 13, 2015

A graduation story

Graduation picture taken by a dear friend.  My loved ones and dear friends made sure I enjoyed every bit of my senior year.  Forever blessed with those memories.
Who doesn't love talking about high school?  Whether that time spent in (and outside) a classroom culminated into what they call the glory years or you had a horrid experience and couldn't be paid enough to relive it, everyone loves a little high school talk every now and then.

So let's talk high school.  I recently had an a epiphany about my high school experience, and I thought I'd turn my realization into a WILW post.

High school was not easy.  I loved my friends and enjoyed doing what high school kids do, but showing up at 8AM with completed homework and a packed lunch was a constant struggle.  There was a lot of family stuff going on.  (I'm leaving it vague to protect the privacy of those involved.) And eventually, I found myself kicked out of high school due to absences.  

If I'm being honest, those days immediately following that news are a blur.  I don't remember what I did or how I coped.  All I remember is putting my head down and dealing with the daily struggles at hand.  In my mind, not finishing high school wasn't an option.  I had a brief stint of thinking I could just get my GED, but I stepped off that train and started thinking of how I could finish high school with a diploma in hand.  It became clear to me I wasn't going to find success completing high school at home, so I did a whole lot of online research and found an establishment called The American School.  Located in Illinois, it was (is) an online school that offered a set curriculum, interaction with teachers, and, most importantly, a high school diploma.  

I got a full-time job, enrolled, paid for what I needed, and began my junior year.  Late nights, countless geometry tutor sessions with friends, and many back-and-forth interactions with the school's teachers landed to me to a day I never appreciated until recently.  

The day when my diploma came.  

Upon completing my courses, a new-found hate for my situation started brewing.  This was during the time where Facebook really started booming, so I couldn't seem to escape the cap and gown pictures, the senior class bbq pictures, the graduation pictures, the prom pictures.  I began to take the focus off of what I had just accomplished and solely mulled in what I was never going to have.  When I opened my diploma in the mail, I threw it on the coffee table and left it there.  A mentor of mine tried to give me one of his infamous pep talks as he had done many times before, but the angst-y teen in me wasn't hearing him.

For years, I looked at the piece of paper as something that wasn't instead of something that was.  It was a symbol of not getting to walk, of not getting a cap and gown, of not sharing that day with my friends who I had started the whole high school thing with.

I was recently having a conversation with my husband about our high school experiences, and it just kind of hit me I should have never looked at my path as anything less than something to be proud of. Now, years later, I look at that piece of paper with great pride and one of my biggest accomplishments.  I didn't have to pursue my education, but I did.  On my own terms and by my own will.

I share this now because I regret looking at what was truly a great accomplishment as anything less.  I spent too much time thinking I wasn't worthy of being proud simply because I did things a little on the unconventional side.  I thought my situation defined me.  It doesn't and it didn't.  I worked hard to get that piece of paper and it will now forever hang proudly above my desk as a symbol of determination and sacrifice.

Always acknowledge your accomplishments.  Never give up.  And always take a second to give yourself the credit you deserve. 

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