Staying between the Shores

When I went back to school, I really didn’t think I’d do much more than become a Biology teacher. I mean, I’m old and it was going to be hard. I did well enough on my placement tests that I boldly quit 40+ hr/wk dead-end job to attend full-time, but that was the best I could hope for. Then I started the classes and I started taking tests and I learned something that shocked me…I’m not an idiot.

See, I was raised when America was great and by the types of people who want to make it that great again. That meant, as a woman, I was nearly worthless, my only value lay in serving a man and having babies. I was told repeatedly by family and by pastors that god placed man in charge because he was better equipped to deal with, you know, stuff that requires thinking.

I used to think that college must be very difficult. I mean, my husband, who is supposedly a genius, barely got out with a 2.8 GPA. So how was I, as only a woman, supposed to do any better.

I ended my first term, as a single mom with five kids and PTSD and two major traumas happening to two of my kids during that term, with three A+s and a B+.

And, so, my dream changed. I decided that I didn’t need to settle for Cal State, I could go to a UC. And, further, forget this teacher thing, which I was also only settling for because, god I don’t want to teach. (No, the irony of that being the job that’s getting me through school is not lost on me.) I decided I was going to go into research, which is my passion, and I dove in to pursue that dream.

The next term, K was hit by one medical thing after another. He was finally Dx with Autism, and, while I knew it was true and had pushed for the testing, hearing it officially is a level of hell I’m personally tired of experiencing. He was then given an initial medical diagnosis that was bleak at best and required many trips to many specialists before he was mostly cleared. It was another hellish term, but I still came out on top.

Summer wasn’t too bad, at least by my measure of what’s bad which is not most people’s measure because most people, well, my kids have a lot of things, let’s just leave it at that.

The next fall started out fine, I thought. I just needed to study more. The classes were getting more difficult and I needed to adjust. If I studied more, then I’d retain more, then I’d do better. That was it. Sure. By the end of October I was studying every waking hour I was not in class. By the end of November I’d had a mental breakdown.

Quitting has never been an option for me. I was suicidal from the time I was 11 until I was 19 but could never bring myself to do the act. Later, I got married and my now ex tried to use that experience to get me to do just that, finally just coming out with it after nearly 25 years. Religious people think I quit my marriage at that point, but I didn’t. My ex had quit the marriage the day of the wedding (that’s when most abuse actually starts in the marriage, btw) and I left him in order to keep from quitting life.

I worked out a plan with the teacher I worked for and continued on. I dropped out of two of my major classes. I kept only one class which was an easy A because the teacher was lazy af. My GPA went from a 3.85 to a 2.8 in one failed semester. I was set back in school an entire year.

At that point, I had to adjust my dream. UC-anything was out of the question. I decided I’d just go to school with L up at SLO and live a quiet little life in Los Osos. Maybe I could consider getting my Master’s at UCSB, but that was a long way off.

Honestly, however, the loss of UCSB for my BA and BS (I have a dual major) was a blow that I struggled to live with.

As I said, however, I am not a quitter, so I just kept on. I took Calculus this summer to make up for my F last fall, against the advice of…my Calculus prof. I raised my GPA to a 3.45. Now I will retake my Chem class this fall and attempt to raise it to where it was before the breakdown.

And, suddenly, UCSB is within my sites again. And, just as suddenly, I feel tremendously better.

UCSB is my dream. It is the pie in the sky goal of a person who was taught that as a woman, my only dream should be to serve my husband and children and others. I was nothing and any dreams outside the church’s mandate for women were a sure sign that I was a selfish person.

I cannot put into words the difference this jump back up in my GPA has made for me. It is as if everything was handed back to me, like a country music song played backwards.

The thing about a dream is that, unless you are dead, you can’t quit. You might have to take a break, you might get interrupted, and, since you already know I’m a realist, your dream may be taken from you by powers outside your control. But you can’t quit it. Let all those things happen, let someone else be the cause of its demise, but not you.


Country music requisite religious mumbo jumbo at the end aside, this song has always nailed it for me. (The singing starts around :45. For some reason, though I clicked for it to start there, it doesn’t. I blame the Windows update.)

3 thoughts on “Staying between the Shores

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