From the first time I saw him, my son’s face has always had the ability to fill my heart until I felt like it would explode with love. Having him in my life, even under those circumstances, was unquestionably the very best thing that had ever happened to me.
I had no support system. I was young, broke, in college, and struggling to hold together a failing relationship with his father. Even in all of that I had never felt so fulfilled in my whole life. He was always so happy. He had no idea that my bank account was in the negative or that we were on a fast road to losing the place that we called home. His optimism, no matter how blissfully ignorant, was a shining light in that dark place.
He was everything to me and at the very same time having him seemed to be costing me eveything I had going for myself. It was such a confusing mix of overwhelming happiness and overwhelming despair. Lord knows I have always loved him with every fiber of my soul but I could not help but wonder if I had completely ruined both of our lives by bringing him into the world. Suddenly I was desperate to have and give him so much that I was previously satisfied to more or less live without at that stage of my life: a house in a nice neighborhood, a savings account, family vacations, good health insurance, and all the benefits of a comfortable salary. I was convinced that those things were quickly slipping beyond my reach.
Going to class wasn’t the same anymore. I couldn’t focus. I had never been away from my son for more than an hour and now I was spending entire days without seeing his little smiling face. On top of that, things weren’t going well on my job. I wasn’t getting the hours I needed to keep up with my bills and my property manager was quickly becoming less patient with my inability to pay rent. Finally, I stopped going to class altogether. There was no point. I had too much on my mind to be worried about what they were talking about.
That year, winter break could not come soon enough. I was so relieved that I didn’t bother to look up my final grades. I planned to handle it when I got back. It wasn’t the first time that I subconsciously decided to clean a mess later rather than not make one in the first place. In hind’s sight, I should’ve been more prepared for the storm that I had evoked over my life but simply put, I wasn’t.
By the time I packed up my car and made the drive home to St. Louis there was a letter in the mail. (I hate mail to this day!) I had been dismissed from my degree program—in other words I had been kicked out of school. I was devastated! I began emailing my advisors and my professors only to find out that this mess was not so easy to clean up. Tthe eviction notices I had been receiving became a secondary concern since there was nothing to for me to back to in Columbia. I had literally failed at everything. There was nothing left to do but fall apart into pathetic little pieces.
It took about a day or so to pull my mind and energy back together. I thought to myself, “This can’t be the end of the line. This is NOT over.” By the next morning I was back on the phone pleading with my academic advisor. He gave me two possible courses of action: successfully complete a semester at a community college and then reapply to university or write a letter of appeal to the academic committee for my department and pray that they vote me back in.
While the latter course of action was certainly favorable, it was not very likely. The committee was infamous for turning down appeal letters even under the most extenuating circumstances and since I had not communicated with my professors there was no one to vouch for me. I decided to do go with both of my options. I filled out an application to the Moberly Area Community College and I wrote a very long letter of appeal to the committee.
Fortunately, I never got the chance to turn in the Community College application. I was admitted back into school on academic probation. And it was the single most important thing that happened to me as I began a journey as mom and a student. It taught me the lessons that set the foundation for my educational career as a parenting student: (1) If you are going to graduate, you have to take it seriously (2) Communicate early with your professors and supervisor (3) Do not give up because it’s hard…as hell.