I cannot describe the relief I felt when I got the news that I was accepted back into the university on academic probation. I had been silently carrying that burden for about 3 weeks. Even though I was back in St. Louis, I didn’t have the words nor the kinds of relationships that would have brought me more relief than stress by talking to someone about it. So, I kept it to myself.
The whole ordeal killed my Christmas and the only New Year’s resolution on my list that year was to maintain a level of self-control that would stop me from having a meltdown. (Don’t play! You know I’m dramatic!) When the re-acceptance email hit my inbox, it was like I hit the lottery! I was overjoyed but just like I suffered in silence, I had to rejoice in silence too.
The victory was still sweet! 2010 was looking up after all and my life almost made sense again. Even before I had Jai and before I went away to college, I knew education was my ticket out.
In a spirit of transparency, I don’t want to misrepresent myself. I certainly did not grow up in anybody’s “urban” community. I didn’t start earning “street-cred” until high school and I wasn’t able to register my Certified G-Card (‘G’ is for GANGSTER) until college.
From a financial standpoint my upbringing was quite comfortable until my father died and even after that my sister, Lisa, and brother in law, Mike, made sure I had everything I needed and a few things I wanted. That didn’t keep me from feeling trapped and suffocated by my situation. I wanted out. Permanently. I was desperate to leave to St. Louis.
In fact, I was so desperate to leave that I started getting in trouble for filling out college scholarship applications. I was literally obsessed with it! I would sneak down to my sister’s office in the middle of the night and spend hours trolling the Internet for every scholarship essay I qualified for…AND I can write! Please! I milked my story for every penny it was worth–LITERALLY! I ended up getting several scholarships, one being, the Gates Millennium Scholarship, which is the like hitting the educational jackpot!
I was SET! So after coming that close to loosing to my “ticket out” and loosing all the money and opportunity I had in my scholarships, I was on top of the world when I got the notice that they let me back in school.
While this was all well and good, there were still some critical issues at hand. I was extremely grateful that I had a life to go back to in Columbia, however, I didn’t have a residence to go back to in Columbia (and I hadn’t really told anyone about that either.) Ironically, after I really thought about it, getting back into Mizzou actually caused me more anxiety. When my main concern was getting back into college I had nothing to lose if that situation didn’t work out but now that I was readmitted into school my lack of housing threatened to steal that victory away from me once again. This conflict took my desperation to new levels. I broke down and told my family.
*Pauses for station identification: Almost seems silly that I would rather duke it out with life on my own in Columbia, Missouri than to go to college in St. Louis where there were an infinite number of homes that would’ve readily taken in both me and Jai…doesn’t it? My family thought so too—especially my brother in law Mike, who was the closest thing I had to a father after my daddy passed way.
Like all strong and protective men, he didn’t hold his tongue about it…which lead to this little fiasco in real life:
My tears collected in little puddles on the kitchen table. I was too ashamed to look up; to face the disappointment I heard in my sisters voice.
Mike was pacing the way he always does when he’s upset and as the details of my story spilled out I could feel the tension rising around me.
They asked questions. I didn’t have answers.
They continued to ask them anyway. I was never one to back down from such a challenge!
“WHAT DO Y’ALL WANT ME TO SAY?!” I yelled. I thought to myself, ‘Why can’t they just help me?! Don’t they know that I already feel low. I already feel stupid.”
As Mike was making rounds, arguing, pacing, and thinking, he returned to the kitchen. “You are coming home!” he shouted. It was more than a subtle request.
I felt the walls closing in. To me, that was a death sentence. I lost it, “I KNEW I SHOULDN’T HAVE TOLD Y’ALL! Why can’t you just help me go back to Columbia?!”
I could’ve have predicted his response a mile off. He came back at me with every logical argument you can think of—there were plenty to choose from.
With every word, I was feeling more trapped. I exploded in all honesty, but no love or wisdom, “I’m NEVER coming back here to live! Who would help me?! You? Definitely not Lisa!”
And with that I grabbed Jai, packed my bags, got in my car, and hopped on Interstate 70 going west (towards Columbia.) I had no idea where we were going to spend the night—let alone live.
I left that day feeling like all my problems were some how directly tied to my sister’s unwillingness to help me and Mike was just along for the ride (poor guy). I was absolutely convinced that I flunked out of school because Lisa wouldn’t help me. I was evicted from my home because she wouldn’t help me. My car needed an oil change…..because my sister wouldn’t help me! Racism. World Hunger. WWII—all because my sister wouldn’t help me.
In practice, my assessment wasn’t all that inaccurate: Lisa was not going to watch my baby. They weren’t going to pay my bills. She wasn’t going to end racism or world hunger or go back in time to stop the bomb from falling over Hiroshima either. Forget the fact that when she can’t help me the way I want her to she always tries to think of other ways that she CAN help. Or the fact, that Mike is always willing to do what’s in his power. The truth was I did not respect the very reasonable and healthy boundaries my sister set and I could not forgive her for my inability to understand or respect those boundaries.
After it was all said and done, and she raised me and took care of me after our parents died and provided for me…She didn’t owe me a DARN thing!
For a long time, I held up our relationship up at the intersection of Stuck-on-Stupid Rd. and Parked-on-Dumb Ave. because Lisa wouldn’t do what I wanted her to do—what I saw other people’s ‘parents’ do for them.
In hind’s sight, the inconvenience that Lisa’s boundaries brought into my life was exactly the thing I needed to move forward. They made me so uncomfortable in my nest of mediocrity that I got my butt up and learned to fly.
And while she wasn’t who I wanted her to be, she was exactly who I needed her to be.
And now that I am finally gaining a healthy perspective on our relationship I have learned a few things: (1) Don’t nobody owe you NOTHING! (Sorry, I had pull out my G-Card). It’s a simple concept really. But when you feel like you’re drowning in bills on bills on bills and diapers, and formula, and oil changes it’s disappointing to reach out for a rope that comes up short. It hurts and it’s uncomfortable but it’s the only way you will learn to swim. (2) You can’t let what other people won’t do hold you back from what YOU CAN DO! This is the ONE thing I sort of got right…by accident. All of us come to a point in our lives when it’s do or die. Sink or swim. If you get to that place and you find yourself alone, shake off the people who are pulling down and thank the people who wont help you out. Why? Because learning to swim on your own is the most important thing you can do for yourself…and your kids. (3) Too much help hurts in the long run. Knowing me, if my sister would’ve been the person I wanted her to be I would’ve never went off to college or left home at all. I am a creature of habit and given all the people I’ve lost I would’ve clung to my sister instead of my education. Educations are meant to be used. Sisters (mothers, fathers, cousins, aunties) are not.
Stay Wonderful! 🙂
P.S. Today my sister is launching her website: FindMyMoment.com Check it out!
She is a phenomenal speaker and bible teacher and I could not be more proud of her!