I knew only vaguely that if I was going to reach the level of continuing my education, that I had to show some ability. Figuring out what that was another problem entirely.
I had no formal education except high school, I graduated later than my class and only had a little bit of college training. Though I did score enough later in life on my ASVAB to get me a place as Intelligence Analyst; even that I fled from.
When I sought out a college that would accept my Native American status and offer me federal funding, I found myself at a brick wall because I was adopted. This was at a time Ancestry.com was only just coming on the stage and I no had idea how to research my family roots. The Indian Interior Office in Alaska couldnt find any information on me even after I got my birth certificate (which took months after the laws in Denver finally opened).
By this time I had a five thousand dollar loan that was only accumulating more and more interest. And not even a degree. It felt like my life was spiraling to nowhere. I was only getting older and that horrified me. I DID HAVE ASPIRATIONS! I DID HAVE DREAMS! I wanted to yell at the old man in the sky.
I wanted badly to do something in art but the message was always Get a job not a passion.
In high school I sustained an avid love of art, but once reaching high school even then that hope had seemed to be dwindling. My favorite hideaway was always in Art class. Even though I didn’t fit in much with the others there that class was a godsend to me– in the midst of a whirlwind of competitiveness, hormones and teenage angst.
I secretly admired my classmates more than they ever could of imagined but they never would have known because I often stuck to myself. They were Skilled Artists, hell their careers had already been lined up for them and they were just waiting to graduate. The feeling that I wasnt in the same caliber left me with the greatest feelings of confusion and shame that I wasnt doing these things. I felt like a castaway in more ways than one. Eventually I did take initiative to finally see what this whole college thing was about. I found out about the Art Institute and immediately became enamored with their campus in California.
Nobody spoke to me about college. I didnt understand it. My art teacher was in some sense a mentor to me offering me encouragement whenever I actually did open up to her. I believe she knew I had talent that I could see, but felt alot of pity too.
I definitely didnt have college lined up like all the others, the whole college thing was completely a blur to me. I dont think she knew how to help me or if she even had the tools to help, but I admired her and appreciated her giving me a place to be myself even if for a couple hours a week.
Later on she allowed me to wander into her class on my lunch breaks whenever I wanted. By that time I had been to over five high schools and high school had become utter chaos to me. I spent more time at the bagel shop reading than actually in the classroom. When I did I lived for coming into her classroom and reading my Vogue magazines. I ate it up. She would give me manuals she had in the classroom about creating fashion, but I struggled to really do anywhere with it.
My thinking was way off center because in my head I thought the drawing needed to be perfection just as the pictures presented. At home I would comb through my Vogue magazines for hours. Since I couldnt come up with the sketches instead my own collages. I made collages cutting out swatches of different patterns and constructing them into outfits.
Looking back it was kind of funny because my father would be there watching TV, and here I was making an absolute mess of the living room floor with all my cuttings. Still the lingering feeling of why my father wasn’t talking about college bothered me more and more. It felt as if the topic was off limits somehow and I was too afraid to ask why.
By my senior year the pressure was on but I held onto to these feelings of anxiety and dread and instead internalized them. Surely my father would come to me and have this conversation ‘When the time was right,’ I thought. But the time never materialized and once I hit eighteen, this built up a deep rooted anger in me. Didn’t he feel like I was good enough? I couldn’t help asking myself.
My fathers side of the family had doctors, lawyers, nurses and financiers. My uncle was my favorite. He woke up every morning at the crack of dawn, ate his breakfast, went off to work to his PRAXAIR job, and did it again the next day.
He always went to work with a smile on his face. Often a suddle joke with his little fireside chats with the cat who always greeted him at the end of the couch before he descended down the stairs to the basement off into the garage. He could go from a 1-10 in a split second (these days some would call it bipolar), but always without fail he resorted back to humor, so good it often didnt matter because he could have a whole table laughing, that was just Uncle Roger.
My Aunt Joyce was a saint and also a saving grace for me. She too always had a smile and an air of calm and gratitude I relished in. My father was newly divorced and she more or less played the role of mother for me. Both my aunt and uncle lovef eachother very much and I loved them for that. They were the shelter within the storm.
By middle of senior year the pressure was on. You could feel the pressure and cut it with a knife. It was unsettling for me that the people I worked with and clowned around with my junior year and had limitless amounts of fun with (never a dull moment) now were going head to head for the highest grade. I was completely lost.
I mean obviously I knew grades were important but bragging about your grades, what the hell were these people on??
People in my past high schools didn’t brag about their grades but here this was some of the most popular people in my class. Eventually it went onto which universities they were going to get into.
Can I say it (without putting it lightly) that all my ignorance about college flew right out the window that day. Describing it as crashing full speed ahead into a brick wall would be a more accurate way of putting it. I knew I was no part of that equation. The year had nearly ended.
The irony in that was that I was the one in the back of the classroom reading Steven Pinker’s How the Mind Works, Wally Lambs bestseller I Know This Much Is True, and John Adams (long before it became a hit HBO series).
How could I have gone so unnoticed, I wondered.