"You're an adult, you're eager to learn, you want to do this - you'll get through it," Mary said to me as she shifted on the wooden park bench. She slurped her ice coffee assuredly with a strawful of confidence. How could she say that? She doesn't know my shabby work ethic or the multitude of memory issues that affect my learning. Mary was just so certain she made it seem foolish that I would ever doubt myself.
"When you were fifteen - you were depressed, you had an eating disorder, you had no goals or motivation other than to leave home. Now - you really want to finish high school," Mary emphasized. "I feel so foolish, like this is something I should have done at 18 or 19 but not 24." I held my head in my hand feeling deflated. "Everybody's out there in the world working at their prestigious careers and I'm applying to adult highschool!" I said with both frustration and shame. "Get over yourself! It's all been done before. What makes you think you're so different?" She continued. "I'm a quitter." I sighed.
I walked into the college's registration office to the warm smile of a middle-aged lady with a flippy haircut. "Which course are you here to register for?" She sat with her hands on the keyboard ready to spring into course codes and class schedules. "Grade 10 English," I said softly not wanting the college students at the nearby desk to hear me. "Have you taken any classes at the college before?" She questioned. "No, this is my first one," I said as she walked me through the necessary steps to register and provided me with a campus map and other information about the program. I signed a few forms and walked to the library to get my textbook. On the way there I saw several slightly older students, and my mindset started to shift.
The first day of class came quickly; every anxiety I had multiplied in my gut. What if I can't retain enough to even follow a short story? What if my grammar doesn't very good? What if I forget everything I learned so long ago and have to start with the ABC's?
The professor walked into the classroom with a small armful of paperwork. She was young-ish, maybe 30, had a big smile, and shoulder length sandy blond hair. "Good morning class, I'm Andrea. Today I'll be getting to know you and your educational goals then we'll look at the basic structure of a complete sentence."
That seemed simple enough and not too intimidating at all. "Let's start with introductions - please tell us your name, why you've chosen this class, and what you're hoping to acheive. Miss in the blue - please begin." Andrea said as she directed her finger at me. " Hi I'm Lucy, I dropped out very young, and I want to get a diploma," I stated quietly as a classroom full of eyes locked on me. "What do you hope to do afterwards? What are you interested in?" Andrea pleasantly inquired. " I'm not sure - I just want to finish school," I replied.
The conversation went around the room. I'll admit I expected the class to be full of rough-looking drop-outs, but instead I heard the stories of young single moms wanting to make their children proud, immigrants hoping to overcome the language barrier of employment, and students who had a family crisis during highschool and were finally back to pursue their own educations. The stories all had one thing in common - none of them had any reason to be ashamed.
Maybe this self-inflicted shame implied that all of these other students were "quitters" even though their unique situations told a very different story. Knock it off - I thought. I began to feel a level of comfort in this classroom that I did not expect on the first day let alone by the end of semester.
The next day arrived and I checked the classroom location; it was in a different building than the day before. I ran around campus for nearly 20 minutes before I found the location of the class. I was hurrying through the hallway and did not see a over-sized pink eraser, caught my toe, and went flying forwards onto my knee caps. A few other students saw me fall, but it was the stalky campus security guard that came running to my aid.
"Are you okay?" He said as he extended his hand to hoist me back up. "It's my first week here, I guess I was distracted," I said shakily. He picked up the eraser. "Here, take the culprit, and don't sweat it - you're already more prepared than half the freshmen that arrive here," he said with a smile. Phew - I thought. Now I had an extra large eraser too - as if to imply I'd make a lot of mistakes. A smirk crossed my face.
I finally made it to the classroom, and as I did the lady (Katie - I think) who I sat beside yesterday tapped on the chair beside her invitingly. I joined her with a smile. "What do you think we'll be doing today?" She asked casually. "I hope more than yesterday," I said as Andrea stood up to address the class. "Hopefully you all had a chance to pick up your textbooks yesterday, please open to the first chapter - page 4." I peeled back the slightly sticky textbook pages to page 4 Fundamental Sentence Structure - Coordinating Conjunctions. As I did this there was a knock on the classroom door. Andrea got up from her desk and invited a woman, who looked to be about 60, into the classroom. Had she been here yesterday? I couldn't remember.
The older woman sat on the end next to me and quietly asked as she pulled out her textbook "what page?" She quickly turned to page 4 and started working on the first exercise. A few minutes went by before she spoke again, "do you have an eraser?" I smirked. "Yes - I do," I said as I pulled yesterday's bruised knee culprit out of my pencil case.
The lecture finished and I turned to the older woman "I'm Lucy by the way." "I'm Margaret, my grandson actually convinced me to come to the college. He's in the Computer Engineering program," she said with pride. " It's funny how life is eh? You're never to old to learn I guess," I replied. "You say that when you're in your 20's; I'm almost 65!" She chortled as her rosacea coloured her face. "Then that's at least 3 times as impressive." I declared.
The day ended and I called Mary before getting on the city bus home. It rang three times before she picked up. "Hey girl!" She said with a feminine twang. I sat up a little straighter and with a toothy smile I said, "you were right - I'm not a quitter."