23: Validation

23: Validation

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Teens Talk Getting In...To College


There is no telling how many miles you will have to run while chasing a dream.

~Author Unknown

I was probably one of the few kids in America whose parents didn’t want her to go to college. It’s not that they didn’t want me to go, exactly, now that I look back at it, but, just as everything else in high school, there was the major issue of money.

My family is very blue collar. My parents started (inadvertently) having kids very young, and I felt they were never able to achieve more than getting a factory job, just as their parents did before them, and trying to make ends meet as their family grew.

While growing up, it was fine to speak in theoretical terms about going to college. I would always say I wanted to go to an Ivy League school and then practice neurosurgery at the Mayo Clinic, and my dad would say there was absolutely nothing wrong with our state university. My aunt Mary, the only person in both extended families to go to school before me, had gone there and she was a big-shot lawyer taking in loads of money. So Dad suggested that’s what I ought to shoot for.

The one thing I vividly remembered hating in high school was asking for money. When my junior year arrived, I had signed up for the whole course load of Advanced Placement classes. Even though the AP tests were only $22 at that time, my mom would question why I needed the money and, I believe, huff a little bit as she wrote out the check. I gave creative speeches about how much AP would save me at college, and that those $22 would be parlayed into thousands of dollars of tuition money.

By the time senior year rolled around, I sent out only two applications for college, one to the state university a little more than two hours away from my hometown, and one to a school in another state. I was quickly accepted into both, but this was the point at which I felt somewhat blindsided by my parents. My dad, at least, seemed to be against the idea of my going away for school. He wanted me to attend the extension in our county and save money by continuing to live at home.

The mere thought of staying home another two years was enough to turn my stomach. I was already attending some classes at “The Stench,” because my high school didn’t offer the accelerated classes I qualified for. Although it was a fine school, and many people did transfer from the extension to the main state school, I knew I wouldn’t follow that path.

For whatever reason, I had been given more ambition than my parents before me, or my two younger brothers, both of whom opted for the factory scene rather than education. But I could see this ambition having an ending point, as if it were mistakenly siphoned into me and would be sucked out if I spent too much time in my small town. I could see in my mind’s eye how discouraged I would get living at home for two more years under my parents’ ironclad rule, either getting frustrated at the extension, or finding more value in the attention from boys — none of whom paid attention to me in high school—ending up pregnant and working barefoot at the nearby gas station. Not my idea of a future.

So every day after school, my dad and I had blow out fights about where I would go to college. His logic was very sound, especially considering where I stand now, three years after graduation with debt up to my eyeballs, but I just knew I would get nowhere staying in my hometown. He threatened to give me no financial help at all, and I said that was fine, I would be able to get enough loans.

Eventually I signed my family up for a tour of the state university. My dad and I toured campus, and even though it was so cold my toes started making odd snapping sounds, my dad fell in love — or at the very least seemed very enthusiastic about every corner of the campus.

I could tell he was softened by this visit, but the fights about where I was going to get the money continued until the day I packed everything up into our minivan. It was then, at breakfast before we made our journey down, that my dad said he was proud of me. He hadn’t thought I would actually leave, and he was impressed. As my parents dropped me off at my dorm room, my mom started crying hysterically, and even my dad teared up, kissing me on the forehead, which was the first time I could remember getting hugged and kissed by them in years.

At this point, my relationship with my parents changed. No longer were they the disciplinarians, but they became confidants, advisors and an excellent support system, and I became an adult. Sometimes I still expect to get yelled at for my decisions, but they’ve done phenomenally well to leave me to my own life, and to just be happy when I actually call home. No matter what happens now, I know standing my ground on where to go for school has been the best decision of my life, as I have gained both an education and a life experience I never would have been exposed to had I taken any other road.

~Michelle Desnoyer

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