It’s that time of year when Keenan and I get real competitive! 😉
I had this sign made for him as a Christmas present early in our marriage. It may seem that it is a knock on him, but in actuality, Keenan paid off my student loan debt. And with his GED and innate leadership skills, he has successfully grown the family business to take care of our family. I think he expected me to make a lot of money with my degree and now he says it is confirmed that I am the smart one- since somehow I managed to get out of “working”. (Yes, of course he knows that staying home with his three children has been in fact- work.) Anyway… getting a business degree from Georgia Tech and in effect not using it has been a part of my story that I have until now NOT been able to integrate with who I am today.
We were at the pool the other day when my youngest asked, “Do you HAVE to go to college or can you just skip straight to being an adult?” I always cringe a little when people overhear our educational conversations with our kids. I feel like they probably don’t happen the way they happen in most families… The answer is “No, you DON’T have to go to college necessarily.” AND “There is no skipping the process of BECOMING an adult.” (That varies in length of time based on YOUR choices.) For me, the college part of it took SIX YEARS because I took a detour by way of drugs (alcohol included) and distractions.
I went to Georgia Tech because I wanted to live in Atlanta, and I chose business management because that seemed like the right path to choose when you don’t want to be an engineer. I immediately felt like a small dumb fish in a big smart pond. Writing wasn’t on my radar as a career choice in college, but it kept me company. My favorite class at Georgia Tech was a writing class based on the plays of Shakespeare. Eventually this creative outlet would make its way out of the shadows and onto the page, but first I had to grow up and learn a thing or two about life…maybe so I would actually have something to write about.
During my freshman year, I met Keenan and got derailed. That is its own story that I won’t go into here, but the short version is this: I got swept up in a lifestyle that didn’t mix very well with pursuing a degree from a university known for its academics. Soon, I flunked out of Georgia Tech. The reality of what I had done shook me a little, but I was getting pretty good at numbing my emotions. Still, something inside me knew that I couldn’t do NOTHING, so I enrolled at Kennesaw and limped (high) through a couple of semesters. Gradually Keenan and I would stop making so many bad choices and begin moving back (thank the Lord and our praying mommas) in a positive direction. (More good stories there for another day!)
At some point I looked hard at the decisions I was making, and then I made an important one. I decided that I wanted to go back to Georgia Tech. I wanted to finish what I started there. I had learned some lessons the hard way and I wanted to prove to myself that I was not a quitter. And to prove that I deserved to be at Georgia Tech and get my degree. I re-applied. I asked a friend who was a former football player and alumni from Georgia Tech to write a letter on my behalf vouching for my character and change of heart. I wasn’t sure this sort of thing even happened, but THEY LET ME BACK IN!
I graduated from Georgia Tech in 2003 (the 50th class of female graduates!) with a BS in Management and a certificate in Marketing and earned mostly A’s my Senior year. I did it. I chose to grow up. During this time, I stopped most drugs (alcohol would hang around for a while) AND Keenan and I moved apart to maintain a celibate engagement. (I told ya’ll there were some good stories in here!) I took responsibility for my own actions. I owned up to my “failure” and I set things right in my eyes. FOR MY OWN DAMN SELF. This was one of my defining moments.
But now what? I remember walking through a career fair just before graduating. I bought a pant suit and printed out copies of my resume. I walked the halls filled with various company booths and eager representatives ready to hire the newest crop of business graduates. I didn’t hand out a single resume. I walked past every booth, politely smiled and after about a half hour I whispered to myself, “Well, crap.” None of it was appealing. Did I choose wrong? I have a piece of paper from a prestigious school and I’m not sure what to do with it. Make a paper airplane? It was the beginning of my Quarter-life crisis.
Life kept moving. I got a job with a side of depression sprinkled with anxiety. My smart husband started working hard on his business one good choice at a time. He was building our future. We struggled with infertility and then had one, two, three kids in a row. I was officially over-educated and under-qualified for my current position of stay-at-mother of three kids ages 3, 1 and infant.
Our story has been messy and beautiful, broken and redemptive. Writing is now my career. And I have lots to write about- but I’ve always felt like Georgia Tech was a waste of time. I got a diploma that SAYS I know stuff, and my husband has a GED and a successful business that PROVES he knows stuff. I’ve struggled to own that piece of life. I’ve “hustled for my worth” to live up to being a Georgia Tech grad when I have really felt like an imposter. I told Vikki (my life coach) that I was just a good memorizer and regurgitator of information and that’s how I graduated and she said, “You ain’t that smart.” 🙂
Vikki suggested I sit with my thoughts about all of this, to ask God to help me integrate this part of my story. So I did. What was the purpose? Why did I go to college at all? Why Georgia Tech? Why a business degree? (why not writing?) Why the detour? Why SIX YEARS?
The answer came in STILLNESS…
The purpose was not the paper. It was never the paper. The purpose was in the process- who I became during those six years. Who I was when I entered Georgia Tech was not the same Bonnie that graduated from Georgia Tech. I needed that process. I needed THAT school at THAT time with THAT experience to become who I am today. It was not wasted.
Nothing is wasted in the BECOMING of who we are.
I see it now. I’m grateful for the lessons learned. Not the ones in the classroom, but the ones I learned about myself. Based on our experiences, what Keenan and I hope to communicate to our children in terms of education is this: “We don’t care about college prep as much as we care about LIFE prep.” And that looks different for every person. (Worst case scenario ALL of our kids go to college- LOL!) Currently Selah wants to be a surgeon and that’s A LOT of school, but maybe they choose a different path. Maybe they join the AMAZING hair industry (no college required). Maybe it’s music. Maybe it’s writing. Whatever they choose, we will encourage them to KNOW who they are, to SHOW up to life (make a plan + get a mentor) and to GROW up (take responsibility for your choices). And then the hard part: We will trust (gulp) that there is a Master plan (detours included) for each of them written by the Great Storyteller.
GO TEAM CLARK!