I'm not sure which to believe, first.
The fact that I received an email from the University that I applied to transfer into this coming fall - at 12:02am in the morning. Someone was apparently in the office VERY late, despite this coming week being Spring Break...
.....that I've been accepted for the Fall 2019 term and will be working toward my Bachelor's of Science in Social Work.
I've previously made this goal of mine known - but until a few nights ago, it was simply that - just a goal. I knew that there were going to be additional processes behind it. There were going to be more steps to take in order to make this goal a reality and I am now another step closer - I've decided not to apply anywhere else as my first choice has accepted me. I'll be submitting the 'hold my place' fee (an amount that's going to be somewhat painful to throw anywhere other than toward this year's heating bill) later this week and I've spoken to my VR counselor asking her for an appointment as soon as she's able. In the meantime, I'll be shifting focus onto applying for the state grants, for financial aid, and all the other required, headache-inducing, FUN stuff that's needing to be done prior to registration for classes.
I remember feeling this way, before. 23 years ago, when I held my first college acceptance letter in my hand. I'm going to college. I'm in that final stretch of road that lays between being a kid and being someone with a job, a title, a purpose.
Little did I know that almost immediately following my entrance into college the first time around, that path would crack and split off into multiple additional directions that I didn't anticipate ever having to take. It was no longer a straight line for me. In order to get to where I needed to be, there were now unexpected detours that although I would have LOVED to step over whatever obstacle obstructing my path from A to B, I felt forced into having to take the longer, more unfamiliar route. Much can be said for changed plans and shattered aspirations but it's always worse when you don't see it coming. And in an instant - everything that I knew about myself was now gone. Everything I wanted to do - also gone. My dreams? Some remained, but they were now cloudy; and this thick murkiness enveloped them all - sort of a message to the 17-year-old me that in order to see these dreams clearly again, I was going to have to wait for the fog to clear, first.
Yeah, trauma IS that powerful.
My assault did not happen on campus. It did, however, happen four weeks in - when there was still that 'I'm in college,' disbelief. My toe had been dipped; but there was still much to get used to. People to figure out. Lots to discover, including who I was - something that would only become seemingly impossible as time went on.
See, when I started college in 1996, I didn't really have a plan. I wanted to do something with writing. I thought being a playwright or scriptwriter would be ideal for me, the thought of writing for the stage and screen was an exciting one. At this point in my life, I had become very shy, very withdrawn. Perhaps that's one of the 'deaf things' my mother likes to throw forward as a possible reason for any of my 'odd behavior.'
On that note, yes, there existed little thoughts that I'd learned to not spend time with. The thoughts were present but were not considered for rethinking. Just as soon as one would pop up at a random opportune moment, it would disappear just as quickly. I remained oblivious (if simply not remembering counts) to the possibility of previous trauma and the aftereffects until I was seventeen. Until trauma looked me directly in the eye, there was that thought that lingered deep within that there was something wrong with me - based on the behaviors I remember having as a child. As these thoughts had been forced (by myself, mostly) to sit dormant in the furthest recesses of my mind, I had been plodding along, just taking it day by day. No one brought any of it up, so in turn, I did not, either. Any concern surrounding my odd behavior had been dismissed so long ago at this point, and I'd effectively been led to believe that it was my overactive imagination that birthed these thoughts - nothing more, nothing less.
Either way, I was a watcher, not a participator. I watched people from afar, took mental notes of their personalities, they'd sometimes inspire the creation of a fictional character in one of my plays, that I'd write in a spiral notebook since this was way before I had my first computer. Scenarios played out in my thoughts, and I'd write them down. I'd then mentally cast my favorite actors and actresses into the roles of my characters. I didn't consider this a life ambition nor did I think it'd get that far and that I'd be sitting next to Steven Spielberg one day, but it was a thought, it was a goal, it was a direction, even though my brain told me that it wasn't a reasonable one. There was nothing else that spoke to me - no other career aspiration - perhaps this is because Oompa threw them all at me and said they were good ideas. Even as a child/teenager, she was forever trying to manipulate me into making choices she wanted me to make and to 'shape' me into what she thought was best, with little consideration for what I wanted or believed.
"You should be a teacher," Oompa said to me, once. "What about for a deaf school?"
"Why not? You're good with kids. You're a success story and you could be an inspiration!"
Yes, I do have a way with children - I'm the favorite aunt, I'm the one who gets on the floor and plays with the kids at family gatherings, but that's generally because I prefer the company of my nieces and nephew in place of their parents and I don't see them as often as I'd like. However, Oompa was a teacher. I do NOT want to follow in my mother's footsteps in ANYTHING I do. While I do sincerely love my mother and DO owe much of my 'success' today to 'early intervention,' I harbor a very deep, hard-to-find-at-times resentment for her - there was much she could have handled differently while raising me. While there was much she did do, there were also things she neglected - things having nothing at all to do with my hearing disability.
At this point, bygones are bygones, and I've put into place an impenetrable barrier when it comes to her. It has taken YEARS, but I've managed to establish a distance between my mother and me; it has become increasingly necessary to do so as I got older and wiser. Admittedly, moving two hours away from her has helped, too.
Anyway, my first time around, I chose a major in Liberal Arts/English. I didn't know what I was going to do with it, but was hopeful that eventually a different path would present. Little did I know that one would, but in the most unfavorable way imaginable. While the goal I have today took over two decades to become clear, I spent most of my first three years of college in a daze. I'd been raped shortly after the beginning of my collegiate journey and I was still trying to deal with that aftermath of that while balancing the 'basic' introductory courses. I wasn't thinking about anything other than just getting through the current day. I was directionless, I was unmotivated, and I was LOST. I was doing just the minimum needed to pass the class - that was pretty much it. There was no longer any excitement, there was no longer any visibility on the road that lay before me. All I had left of that was the faint memory of what it looked like BEFORE - and I was proceeding in hopes of not stumbling over an obstacle that had fallen when that illusion of a perfectly mapped-out future had blown up in my face.
It was almost a relief finding myself pregnant with the Son in the middle of my third year. In a way, I took it as a sign - that I needed to begin to focus on things that I knew were a sure thing. It was time to stop wandering aimlessly. Impending motherhood was now more important to me than trying to balance schoolwork that I just wasn't of the frame of mind to be doing. And to what end? I had no idea where I was going - I was going to graduate in another year or so, but then what? Life was going to again, change drastically for me in a matter of months. It made no sense to continue on a path toward the unknown.
And so, I dropped out in 1999, telling myself that one day, when I was able to identify a newly paved road to a destination that was doable, I'd revisit the idea of picking up where I left off.
I announced late last year that I was ready to consider going back to school. The Son is now in his second semester of his freshman year in college and my daughter is in the seventh grade. I've spent the last nearly nineteen years of my life making sure they each had everything they needed. I put their needs, along with those of the wasband and my stepchildren, before my own. I gave little to no thought on what my purpose was, other than to be a wife and mother. Although I will always be Mom to my children and a wife to my committed partner of ten years, I am now ready to be something more. I am ready to work toward a career title, and I am ready for my reach to exceed that of what I'm used to. I'm ready for all of it.
Again, Oompa, who was, I believe, most excited to hear my announcement, pushed the idea of my working toward becoming a teacher. Again, I told her no. She suggested a few other things she thought I'd be good at - some having to do with working with deaf children, since I was still considered a 'success story.' Likely, she'd want some more bragging rights reserved for when I graduated and was now working as whatever she recommended. After all, my successes were because of her, didn't you know? I shot those ideas down, too.
I've previously shared with you all my aspirations to become a Social Worker. Oompa's soured expression was what further solidified this choice for me - she was SO sure that I would agree with her that social workers don't break the bank with their paychecks and I'd pick something that she'd initially recommended...her wisdom wasn't to be discounted, after all. 'It's hard work,' she also said. I wasn't sure whether to be offended that she was thinking I couldn't handle it, or to say, 'yes but because of your early intervention, I'm fully capable of a little hard work.' In hindsight, saying the latter would have shut her up immediately, but it's one of those thoughts that come to light days after the conversation had ended.
For the first time in years, I stood my ground and told her that I wanted to become a Social Worker - and that was my goal - period. I did NOT want to be a teacher. I did NOT want to be an advocate for the deaf. I did NOT want to 'apply to a trade school so that it was easier and I could start working sooner rather than later.' I had started distancing myself from my mother prior to the age of 17, and I never shared with her details of my trauma. I just never felt safe doing so. That being said, I don't expect her to understand what mainly steered me in the direction of Social Work with a focus on Sexual Assault Counseling and Advocacy - but at this point - I am past the point of attempting to explain anything to her. Her thoughts no longer MATTER to me - and little by little, I am finding myself becoming FAR more vocal with her when I disagree. You've likely seen a recent example of this with my recent decision to lease a Jeep (my choice) over a Subaru (her recommendation)...
So, now, here I am, with the acceptance email in front of me. Y'all know my tendency to ramble, and I'll try to wrap up soon, I promise. I came here to blog about something very specific I am feeling, and all that's been said before the mention of my mother, well - it's not unimportant, but it's for the most part, supporting information.
So, without further ado...
How do I feel about this acceptance? You'd think I'm whoop-whooping and clapping to myself in anticipation of finally completed some of the required steps to re-commit to going back to school. But I'm not. I can't stop looking at this letter, and although I am happy and I am pleased with myself for taking the steps I've taken, all of my doubts are coming back to say hello.
I feel something. Maybe many somethings, but for sure, it's not as simple as I'd like for it to be.
I've got jitters. Yes, definitely.
I don't want to say I'm excited because I'm not sure that's what it is. There IS some excitement though - knowing I've made good on the promise to myself to re-focus on my education is something I'm proud of. I'm so used to doing for others, and doing for myself is rare. Another thing to take pride in is having found something that, although under circumstances that I'd love to say weren't a contributing factor, I can truly focus on building a career in.
I'm nervous. I'm starting to wonder if this is indeed best. Not because of what I've decided what I wanted to do by now - but because I've been out of the 'school loop' for so long, now - I'm used to life being the way it is now - to take on school would bring forth VERY drastic changes. I know I stated above that it's something I'm ready to do - but I'm finding that the more ready you are, sometimes the doubt is stronger.
Changes are, for me, VERY uncomfortable. I am sure I am not alone in this - change is not easy for many. I'm not completely in the dark on what college life entails, but...I'm 40, now. I've spend the last 19 years building a life that didn't involve me conforming to schedules, doing homework, meeting deadlines. I'm no longer a spring chicken, and I wonder if starting over at my age is even what 's best.
I know - we never stop learning, it's never too late to get that degree, you can be furthering your eduction until the day you die - I know all this, I have even said this to others. I have to admit that a part of me anticipates there being somewhat of a sadness when I show up to my first class and I'm surrounded by kids my son's age, who are fresh out of high school and are going to get to travel that straight-line road that I was unfairly denied.
I am going to be not only required to emerge from within my 'bubble,' my comfort zone, in order to attend classes - I'll also be meeting new people, there will be discussions I'll have to participate in, there may come a time where I'll have to speak in class. All of these possibilities are constantly circling my brain because this is what I do remember having to do 20 years ago (my first rodeo) and I was the same social disaster back then. Understandably, there are going to be times I will have to say to myself, "Cap - this is all a part of your overall healing journey. To put yourself out there is to re-learn how to establish a comfortable place within society." I have been a self-proclaimed hermit for the last several years, and this, I FULLY expect to have some issues with in the beginning, as I attempt to emerge from this mental cocoon I've become so comfortable staying hidden inside of.
I'm terrified because I know that my goal to become a Social Worker is going to REQUIRE I become somewhat comfortable using my voice, being around others, looking others in the eye when I speak to them. I am going to need to learn to approach others, start conversations, learn to communicate in ways that don't involve writing emails or messages. I know that I cannot be forced by anyone other than myself to do these things. Even to self-push isn't always recommended but it certainly IS something that I've decided I need to work on as I proceed on my own personal healing path. In fact, going back to school can be seen as intertwining two positive steps toward a better me. It's inspiring but also scares the ever-loving shit out of me.
I'm also sad - because there is great irony in one of the reasons contributing to my dropping out - now becoming something that is motivating my return to school. That cannot be missed.
I know that all this seems...well, silly. At least, it does to me - I know that a lot of time has gone by since 'the first time around' and that I should be embracing these upcoming changes as I am now approaching them from an adult perspective. I know am not the same person I was at 17. I'm more mature now. I won't be attending any parties. I won't be putting myself into any potentially dangerous situations. These changes are good for me - they're healthy, they're ambitious. They're decisions I've made without pressure from anyone else. And deep down, I know that some of these concerns are probably unreasonable and I'll likely be just fine. I just feel it is important to be honest with myself and with whomever reads this - honest and truthful about what has been attacking all of my recent feel-good thoughts and leaving behind ones of impending failure.
I think, though, that there's also another thing to add to what I'm still having trouble believing. That the fog has cleared, and the road ahead has become more visible. There is no longer any debris for me to navigate over, around, under, etc. There is once again - a straight path from here to where my degree awaits. I'd taken a serious detour - but now, there is a part of me that is back where I was when I was seventeen - standing at the beginning of the road (be it made out of yellow bricks or not) and eager to get started on the rest of my life - and then there is a part of me that is fearful of that road unexpectedly changing AGAIN. It doesn't even have to be in the form of trauma - change is brought forth in SO many different ways and I've too often seen things not work out the way people hope they do. I'm just so used to things not happening the way I'd expect them to - why should this be any different?
In closing, I am asking for all of your good thoughts and well wishes as I begin this brand-new walk; there's still much to be done to put my butt into a chair by the time September rolls around. In the meantime, I've decided that now that I've had a chance to write on them, I'll say no more on my 'unreasonable' fears and instead just focus on what I CAN do to make it all a reality. Still, some motivation wouldn't hurt!
That'll be it for today, I think. I've a date with the online FAFSA tonight and tomorrow with filling out some more paperwork for the VR counselor - slowly but surely, and despite the unwelcome self-doubts, I am getting the needed steps taken. And here's another thing I cannot believe I'm hearing myself say - but I'm proud of myself for getting to this point.
Hoping you're all doing well. Until next time, friends.