The last time I sat in a classroom, I was sixteen. Twenty years later, I'm back. I'm in a different state of the union now, as well as a different state of mind. I had no problem with the academic parts of high school. It was the social aspect that really threw me. As soon as I could quit, I did. I eventually attained my diploma, though many years later.
I was never part of the "in" crowd. I was more your average loner who acquired a few other loner friends along the way. We were the last ones picked for a team, the ones forgotten in a mass of names and faces, the ones to whom the benefits of well placed connections & resources did not apply. This made my school experience very difficult.
The thought of going to college was certainly inspiring, but impossible. My parents couldn't afford it. It had never been on the radar. Even if I did go, I would probably continue to be the loner, the outcast, the invisible. What other people thought of me mattered. Their word was my worth... or lack therof. I would never measure up, so I laid the hope to rest & started working.
Through counseling, I've come to understand that, yes, worth can come from other's affirmations or accusations. However, a person's true worth can't be bought and sold based on circumstances. It's inherent. It just is. Being a loner, an outcast, invisible- these are symptoms of a deeper disease- one that originates in the heart. It's called Hope Deferred. Hope Deferred makes the heart sick. It skews the gauge that measures the value of worth. My hope of acceptance, of having security in life, of being "known" had been deferred for a very long time. It started at home & my peers had merely helped build on the foundation.
By the time I was sixteen, I felt like a senior citizen trying to race my peers up a flight of stairs. Everyone else seemed to rush past me. I was tired, out of breath. The task at hand was overwhelming & my "body" was wracked with pain. So I gave up. My heart was sick & everyone acknowledged it, but no one knew how to help me. Afterall, they had their own crap to worry about. I hung out on that stair well for a great many years... stuck.
Now, as I walk through a campus bustling with bright eyed teenagers & twenty somethings, I feel transported to the stairwell once again. But I'm not that same geriatric kid... I am merely an observer, moving in the flow of my present life. I'm taking the elevator this time. As I ascend, I watch the floors tick off, one by one. My hope, health & understanding of my inherent worth are being restored daily. I'm gaining momentum. I'm thirty-six and I'm a student. This time, I'm not going to school to find my worth, but to celebrate it.