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When you were young, did you ever worry about your education? About what you were going to do or where you were going to go once high school was finished? I know I didn’t. It wasn’t until I got an F for every single class one semester my freshman year that I really started to think about what it was that I was going to do with my life, or if I was going to do anything at all.

I did not enjoy elementary or middle school. I wish that I could take those memories, crumple them up like a piece of paper, and throw them away to never be remembered again. Elementary school was filled to the brim with drama, backstabbing, awkwardness, and the first signs of my downward spiral.

My dad left us when I was in the fourth grade, but I first heard that he was divorcing my mom the year before. I was confused, angry, and hurt. I didn’t understand how he could leave my mom, my siblings, and me. But he did, and I’ve had to be an adult for my younger siblings since I was nine years old.
As I progressed through school, the years were not any kinder to me. I became angry and hateful towards myself and everyone around me. I practiced self-mutilation from the sixth grade through my freshman year. It frightened my family and friends that knew about it, but it frightened me most of all to watch myself crumble to pieces and not want to do anything about it.

Freshman year was the year of my brief but discouraging academic failure. My attendance had faltered in middle school, and I carried that habit into high school as well. Personally, I blame a combination of both my own laziness and depression. Most days I would just simply not get out of bed. I would lie there all day, staring at the bumpy white ceiling, hiding away from the outside world. My friends would call me during their lunch break to ask where I was, concern dripping with every word.
“Heather? You haven’t been at school at all this week…what have you been up to?” they would say; but eventually, I just stopped answering when they called. I was running out of excuses and I felt stupid. It wasn’t something that I could just come right out and say to them: I don’t want to go to school. No reason, just “I don’t want to.” The words would have felt childish and heavy on my tongue.

We had received many letters in the mail expressing concern about my attendance, but I didn’t care. I refused to listen to my mother’s pleas. She was always begging me to go to school, but in my selfishness I would simply shrug her off. In my mind, I reasoned that my own internal teenage perils were far more important than my education. But that all changed when we received the final letter. There it was, standing so nakedly bold against the harsh white paper: the date of my truancy hearing.

The office smelled how it always did when I walked in; like coffee and paper fresh out of the copier. I had low expectations when I walked into the hearing with my poor mother, but they lowered even more when I saw all my teachers sitting around the glossy round table. I could see the pity they barely tried to conceal behind their eyes, and I knew I was going to lose my credits. It was always in the back of my mind, but I thought they would simply make me go to school or put me in the alternative school. Alas, I received a zero for the entire second semester of my freshman year.

The report sat there on my kitchen table, mocking me, laughing at how shocked I was. General Science, F. World Geography, F. English 9, F. The report went on, all of them a bold black letter F for everyone one of my Failures. That was the turning point in my mind. I had two choices: one, I could give up. I could drop out, turn my back on my education forever, and work down at the gas station making the bare minimum for the rest of my life. Or, I could persevere and hope for the best.

I chose the latter, but I don’t take credit for all of it; my mom, grandparents, siblings, and friends played a big part in my decision to keep going. One in particular, Peter, was especially beneficial to furthering my education. He never failed to encourage me, and I owe my determination to him. We started dating that same freshman year, and he’s been by my side ever since.

It was hard at first, and it took a lot of focus, dedication, and support from both myself and others, but I managed to stop cutting, started doing my homework, and worked my way back up. Although I didn’t get to graduate last year with my class, I’m simply proud of the fact that I stuck with it and am able to graduate this year.

After high school, I plan on going to a community college to get some kind of Business Communications degree, and we’ll see where it goes from there.

The lesson I learned from losing my credits is this: sometimes you have to learn lessons the hard way if you’re going to learn them at all. I know I’ve learned my lesson, and I’m more confident and excited about my future than I have ever been in my entire life.





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