Discouragement could be all that's left, if I were built some other way. But I have fondled and molded, and meandered through terrain that discouragement does not even have the courage to find. Fearless, with direction, I can reach whatever goal I set for myself.
After dropping out of full time school halfway through eighth grade, life became an interesting blend of social circumstance and human interaction. The careers most common for people without some kind of education are those considered to be "menial" tasks, or "manual" labor. Just the words alone leave a bitter taste on my tongue. The difference is that the meaning of either word is not in and of itself negative, but rather the social implications which are embossed upon them have decidedly been negative, or "beneath" those who define the words themselves. Perhaps that is what saved me, my love of words, and literal way of looking at things.
At nineteen, I gave birth to a miracle son. The life of another being whose heart you can feel inside you, is both a treasured gift and an awesome responsibility. He transformed my life. From the time of conception, I could feel his energy. It didn't matter to me that I had no education, at the time, I did not understand the implications, nor did I care. Here was this life, this very special life, that had been gifted to me by the Universe to care for, teach, learn from and share with. I knew that I would have whatever tools were necessary to do just that.
It's funny how perspectives change with new information. The experiences I had from that moment forward were more than just my own, they influenced another life. I wanted the best for him, so I learned to make the best of situations, no matter what they might appear to be. I learned how to see them in many ways, a gift that continues to grow within me. When he was three years old, we had no brick and mortar home, our home was a tent we'd borrowed from a friend, and a truck, we came to know as Ole' Betsy that housed our essentials. I cooked our meals in coffee cans over an open fire, in a campground next to an old drive-in theatre. We shared laughter, and watched movies on a wide open screen, while we pretended to know what the people in the movie were saying. It was our time together that mattered, and how we shared those moments still carries a great weight for both of us.
When you ask him about his childhood, he's likely to tell you about roasting marshmallows over candles on the living room floor, or catching fish out the living room window (the creek was right below us). He might tell you that his Mom can rebuild a carburetor, or make the best cookies this side of the Rockies, but what he remembers from his childhood are mostly warm memories of good times, no matter what our situation was. I know it could have been different with an education that allowed me to do more than wait tables, or cook for a living, but the experiences were grand.
Now I'm in my late 40's looking back on all that has transpired, and while I would not change one single thing, I know that it is important to share with others the hope that comes with getting an education. It's not just about learning something in school, it's about the self-esteem and self-efficacy that comes along with doing the work. It's a change in the way that society views you, and your accomplishments, and it's about moving away from caring so much about their perception of who you are and moving in to how you feel about yourself.