Graduation

Sometimes, I forget to be proud of myself, of my parents for fashioning a life for me that includes and education and opportunity. Today I can’t help but to think of going home this summer, to the place I was born. This small town is a place most everyone I know now would ignore in passing, a tourist town that barely scrapes by in the Midwest. My friends in Virginia are used to shiny buildings, new construction, and Chipotles. The town I grew up in is tired and dusty. The girls I grew up with are now mothers and wives, roles they chose, and roles I would have chosen as well.

I never thought of school when I was young, of college. I wanted only to be a mom, and growing up my mother, who had a 2-year nursing degree, stayed at home and I knew the work was hard.

When I moved to Virginia, everyone in my middle school talked about college. They knew how to pick colleges, had family members who had gone. While my father had gone to a four-year university, his parents helped immensely with his tuition, a thing my father was unable to do for me. My mother had worked her way through community college class by class, paying as she went. Her parents decided her degree; her income decided where she would go.

I didn’t tour schools. I felt clumsy and out of place among my friends who were choosing schools based on “what felt right.” I was lost in the financial aid process, in student loans, trying to decide if it was even worth it to go to school. My parents wavered, I wavered. I knew I would go, but I didn’t know if it was really the right thing.

I envy them, still, my friends who went away to school and felt they knew they had made the right choice. I never felt that. I stayed at home. I feel stuck, even now, like I haven’t accomplished anything compared to all the others I know who went away, grew and changed so much. When I think of my hometown, though, of my new goals, the new opportunities, of that moment I’ll receive my degree, my parents watching, I know this is bigger than myself. I imagine I’ll be crying of happiness, for myself, for my mother, for my family and this accomplishment we all share.