You know, I can’t remember ever being asked if I regretted not going to college. I appreciate that.
It’s hard to answer. It just wasn’t in the cards for me. That sounds like such a cop out, doesn’t it? My only defense is I was trying to survive on my own.
I don’t feel great about being in a demographic referred to as “uneducated.” But really, does it matter? Just labelling. It offends.
Surely there were other words that could have been chosen. Even “collegeless” has a better ring to it. Not having a college degree sits in a corner in the recesses of my mind.
It makes me feel inferior when I let it. Add low self-esteem and things don’t feel so hot. I compensate a little by telling myself I married a good man with a college degree, and this helps, barely.
I have friends who didn’t go — to some it matters, to others it doesn’t. It’s no longer a thing I think about much. After all these years though, it hovers.
I don’t call it regret. I refer to it as having missed a life experience — teeny amount of regret, possibly, not sure.
After all, if I had attended college, I wouldn’t be the person I am today — just think I could be a better person!! What a large thought!
I am glad and happy these days. However, if I had had the opportunity to go, you can bet your bottom dollar, I would have.
When I first moved to Atlanta, I considered goIng to Georgia State at night. The hiccup was I didn’t have a SAT score. In school in Florida, I took the ACT.
I ended up taking a bookkeeping class at a community college. I didn’t finish even this class. My car was stolen and brought on a bunch of headache. I dropped the class.
At the same time, I was taking a photography class at the High Museum of Art. Bye-bye to that as well.
When my mother became a single parent, lots of things changed. Money was tight and she had the burden of having me around.
For whatever reason, she did not file for child support. My dad didn’t provide a nickel.
College was never mentioned. Our household talk didn’t ever include ”aspire,” ”success,” thinking about a career, which schools interested me. College wasn’t encouraged.
Mother’s intent was for me to be well-educated in high school so I could get a job and move on. She said she wasn’t going to go into debt.
I would have liked to study journalism and English. I just loved diagramming sentences!
I hated high school. I’m pretty sure I hated my life, too. I couldn’t wait to graduate.
My sophomore and junior years were regular classes. My senior year I was a Cooperative Business Education student. CBE placed students in office jobs.
I went to school in the mornings. In the afternoons, I worked. My focus was secretarial science. Later, I attended community college for less than a year.
I ended up working general office for a family-owned and operated commercial printing company. I continued working there after graduation. I made minimum wage of $1.60.
This was okay while I was living at home, but it was lean when I was on my own, even with a roommate in a furnished apartment. Maybe I got a small increase, but I don’t remember. It would have been change, not dollars.
For a few months at some point, I worked for an insurance company at night. Christmas was coming so I needed a little extra.
I was an okay student, although my mother was unconvinced. I got my first C in typing my sophomore or junior year. Mother was mad as usual, “Well, anybody can type. How could you get a C?”
As if this wasn’t bad enough, the next semester I got my first and only D in American History. Happily, I don’t remember the fallout from that.
The counselors tried to explain to my mother I was having a hard time adjusting because my parents were separated and would divorce. I also had the trauma of having left Eminence a few years earlier.
I didn’t feel particularly good about those grades myself.
I graduated with honors and was a member of National Honor Society. The Beta Club was but a dream — definitely didn’t have that in me!
I had left the printing company when I decided to take classes at the community college in the evenings. My goal was an associate degree as a legal secretary.
Here’s a doesn’t-make-me-feel-good memory. One of the required classes was advanced shorthand. I took regular shorthand in high school and couldn’t stand it. It was terrible. I don’t like being rushed — funny since I have immediacy issues!
It was exam time in shorthand class and there were two tests. I think the goal was to take down 120 wpm. I passed with no problem on the first test.
Time arrives for the second test. I’ve already had a day of work. It’s raining, thundering, quite stormy really. I decided I was going to skip the test. I took a nap on the couch.
The phone rings. It’s my teacher. She’s asking where am I. She pleads with me to come in to take the test. She expresses how important it is. I didn’t go. Such an ingrate and stubborn, and let’s just go ahead and call it what it was – stupid.
I have thought about her off and on through the years. What a good soul she was. She cared enough about a student to help and encourage them on their path. I wish I were that selfless.
I was surprised when my report card displayed an ”I,” incomplete. Since I had done reasonably well on the first test, I thought that would be enough. It’s obvious I didn’t understand how grading worked!
My job after the printing company was working for the Division of Florida Land Sales. It was a state government agency.
My boss at the time, Mrs. Baldwin, was ahead of her time. She ran the show. Right-hand woman to the Director. She had been to the printing company office a couple of times.
One day she walks in and says, “Would you like to work for me? When can you start?” That was that. I don’t remember an interview.
I started out as receptionist, then promoted to what was basically the complaint department. Next, I ended up working for the general counsel.
Mrs. Baldwin was responsible for the promotions. She messed up a bit, as far as I was concerned, when she put me in the legal secretary position. I was ill-prepared and boy did I struggle. I was still going to CC.
The attorney dictated a lot. My shorthand was severely lacking. I just couldn’t keep up when he was dictating. It wasn’t uncommon for me to go back and clarify what he had said or intended. Yes, this was embarrassing.
I totally don’t know how I survived that — but now I could call myself a legal secretary. This opened a few doors. Later, I started working in law firms — mostly positions that didn’t require shorthand.
It is thanks to the ever ambitious, driven, and vivacious Velma Baldwin that I became a legal secretary. I didn’t end up suffering through two years of night classes at the CC or incur the expense.
However, it would have been a nice touch if I had that associate degree piece of paper. That would be something at least.
I don’t believe the field of law was a good fit for me mentally, but it paid the bills. I wasn’t comfortable in what I perceived as a subservient role. Thanks to my mother, I already had trouble with authority. With time and working for the right people, this improved.
There were college-educated women who were legal secretaries. I kept this in mind. I didn’t feel like I was not up to snuff for the jobs, but I did feel I was not in the same league.
And so …
One morning recently, Paul and I were discussing this post. He said, “You know what is sad is you would have been good.” (We love Paul.)
I’m pretty comfy doing what I do these days. Life is good. I’m not the type of person who is inclined to go to college at this age. Hats off to those who are.
Joan Didion said, ”I don’t know what I think until I write about it.” It’s amazing how true this is. So I have written about a missed life experience. I might have a tendency to say I have ”just an itsy bitsy amount of regret.”
I so want to say ”no regrets.” The reason I want to say that is because I want to leave this world having no regrets. I have been given a good life with wonderful people in it so who am I to complain about it?
After all, there are so many other things for which to be thankful. Not attending college is no longer important. I would have loved to have given it a whirl though.
Did you know?
About 88% of boomers graduated high school and 28% hold a Bachelor’s Degree or higher; 58% of boomers have at least some college experience. http://www.siit.net
As always, thank you so much for reading. Comments are always appreciated and welcome.