Today for work My co-worker and I… We can call her Jane. (Like how I make up random names for people? Just imagine what yours would be.) Jane and I went to the Equine Affaire in Columbus Ohio. For those of you who don’t already know I am an Admissions Counselor at the greatest college in the world. Stephens College. I’m slightly partial seeing as how I did graduate from there, but all joking aside it is pretty amazing. However that’s not what this post is about. This post is about how I spend all day talking about something I love. I get to smile at people and hope they smile back. I use wit and humor in conversation to make people more comfortable in an uncomfortable situation. I mean come on. Some of you have been there, the others will be there soon. And if you don’t fall into either category then you might have opted out of school altogether. To each their own.
I actually almost opted out myself.
I graduated from a class of 27 in BFE, Tennessee. I don’t mean 27 people in my homeroom. I mean that’s how many seniors walked across the gym floor at graduation. We didn’t even have a stage. Clifton was full of Rednecks and racists and wasn’t the greatest place to grow up. It taught me to be tough and to appreciate everything I had, however it also caused me far more pain than any 16 year old ought to have to face. I wanted out. I needed out. I can remember sitting in my bedroom floor with Nickleback’s Far Away blasting as loudly as possible without enticing one of my 8 family members to check on me. I was crying because my girlfriend, who had also been my best friend for about two years, had dropped the cd off for my birthday. She followed it by telling me we couldn’t speak anymore. Her father had found out about us months prior and threatened my life, reported me to the police and insured that every parent within a 40 mile radius knew what a sick a twisted pervert (aka homosexual) I was. I found out later she had been seeing a friend of ours, but at the time I believed that she was ending it because of me. That being with me (a girl) was just too hard.
Some parents refused to let their daughters speak to me. The girls hid from me in the locker room, the guys called me faggot and dyke when I walked through the hallway. I hated myself. I didn’t want to be different. My foster sister at the time stole my journal and took it to school. They passed it around like a Harry Potter novel. Everyone read it front to back. It was a best seller, with the worst consequences. I went through hell. I really only had two choices. Girls like me did one of two things. Some played college athletics…. Others joined the military.
So I got a recruiter for both.
Stephens College was recruiting me for basketball, and the Army was recruiting me for everything else.
I almost signed with the army. It made the most ssense. I wasn’t the brightest bulb. I wasn’t the best athlete. I was awkward and uneducated (yet smarter than most in my school.) Yet Stephens wanted me. They really wanted me. They cared. I went to Columbia to visit the campus and from the moment my foot touched pavement in a Stephens parking lot I KNEW. This was home.
Stephens called me every two weeks or so helping me with my decision. My Army recruiter called even more than that. He scared me. I didn’t want to join the Army. There isn’t an aggressive bone in my body. Kill or be killed? I was dead for sure.
When Stephens called to tell me I was getting a Scholarship for softball too I threw down my guns (Ya like that?) and surrendered. I was a Stephens woman. When highschool graduation cam I was the only student to go on to play two sports on scholarship in college (They didn’t announce it.) I was the student to go the furthest away. (They didn’t mention it.) I also received academic scholarships for my academic performance and ACT scores. (You guessed it. They never mentioned that either.) Everyone else crossed that floor with beaming smiles as their scholarships were read and their families applauded. I held my head up and crossed the floor in silence… My mother gazing proudly back at me. She has always been my biggest advocate. She told me “It doesn’t matter who they think you are. It matters who you know you are.” She was right. When I graduated college this past May only two other people out of that 27 graduated college on time. Only 6 of us stayed in College out of the 9 or so that went.
When I think back on the years I spent in Hell I realize that they didn’t hate me. They were intimidated by me. I terrified them not because of what I was, but because of who I was. I wasn’t satisfied with fitting the mold. I didn’t want to graduate high school and go to a community college or tech school while raising 4 kids and cooking my husband’s supper. I wanted more than that. Much more. Even had I been straight I believe I still would have been too different for their liking.
Sometimes I get sidetracked….
What I’m trying to say is that you don’t have to be what everyone wants you to be. You’re just fine being yourself. One day you’ll meet other people who are themselves just like you… And that’s what I found at Stephens College. I found a home, where my friends became my family. I fell in love with an institution that nothing short of saved my life by educating me and exposing me to culture and history. A school that taught me that I was my only enemy. Nothing else could stand in my way, and when I let it sweep me off my feet Stephens took me great places. Places that I’m sure you’ll hear about eventually….
But that’s why I’m back here working for Stephens. An Admissions Counselor advocating for the college. My entire life I’ve wanted to help people. I’ve always wanted to make a difference. How can I do that any better than to help give the same opportunities to other young women that were given to me. What if a little Tennessee Martin crosses my door step someday? What if I can save a life, like Stephens saved mine. I can only hope….
On a brighter note. I’d like to give a S/O to Janelle Jackson who allowed me to peek into her very personal world of poetry last night. I would have included it with the other artists, however I received it after my post was submitted. I’m also a writer of poetry so I know how hard it is to put your work out there in front of a stranger. It feels strangely familiar. Kind of like the way I feel each time I submit a new blog post. There is a rush of excitement followed by a wave of fear that never fails.
I think the one I connected to the most was called “I Hope You’re Happy”. You can check them all out here!
Until Next time:
“You’re worth it. You’re always worth it. What in the hell is “IT” anyway? “IT” is whatever you believe it to be because only you can determine your own fate. Whatever you want to achieve, you can achieve. Whatever you want to do, is practically already done. Because you are strong. You are the best you there is.”
Remember me. I’m Tennessee. XO