|I might have preemptively commemorated it on the calendar|
Yesterday afternoon I wrote my final exam for my final high school course in the history of ever. I am done. Finished. Mission accomplie.
After it was over, I went back to my car, sat there for a few minutes, and cried.
Then some dude walked by and looked a little concerned. So I panicked and pretended I was laughing, which actually just made me look a whole lot crazier.
And just when you thought it couldn't get worse, I was at a stoplight on the drive home and realized - truly realized - that I had actually just completed something really important to me. So then I cried again, but this time while yelling "YEAAAAAHHHHH!!" and "WOOOOOOOOOO!" and fist pumping like every suburban mom does on her drive home.
If there is not a newly minted YouTube video entitled "This insane woman in Ottawa traffic, though," I will be shocked. (And grateful.)
As I once shared, I have been to eight different high schools. Eight. Yet, I still entered adulthood a few credits short of a diploma. And there I sat, rather uncomfortably, for two decades.
Just like herpes, the knowledge that I had never finished high school would lay dormant, flaring up at the most inconvenient times, like when I tried to tell myself that I'm smart, or worthy of good things, or in any way accomplished in life.
You didn't even finish high school, Amanda. Everybody finishes high school - well, except you, apparently.
It was a shame that hung off me like a sandbag, weighing me down emotionally my entire life. Despite my best efforts to tell myself I was just as good as anyone else, just as smart and just as accomplished in other ways, I felt like I was walking in other people's shadows. It's one thing to have never gone to university; I know plenty of people who haven't and are quite successful. But not having a high school diploma? Why couldn't I at least do that?
I know, I know. I have a backstory. I had to leave school at 14 to go to rehab for six months. I lived on my own at 16. I got pregnant at 19.
Then again at 26.
Oh, and at 30. My husband and I apparently really like each other.
My days got full and busy and good. In so many ways, I have a great life. I've been a homeowner since the age of 22. I write for a living. I've stayed home to raise three of the best kids I know. I'm still madly in love with the father of my children. I've cultivated some truly amazing friendships. If happiness determines success, then it's been an utterly successful life.
But deep down, there has always been a part of me that felt stuck. I still felt like that girl who never finished something important. And so, in the summer of 2013, I grabbed my transcripts and signed up again.
I don't know what was different about this time, other than the fact that I have great hair now and I'm a little bit fatter. But I walked out of the school after registering, thinking that this was going to be the biggest thing I would accomplish in the next little while.
News flash: In case you haven't been reading my blog regularly, this was NOT the biggest thing I would be accomplishing in the next little while.
In fact, I had no idea what the following year would bring. I didn't know my child is trans. I didn't know she was going to come out to us two days before I was due to write my grade 11 English exam. I didn't know how stressed out and worried I would be, how much advocating I would have to do, or that I would be homeschooling her this year.
If I had known, I never would have signed up. Never, ever, ever. So I suppose it was a really good thing I didn't know.
I almost quit. After Gutsy came out, I felt so overwhelmed that I made the decision to take a hiatus. Some friends convinced me to keep going. I was a little mad at them for a while. I thought they were total jerks for pushing me forward at a time when I felt I couldn't breathe. Didn't they understand how stressed out I was? Jerks.
I decided to take the hiatus anyway, and called guidance to push my final two courses aside for a few months. She must have been talking to my jerk friends, because she also encouraged me to stick it out. What was this conspiracy? I resented the shit out of them all for encouraging the little bit of guilt inside me to finally see this goal through.
Thank you, jerks. You're the best conspirators a girl could ask for. I wouldn't be done if it weren’t for you. I might have never been done. I owe a lot of this to you.
I also need to thank Ryan, my favourite adult high school teacher. I'm pretty sure he doesn't read my blog, but he still gets a mention. He is not a jerk like the rest of you guys. Ryan, thanks for your patience, understanding, humour, and for not totally hating on me because I'm a writer in a high school English class. I know how eccentric we can be. Confession time: I despite literary essays and reading Shakespeare. I never told you that. But pretty much everyone on Twitter knows, thanks to my 140 character rants. Those things make me die a little inside, Ryan. But you know, if I had to analyze the thoughts and feelings of King Lear to get a high school diploma, I'm glad it was for you because you're awesome. And totally not a jerk. Please remember that when you're correcting my last few assignments.
Thank you to my husband, who made it entirely possible for me to be a woman of leisure/mature student/homeschooling parent/writer/painting/photographer/not really a woman of leisure after all. But your constant support, both emotionally and financially, made this possible for me. I love you, and can now analyze my feelings for you in a more educated way and even write an essay about it. But I won't.
But I could.
Thank you to my friends and family who cheered me on, including 80 bajillion of you (I did not take any advanced math courses) who congratulated me after I posted this Facebook status. Wow. You're amazing. And internet people I have yet to meet? You're amazing too. How many of you have virtually high-fived me over the last few months? (That's a rhetorical question. I learned about those in school. Please take my excellent retention into account when grading my papers, Ryan. Thanks.)
And a very special thanks to my kids, who met me at the door with hugs while excitedly shouting "congratulations!" (and "merry birthday" and "Happy Hanukkah"... sigh.) as I walked in after my exam. I'll remember that, always. I love you all so much, and I hope you carry this important lesson with you: it's never too late to follow your dreams or meet a goal, even if you're already exceptionally awesome like me, your gorgeous mother.
I feel lighter today. Definitely not physically lighter after binging on celebratory cake last night, but emotionally so. I completed a lifelong goal! And while I know it's not a big deal in terms of overall accomplishment (pretty much everyone finishes high school and most of them far sooner than I did), I'm still so proud of myself. I finished something. Take that, box of scrapbooking supplies in the basement.
I am a high school graduate. I finally did it.
With great hair, even.