March 8, 2013

The Girl Interrupted

I am finally approaching the finish line toward a goal I started nine long years ago. My life is the story of the girl interrupted. My childhood was interrupted when at the age of 10 years old, it abruptly came to an end. I was suddenly burdened with adult tasks and responsibilities everyday when I came home from school. I had to care for five children younger than me, including a five month old infant, sometimes I had to cook. At ten, playing and being a child was now a part of my past.

My plans for an acting career after graduating the High School of Music & Art in New York City as a drama major, were interrupted by a way too young teen marriage and an early, but happy motherhood at 20. I was really good at my craft and hadn't made any plans to be anything else. I hadn't received any guidance from anyone on going to college and becoming anything other than a secretary. I didn't understand the importance of a higher education because no one, in my immediate or extended family, aside from a few older and distant relatives, had done it. I lived life drifting about, trying this and that.

When I met my current husband, life itself became interrupted on every level. I became a victim of his antisocial personality disorder and abuse. I was subjected to all kinds of cruel, violent and controlling behavior, which included being kept barefoot and pregnant. Keys to freedom such as access to money and the ability to work were denied me. I had no money, no where to go and I had babies to take care of. My beautiful children became the shackles that held me right where he wanted me. 

But somewhere inside me, there was still that fire, albeit the size of a match flame, a knowing that I was meant to be something greater. I decided I would start with going back to school. With my little girl who wasn't quite 2 yet, and my brand new baby boy, I began the journey. That was in 2004.

Fast forward 9 years and here I am about to finally graduate in 8 weeks with my BS in Criminal Justice with a minor in psychology. In this day and time when master's degrees are the old bachelor's and bachelor's are the old high school diploma, it can feel like what I am gaining is now a useless, no big deal. I should be getting my MA or PhD, like most people my age. But since this is what must be accomplished before going on to law school, it took me nine years to get here, and considering all I had to overcome to arrive here, it's a little bit of a big deal for me.

When I add in that I finished my associate's while suffering abuse and the degradation of my heart and soul, I give myself a thumbs up. And when I know that the culmination comes after becoming a single mom with four young children, living in a new place all alone, struggling to get my bearings and back on my feet, I see it as a commencement toward the next chapter of my life with my children. Like the phoenix, I continue to rise higher and higher from the ashes of my life's ground zero. No one and no-thing will ever hold me down again.

I'm excited to be almost done and proud to show my children what you can do if you persevere and work hard. I will be their closest observable example of the words of George Eliot who said, "It's never too late to be what you might have been."