I had mastered all of my colors–and then some, of course. Fuchsia and chartreuse were strangely not on the card handed to me by my teacher. As two of my favorites, this made no sense. I asked her why the omission, and she very matter-of-factly explained that she would add those to my card for the spring test.
“Oh. Good idea.” I agreed.
I had also mastered my numbers, my sounds, and already loved reading. Feeling pretty good about myself and the stickers I’d just received from my teacher, I sat down to help Jose with his sight words and was gleefully cheering his efforts to sound them out. Soon, Jose, Sheldon and I were all practicing. I would hold up the flash cards and count to three to see how they did. I even added what I thought were better words for them to learn to the backs of several of the cards.
“Miss P., I can be a teacher whenever you need, ‘kay?” I called up to her as she walked past.
“Sarah, I do want you to be a teacher. Just not yet.” She replied, smiling down at me.
“What? Why not?”
“First,” she was very quiet and clear asshe said this, leaning down and looking me straight in the eyes. The moment felt sacrosanct. “You need to get a good scholarship and go to college. I’ll help you do it, but that has to come first.”
College? I could go to college? I had seen the pretty ladies in my tv shows go to college, but I didn’t know I could go to college! And who knew teachers went to college. Well, really, who knew anything about college?
I went home and told my momthat I could go to college. It turned out that she already knew. She and Miss P. had been talking about it at Parent Teacher Conferences. Wow.
I began playing with my dolls and stuffed animals at night creating what I envisioned to be college-going scenarios. Soon I was telling everyone about college. Family friends even gave me little trinkets from local colleges–the tee shirt from Clark College even had Mickey Mouse on it and looked great with my Mork and Mindy suspenders. It really did!
A few years later, I made friends with agirl whose parents had both graduated from college. I was so impressed!
College hadn’t exactly become an obsession but it was definitely something I craved information about. I asked all the adults I could if they went to college and where. I had learned that colleges had sports and drama departments and places you could live at while you went to school. It sounded perfect.
Every teacher I had thought it sounded perfect for me too. They all told me how smart I was and they praised my hard work. But it just kept getting harder.
Life was chaotic. We moved a lot and changed schools almost as much. I was sick all the time. I was scared too. I didn’t sleep well. And there were a lot of tears. At least, I thought, no one at school knew what my life was really like.
Eventually, no one knew what I was like either. Withdrawn, shy, exhausted, and overwhelmed, not only was I not on the honor roll, but I had no idea how I’d ever make it to college. I wasn’t sure I’d be able to do anything but work. I even kept a bag packed in case I had to leave and head out on my own.
“Hey. You sit next to me in finance, right?” His accent was thick and his smile adorable as he tilted his head to look down at me. He was at least a foot taller than I was, but most guys were.
“Uh. Yeah.” I mumbled. “I do.”
“Cool. Wanna hang out?” I blinked.
“What? I mean, okay. Sure.” who was this guy, I wondered. “Remind me your name,” I managed.
“I’m Ji. I’m staying with a host family here. I’m actually from Korea.”
“Wow! That’s awesome,” I felt somehow connected to him in that moment. I was new to the area, new to the life style as a former inner city girl trying to acclimate to the upper class suburb I’d found myself in withmy mom’s latest marriage.
He had come to the US to go to college, but decided to do a year of high school first to work on his English a bit more. So he was older than I was as we started the year together. I was a junior in high school and he was already nineteen. But we connected.
I’d help him with his homework. He’d drive me wherever I needed to go and give me time away from my crazy house whenever I needed. By the time he started college, we’d become best friends. He was my only friend, really.
We spent every day together. He was worried about me. My mom’s drinking had gotten bad. He was certain that if it weren’t for me, my family would fall apart so he did what he could to keep me grounded.
He needed me too, though. Still insecure in his English, I edited every paper and coached him through each assignment.
“I got an A!” He exclaimed, hugging me.
“Way to go!”
“You know I couldn’t have done it without you,” he said. “I told my professor about you and even showed her some of your poetry. She said you could easily get a writing scholarship even with your grades the way they are.”
I’d barely managed a 3.0 with my honors classes and wasn’t on track to graduate after this last change of schools. But someone thought I could still get a scholarship. …
Miss P.’s words came back to me. M
aybe college was still a possibility, even a scholarship. I signed up for the SATs that weekend.
My SAT scores barely qualified me for entrance into the state schools, but barely is good enough it turns out. I didn’t get a scholarship, but Ji told me about work-study. I could pay my way through school. I knew how to work hard, after all.
But I’d have to get away. I couldn’t take care of the family and work and go to school. So I made the biggest decision I’ve ever made, to this day. I left my family. I left the state. I left Ji, with his help. It was my turn to travel and explore new worlds.
So I went away to college and I never looked back. I became a kindergarten teacher, just like Miss P. and told everyone of my students that they could go to college. And I just passed my comprehensive exams for my doctorate in Educational Leadership.
The universe works in mysterious ways. I know Miss P. and Ji were sent to guide me. I pray, now, that I can guide others–from kindergarten to college, and beyond!