I shunned college after high school. The thought of going to another institution where I was fed another pre-selected curriculum with limited electives didn’t appeal. My grandmother and I had a heated argument over my choice one day while she washed clothes. She slammed a towel into the washer, turned toward me and waved her finger, “You’re going to go to college, or you’re going to get out,” she commanded. Defiant, I told her I would prefer to work two jobs, which I ended up doing—a full-time day at Food Lion and a full-time evening job at Pepsi-Cola.
That didn’t last long.
As fate had it, my grandmother once again got her way. One Wednesday night in July, while loading soft drinks onto a truck at Pepsi, I kicked some loose plastic on the warehouse floor. Not seeing it lodged under a palette, I felt a slight pop, but dismissed it as tweaking my knee. I worked two more nights unaffected by the pain. By the end of my Friday evening shift, my left knee looked like a coconut. My grandmother took me to see a doctor the next day who said my bones were fine on X-rays, but I needed an MRI. He noticed instability in my knee. The MRI showed my worst fear—a torn ACL. My orthopedic specialist briefed me on ACL reconstruction surgery and recovery. I was in for a boring fall.
Two weeks out of surgery, my grandmother mentioned again that I should go to school. Given I would not be working for the next 3 to 4 months, I agreed and enrolled in our local community college.
Thumbing through the college catalog excited me. College was nothing like high school. There were required classes, but as I completed those, I could spend more time on courses related to my major. I could have saved myself a lot of pain by listening to my grandmother. But she didn’t complete high school. What did she know about college? When the arrogance of my youth was replaced by wisdom many years later, I learned that a parent’s missed opportunities become focal points of their parenting. She understood education was the best way for me to leave my hometown because nothing was here for me.
I transferred out of community college after a year and I went on to earn my degree in graphic design. While my knee has given me issues from time to time as I’ve gotten older, it serves as a reminder that my mom loved me enough to fight me over my future. That injury afforded her one last opportunity.
I share this story with you on this month of high school graduations and life transitions to remind you that even though your kids are growing up and changing stations in life, they still need your guidance even if they don’t realize it. Fight for their future the same way that my grandmother fought for mine. They will hate you today but thank you tomorrow.