This is a small excerpt from a chapter of my forthcoming book–a micro-story in itself:
I grew up poor and neither of my parent’s finished high-school, so the idea that I would one day go to college never even crossed my mind, really. It just wasn’t something we did in our family. College was something that my brain knew existed, but my heart felt was a fairy tail, like a moderate republican. Even community college seemed out of reach and too expensive, until one random day, stocking shelves in Jewel, my friend’s mom came into the store and we began to talk.
“Phil! It’s so good to see you. What have you been up to? Are you taking classes at OCC?”, Ms. Reeves asked me.
“No. I can’t afford college. And I was never a decent student anyway. I’m just working.”, I explained to her.
“But you were always so brilliant. You absolutely have to be in college. There is no excuse. Listen, tomorrow, you are going to go to Oakton Community College and sign up for four courses. My son just signed up so I know enrollment is still open. Put down my address for the bill and I’ll take care of it.” Ms. Reeves laid out plainly.
I felt awkward and didn’t know how to respond, but my instinctual reflex was, “Oh no, I couldn’t possibly ask that of you. I really, really appreciate the offer, I just..”
“Phil. You’re not asking anything of me, and I’m not asking you either.” She clarified, wearing a very stern face. “Now you are too damn smart to not be in school. You just got in trouble in grade school cause that school was too easy for a smart kid like you. College will be different. They will challenge you and nurture your mind.”
I always was a troublemaker in school, since I was a kid. A class clown. I was such a poor student, as far as report cards convey, that I internalized my identity as a poor student and felt like I wasn’t meant to be in school. The ironic thing, that I’m not sure I realized at the time, was that one of the most rewarding experiences in my life has always been learning, and being intellectually stimulated. I always loved being shown knew ideas and ways of seeing the world. It’s the same reason I love reading and love seeing a Magic trick. It’s why I love debating ideas (Often to the chagrin of my less interested friends), and love making love to someone for the first time—discovering new movements and textures and feedback. As much as I loved learning, I always hated class and did everything from writing raps and drawing in my Black Book ,to joking and passing notes to distract me from the teacher’s presentation. I couldn’t help but concede, “Ok. Thank you so much Ms. Reeves. I’ll pay you back as soon as I can. I promise.”
“Nonsense. It’s a gift. My art has been going really well lately. Don’t even think about it.” And with that, my college career began the next day, at Oakton Community College. Though she didn’t exactly remain with me throughout my whole college career, her gift was a pair of good boots that set me up for the long, steep journey through the mountains of higher education—a journey I never would have dared to begin without her love, kindness and a gift, not of money, as much as faith.