Around this time last year I was busy applying to college. Clicking that 'submit' button on my online applications, I imagined myself in New York City, going to poetry readings and cramming for various exams. I listened to Patti Smith and Lou Reed over and over in anticipation of receiving acceptance letters. But my acceptance letters were followed by even more important pieces of mail, my federal financial aid statements, or FAFSA.
The minute I saw the amount of financial aid I qualified for, I knew that the price tag of my dream was way out of my budget. My mom is still paying off her college loans, and I had already spent more than I could afford paying for official transcripts, applications, and the ACT test. Tuition at my top school was $30,000 a year and I was going to be on the hook for two-thirds of it.
I think I went through the seven stages of grief after that. I was sad, I was angry, I blamed myself and then the college system. I even blamed my mother. It was short-lived but the resentment I felt about deferring my dreams was powerful. After months of telling people my college plans, I was going to have to re-explain everything. I felt phony, like I had lied to everyone I knew.
So when my friends left for college, it was bittersweet. Sure, I was going to miss them, but I wasn't going to miss the question "So, what are you doing now?" Honestly, I didn't have an answer.
A lot of things have changed for me since then. I've realized that while my friends may be learning in university classrooms, I'm gaining knowledge as well. I'm enrolled in community college, I have a great job, and I've moved out of my mother's house, to give myself the sort of independence I had hoped to get by moving away to college.