RISE: In the Words of the Uneducated


“It hurt, going from being a straight A student, to failing.”

Growing up, I was rebellious. Granted, I had valid reasons for my rebellion. Over a period of five years, I experienced more than any one person should have to experience in a lifetime. My parents divorced and, in that time, gone on to new relationships. My world had been torn apart by alcoholism, addiction and heartbreak.

Years of moving around had left me hopelessly behind in school. It hurt, going from being a straight A student, to failing. The drugs I had turned to for coping were not helping the situation either and most days when I did show up for class, I was lost to a drug-induced stupor. (I wonder how my teacher didn’t see it? Or maybe they didn’t care?)

I had to get out of my house. My mother’s boyfriend was a tyrant and I could not take it any more. When I spoke to school counsellors, they made it out that it was my issue with him; it couldn’t be that bad. They were wrong. I left home. I stayed with friends, lived in my cousin’s empty house, sleeping on a mattress on the floor. I lived in a car for a time. I was 15 years old when this was happening. I did not go to the government. I was terrified of foster care. I had heard too many nightmares from friends at the hands of foster parents and group homes. I tried to go back to school. I tried the out school programs, but taking buses in the dark, cold nights of winter ended that. I was living in the worst part of town and I had too many close calls with perverts.

I answered an ad to be a shampoo girl one day and began an apprenticeship for hairdressing. My dreams of university, college–of normal–were gone. I felt validated, because I was learning a trade and I accepted my place in life. Uneducated, unrefined, uncultured.

My lack of education, was something I hid. I tried to watch people and learn social skills. I’d watch the way people ate to adapt their table manners. I watched the way people spoke, so I could copy them and not come out sounding like an uneducated bumpkin. When I found myself stepping into a new social situation, like a nice dinner or an evening at the theatre, I asked the women patrons at the hair salon how I should dress and how I should act. Looking back, they were so lovely. They helped me fumble my way into society.

As I grew older I became a sponge to my environment, desperately wanting to rise above my social status. I hated that uneducated poor girl from the wrong side of town. I wanted to bury and squash her.

A family took me in, I had been dating their son and after we broke up, the mom came and got me. She knew how bad things were at home. I had gone back after having no couch to sleep on, but after my mother’s boyfriend beat up my sister, I was done. I had to leave. I recovered in that home. They gave me love and acceptance. They encouraged me and stood by. I gave them plenty of reasons to kick me out over the years, but they never did. They loved me and I know our paths crossing was the work of God.

Today, when I find myself at a table of educated degrees, I still feel myself shrinking back. I don’t want to say a thing, because I worry “she” will show up. That girl from the wrong side of the tracks. The girl who should not have made it out. The girl who knows nothing.

When people hear about my past and my new start to life, I am often asked how I rose above it? I don’t have an easy answer to that. I hated her. That poor, uneducated, messed up girl. I hated feeling helpless and hungry, growing up between welfare checks. I hated being alone in that house sleeping on a floor with just a mattress that wasn’t even mine. I hated being invisible.

Today I am 38 years old. Still uneducated, but I don’t hide that anymore. Somewhere along the way, God fixed that. Instead of looking back at myself, feeling repulsed and ashamed, I embrace her. She made me who I am today and I am learning to love her.

When I felt called to write, it was one of scariest things God could have asked me to do. I battle with myself every time I sit at my keyboard. What can I possibly say to an educated reader? But then my heart pours out.

I knew long ago, I wanted to share my stories. It is a dream planted by God and it won’t go away. I feel like I am at the beginning of this journey and only God knows the end. So I put myself out there. I fight the insecurity and doubt, each time my finger hovers over the publish button. I pray that I have not missed words, messed up grammar, confused the tense in my article. I pray that people will not see my lack of education, but hear my heart. I know time will correct all those technical things I battle with. I know experience will shape my voice and the writer that is buried down there, will rise up.

This is the life I dreamed about.


Dear SheLoves friends:

  • What story have you had to rise above?
  • What is the dream in your heart that seems impossible still?