I graduated high school in May 2003. Accomplishing what some said I never would, and I had never been happier to prove them wrong, and most importantly, I had survived high school. Kind of weird to say and a bit dramatic, but it’s true, especially considering that some kids (even today) …..never do.
I felt like I was released from a prison in a way. The day after graduation…. the sun was brighter, the air was lighter, and for the first time in almost 10 years….I felt relief! HALF of my nightmare was finally over. I felt empowered; feeling that whatever life was going to throw at me, it couldn’t possibly be much worse than what I had already been through. I felt I had nothing more to lose and everything to gain…..including a new future.
My mom had hoped that I would go to a local college, but honestly, hell would freeze over first before I’d agree to stay local. I wanted to be in a place where I knew no one and no one knew me. I needed to start over and college was the only solution of making that possible. I began to research colleges that were over 200 miles away…I thought it would be a good distance to start with. This ambition is what lead me to Chicago, but there was a small problem with my decision….. I didn’t know a damn thing about Chicago….NADA! I barely knew where it was in the state of Illinois, let alone, how big of a culture-clash it would be. I had no idea how big it was, how busy it was, the diversity, how to utilize public transportation (most people drive everywhere in St. Louis) or how dangerous the city could be to a 19-year-old social butterfly like myself with limited street smarts. This in turn made my family insanely nervous for my safety, but bless them, they didn’t stand in my way of wanting to go.
NEXT STEP: Get accepted into a college! Easier said than done!
Due to my horrendous transcripts from high school, I had to “wow” the admissions department to get accepted. Initially, I was technically rejected, but I was not about to take “no” for an answer. Therefore, I had submitted an admissions essay on why I wanted to attend ILIA, and needless to say…..they were very “wowed” with my letter; stating it was “incredibly passionate”, and the initial rejection was reversed, and I was officially accepted into the Illinois Institute of Art as a fashion design major. Even though I couldn’t really draw or sew worth a damn….still….I had never been so happy before in my life.
I moved into my new place the night before my first day of classes. It was a large studio on the 17th floor that overlooked parts of downtown and the Sears Tower. That first night was an awkward one. I didn’t sleep…I was excited, but scared knowing that for the first time in my life…… I was completely on my own. After I managed to freak myself out enough, I ended up taking a walk outside to the front entrance of the apartments (in my PJ’s and slippers), and met my first college buddy, Brendan*; a tall, lanky, curly-haired street artist from Madison, WI. He was very laid back and had a open personality that made it easy to start up a conversation with him. We sat and talked on the bench for about an hour or so, going back and forth about where we were from, and how nervous I was about going to my first class considering that I didn’t have a clue on how to get to the campus (2003…no smartphones or GPS apps). So Brendan politely offered to walk with me since we had the same Design 101 class together, and through him, I met a group of friends that were my backbone while I was there. It was amazing! I literally woke up every morning, looked out the window, and said to myself, “OMG, I made it, I’m here”, and I just remember the incredible feeling of happiness, hope, gratitude….emotions I wasn’t used to experiencing on an everyday basis. As time progressed, everything was going so well, classes were solid, friends were awesome, times were good, and of course, reality was about to hit me like a ton of bricks.
……I had ran out of money. I could no longer afford my monthly housing costs, and with no money for school, there was definitely no money anything else, and I began to fall apart rapidly knowing that I was on my way back to the town that I hated beyond recognition, and that I had worked so hard to get away from. It was the first time I ever really felt as though I had failed. Feeling that I missed my one shot to become someone and to do something extraordinary was absolutely devastating to me. A few weeks after finding out of my financial situation, I ended up returning back to my small town, back in with my mom and right back to square one. I was down, but wasn’t giving up yet. I had another plan!
*Dedicating this post to the memory of Brendan Scanlon aka “SOLVE”
Brendan was murdered in Chicago, June 14, 2008. He was 24 years old.
— Thanks for looking out for me and creating the best prank on my mom ever!
I sent my mom this picture, and told her this was a real “tattoo”
……she fell for it.