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I am a High School Dropout

I never finished High School. Two weeks into my junior year at Max Klinger Gymnasium in Germany I failed a pop quiz in chemistry. Later my chemistry teacher snapped while I chatted with a classmate and gave both of us an F for poor classroom behavior. A week after that I was packing my bags for a year abroad at a small college in the States. At least I won’t have to worry about chemistry now.

I loved school up until about fourth or fifth grade when math became more abstract and physics and chemistry began. By middle school my grades slid from mostly A’s to solid B’s with a few C’s. Our class had developed a weird social dynamic in which we teased others for doing well on tests. We called A-students nerdy and uncool. I started paying less attention in class and would periodically forget my homework. When I tried to pull up my grades, it was more difficult than I thought. I had gotten behind and struggled to fill in the gaps. Grades were not the most important thing in my family so my parents did not exert pressure for top performance. I ended up being a solid B student with only one A my sophomore year, in drama.

I wasn’t stressing about grades when I started my college year in California. I would only be there for a year, focusing on improving English. The college was run by our church, extremely conservative and not fully accredited. They did offer a one year massage program which sounded fun. I loved the hands on classes and labs but felt totally lost in Anatomy and Physiology. Our teacher had an accent and I struggled to understand, let alone retain a slew of new vocabulary. I barely passed.

Part of our practical training occurred at a small holistic health center located on campus. Patients from all over came for 3 or 6 week residential programs which included vegan food, exercise, rest, education and massage and hydrotherapy. I enjoyed giving massages and getting to know the people who seemed grateful to be there.

I stayed to work in the health center that summer. Meanwhile my parents moved to a large home in the country. My mom toured the local High School and didn’t think it would be a good fit for me. We’d talked about spending a second year in the States. My parents had noticed I had become “nicer” after leaving home. I was not particularly difficult or obnoxious prior to leaving, but I had seemingly changed in positive ways and they wanted to support that.

I met with the academic advisor, hoping to gain direction in my studies. She encouraged me to stay at the small, conservative school until I would find a good man to marry. Meanwhile I could learn to become a good wife by taking vegetable gardening/cooking/sewing classes.

I thought I’d be better off brainstorming my future with a friend. We ended up deciding I could become a Physical Therapist. I could still work with patients which I enjoyed but would not have to do massage all day long. Initially I thought about becoming an assistant because PT school would be expensive and by the time I would graduate I would be 23 which sounded sooo old. You’re gonna turn 23 anyways, my friend reminded me, and then what. Good point, I thought.

Another friend talked me into attending college in Tennessee, another church school but larger and accredited. Despite not having a High School diploma, I was accepted the following year. I retook Anatomy and Physiology and nearly failed chemistry again. By the time I applied to PT school, my grades were decent but I needed to have a High School diploma. So after four years of college classes, I took the GED at a local community college. When I turned in my test, the teacher whispered: “You seem pretty bright. You should consider going to college.” To which I replied: “Thanks. I’ve already been.”

I applied to two PT schools, hoping and holding my breath to get into my first choice. My first choice sent me a friendly rejection letter. I felt devastated for a few weeks, then moved to Michigan to the school which had accepted me. I studied decently hard, ending up with mostly A’s and graduating happily at the ripe old age of 23.

I am now my kids primary teacher and worry about whether they are learning enough, making progress etc. Then I tell myself, relax, sister, you missed two years of High School and in the end, didn’t really miss a thing.

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2 Replies

  1. Heather Tourville

    This paragraph made me laugh: “I met with the academic advisor, hoping to gain direction in my studies. She encouraged me to stay at the small, conservative school until I would find a good man to marry. Meanwhile I could learn to become a good wife by taking vegetable gardening/cooking/sewing classes.” You turned out to be a great cook and I’ve seen you out in your garden, so your advisor would be proud. 🙂 Didn’t you meet Steven at Andrews?

    1. Astrid Melton

      No- we met at Southern. I never did take sewing though and as far as the garden…it needs some help. Cooking I definitely absorbed at home.

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