Closer Than I've Ever Been Before
By Rebecca Turner Miles
I promised my dad I'd go to college. He tried college once, but it just wasn't for him. He was a talker, not much of a listener. He was successful as a salesman and never really regretted dropping out of college after a semester and a half until the economy crashed in the mid-nineties. When I graduated from High School in 1999 in Southern California, my dad gave me $100 as a gift under the condition I would try to go to college. He cried when he said he couldn't pay for it. I didn't know it then, but that $100 was probably all the money he had.
I worked all summer to pay for that first semester at Riverside Community College and in the 12 years since that first semester I've changed majors twice, lived in three states, had three children and found more start-overs and do-overs a woman could hope to find. In 2003, on my third attempt at college, I returned as a single mom. The Governor of California, Gray Davis, attempted to raise community college tuition from $12 to $27 a credit. We decided to protest and marched up to the capital with picket signs and chanting. More than 1000 students stood on the steps of the capital building. My then 6 month old son Caleb and I made the cover of the Press Enterprise Newspaper- he in his stroller with a sign taped to the top that read, “Don't make my mommy choose between diapers and books.”
Now, as I can't stop the runaway train that barrels toward “30,” (I celebrate my 30th birthday in November) I am at the point where I can look back and reflect both positively and negatively at the journey.
Yes- I am 30 and still a server- a sales person just like my dad.
Yes- I have 3 beautiful kids who will hear the same apology I heard, I won't be able to pay for their college education either.
Yes- I am 30 still not quite holding the Bachelors degree I promised my dad 12 years ago.
Yes- I could be a practicing physician in this amount of time.
But- I am closer than I've ever been before. I am determined this time to finish the task I have been working toward for so long. Three semesters until I can gift wrap up that diploma and send it to my dad.
This is for him. This is for the three kids who will value a college education because they saw their mother do homework, and stress finals week, and came with me to class on the occasions there wasn't a babysitter available. The kids who will make signs and hold them high at my graduation. I imagine them reading something like “That's my mom!” or “My mommy's going to be an executive!” Different of course from the one taped to the top of Caleb's stroller so long ago. I imagine my dad sitting next to them. And that image, that moment is for me, the fruits of my hard my work, both for Red Robin and my household coming together, crossing a finish line. Accomplishing something for my past, empowering something for my present and establishing something for my future.