My journey began with arrogance. I was a high school senior, obviously brilliant and clearly better than everyone else in the world. I may not have said this but it oozed from my every pore. I didn’t try hard so I wasn’t at the top of my class but even with my lackadaisical attitude to studying I was still in rocking a 3.8 and sitting comfortably in the top 10-15 percent of my class. I knew I was a genius and quite frankly too good for any average school. I mean did you read my essay? It was full of pomp and circumstance and all the fancy tricks that everyone puts into their papers to make it stand out of the pile. Reality hit like a slap of cold water across the face when I got my rejection letters from both Harvard and University of Pennsylvania. I was enraged, I mean how could they not see my brilliance?? Even my acceptance into my safety schools did not assuage my crushed ego, mostly because I selected my safety schools based on the obviously important facts like: there name sounds cool and…well, that was actually the only criteria. In my defense I was doing all this at the very last minute as I tend to since I am a procrastinator. In my childish rage and humiliation and also due to an extremely difficult conflict in my personal life I made quite possibly the best decision I have made to this day.
I took my first step upon the road that led me to start to discover myself. I chose the last option I could have possibly imagined, almost as if to spite myself. I decided to go back to the land of my ancestry and attend United States International University in Nairobi, Kenya. Immediately upon arrival I was forced to shed the facade I had erected around myself. I hadn’t realized how much my color weighed upon me until I arrived at a place where it had no weight. I felt liberated in a way that I never imagined was possible. I was alive, I belonged, I finally fit in! Alas, disaster struck. The personal conflict that influenced my move soured and caused a relationship I valued highly to fall apart. This is also part of the college experience, but I think my experience was unique in the sense that I was isolated and alone in a country which felt like home but also like an alien planet. I was emotionally flung from extremes to extremes but I managed to keep myself composed and made some fantastic friends. Here I begun to learn that there is more than just the American discourse in the world. I grew emotionally and I also understood where I was rooted. This allowed me to spread my branches and understand that the world is far larger and far more marvelous that I had ever imagined.
Thus ended the first chapter of my journey and I begun the second chapter of my journey a wholly changed creature. My perspective was broadened beyond belief and my mind was expanded to the point where I felt like I could almost see the patterns of why things were the way they were. The youthful arrogance and naivety of young love was stripped away and replaced with a deeper understanding of the human condition and a desire to rectify the pursuant wrongs. At this point, however, I was still jealous of my classmates who were going through their traditional college life. I wanted the near instant best friend bonding with roommates, I wanted the immediacy of social life and the challenge of juggling school work and constant parties. I still felt like I was missing out of the quintessential college experience. At this point I was back in the U.S. and I realized that the cost of college was prohibitive if I were to go to a four year institution locally. I decided to pursue an Associates Degree at Reading Area Community College and hopefully garner enough merits to be qualified for a scholarship. Here my journey advanced even further forward. At USIU, I understood my roots, my blackness and the intrinsic sense of self worth that is a right of every human being. At RACC, I was able to interact with nontraditional students and see from the world from their eyes in the form of discussions, debates and shared stories. I learned how to view the world from the position of someone who has been shafted by life but fought tooth and claw for the simple freedoms I took for granted like a college education. I was able to gain depth at RACC and develop a sense of self awareness and integrity that allowed me to understand that I could make it through any situation that life could throw at me. And that accident of birth may predispose me to certain paths, but only I can choose whether to walk them or blaze my own path. I graduated and then relocated yet again.
This begins the bleakest chapter of my story. I moved to Pittsburgh with the intention of attending DeVry university free since my dad taught there. However, it quickly became evident that they had deceived him and were both lacking in students and space. It was a small section of a building, hardly big enough to be even considered an elementary school. But I was willing to persevere, as I learned from RACC, one is only powerless if they allow themselves to become powerless. I started working at a ManorCare close by while waiting for the benefits to kick in. This was a time spent in relatively terrible conditions. I was working full time, I would end up sometimes working consecutive twelve hours shifts. The job was mindless and repetitive and my coworkers were not at the caliber of intellect that I typically associated myself. Keep in mind my previous experience was at a different Manorcare but I worked 4 hour shifts 3 times a week and often with friends I helped get hired. The difference was as clear as night and day. I had entered the workforce and gotten a taste of what it means to be a blue collar worker in America. To be completely honest I hated it. Absolutely detested it. However, one thing that did change was I developed cordial relationships with my coworkers and realized that though some were ex cons, some were mentally deficient and most suffered from a wide range of different issues, they were people just like me. This helped me put myself in their shoes and understand them better. This would have been a learning experience and a positive lesson had it not been for the fact that I had three friend in Pittsburgh who went to University of Pittsburgh and Point Park University. In hanging out with my friends, I was able to witness the glamour of college life and it only served to highlight and underline that desire I had to go through a normal college experience. While dancing at the edges of the action I realized that I was cripplingly lonely, my entire temperament was transforming due to my lack of interaction with people and ideas and I was sinking into a miniature depression. Luckily, as always, my family once again started making plans to relocate.
Finally, we have arrived at the current chapter. I am currently living in Baltimore and attending Baltimore County Community College. And I must say, the sun is finally shining again and my mind is once again a buzz with ideas and grand visions. But first let me tell you what I have gained from the short time I have spent here in Baltimore. I have tapped into what is considered a traditionally black college. I hadn’t known those existed except for Howard. I have tapped into another area of my racial identity that I had not touched on in Kenya. There I learned what it meant to be black. Here, I am learning what it means to be black in America. I am standing in that divide between black people and white people and marveling at the complexity of the situation. I am hearing the duel discourses that take place within a room, even though the same words are said and heard by everyone, I am becoming capable of interpreting them through the both lenses. I am learning what it means to be free and to take chances. I am learning what it means to grow. And finally, I am learning that sometimes it is not enough to know something, sometimes you must take action. I am planning to take action!
In conclusion, the question that remains is what is the point of this? The answer is this is an answer to a question I have been constantly asking myself these last three years. Would I have been better off going to a four year college? Would I have discovered the aspects of myself that I did in the fashion that I did? The answer is…I don’t know. Read the above. Take it as you will. I am not saying one way is better than the other, only saying that I am now beginning to see the value in my non traditional route to achieving my education.