Success Doesn’t Have a Map

By Elijah

“Education then, beyond all other devices of human origin, is the great equalizer of the conditions of men, the balance-wheel of the social machinery.”

Horace Mann noted that education was the one thing that could make men equal. Having been in foster care since I was 7, I already knew that I was at a disadvantage. So approaching my freshman year of high school, I had my whole life planned out. I would start college at 18, graduate at 22, start law school, and be working for a law firm by 26. Right? WRONG!!!!

I can tell you everyone has a plan until they get punched in the face. I aged out of foster care on July 24, 2009. I faced plenty of obstacles when I was in care, and that didn’t change afterward. I wanted to live with one of my foster moms, but she wanted to foster other kids—something she couldn’t do with me, at 18, living in the house. I had no place to go and couch surfed for a month and a half.

So of my own initiative, I found and applied to the transitional living program, which is designed to teach kids who have recently left state care. They explain money management, cooking skills, how to pay rent, and other quintessential elements of being an adult. The program required that I work or be in school, so I chose community college. It seemed like I was back on track.

But then I started getting into all kinds of trouble. The youth were given much more freedom there than in foster care, but rules are still put in place to prevent total anarchy. My biggest problem was curfew violations. There was just something about my newfound freedom that I had to explore. The administration was on the verge of kicking me out, and the thought of being homeless again began to take a toll. My grades fell…… I needed a plan, and I need a plan fast. For a few weeks I crashed on my friend’s couch, but I couldn’t do that forever. I ended up dropping out my freshman year, and enlisting in the military.

I left for basic training In November of 2009 and returned home in June of 2010. I realized that I wanted to be an Army Officer. So I began to research on how to achieve that goal. All of the answers pointed to a college education. The following semester, spring 2011, I enrolled at a community college. I was there until spring of 2012 before transferring to Texas State University. It was here where I really developed into who I am today.

But I still faced obstacles. During my junior year I began to crumble. My car had broken down, and I needed money to purchase another one. I was in ROTC, and began to work graveyard shifts to earn more money. I would go to work at 6 pm and get off at 4 am. I didn’t have a car, so I wouldn’t get home until 5 am. I would shower and sleep for two hours, get up and get ready for class. I was exhausted physically and mentally. My grades were tanking. I came to a point where I didn’t want to live anymore. I was set on taking my own life. I was saved by some friends, and hospitalized.

When I was released, I contemplated dropping out again. In my mind I thought I was fooling myself and everyone around me. After a long talk with my professor I realized that I was a lot further than I thought, and I finished off the semester and took a break for summer. Later that year, I checked my degree audit and it hit me like a ton bricks: I was officially a senior. The whole time I was thinking I was a junior. A new fire was ignited within me. May 15, 2015 will be the day I never forget. It was the day Texas State would give me my degree. I remember walking across the stage and shedding a tear. I did it… I was finally a college graduate.
In that 6 year span I learned a few lessons. First, not everything goes to plan, and that’s okay. The second is that even in our darkest times, there’s a hint of light. I was ready to die, but I had friends that wouldn’t let me. The final lesson is this: focus on how far you’ve come, not how far you have left to go. I have plans to enter law school, and to be commissioned as a JAG officer in the United States Military. I hope you can find peace and motivation, and realize that when plan “A” doesn’t work, there are still 25 other letters in the alphabet.

Published on May 12, 2017 as part of Children’s Rights’ “Fostering the Future” campaign. The opinions expressed herein are those of the blog author and do not necessarily represent the views of Children’s Rights or its employees. Children’s Rights has not verified the author’s account.