Erma Bombeck’s book If life is a Bowl of Cherries, What am I Doing in the Pits? described my life perfectly until about two years ago. I began my life growing up in Bennington, Oklahoma, a small deserted town that no one has ever heard of. I hated living there and could not wait to leave it. Following graduation from high school, I moved to Sherman, Texas, where I lived with my dad and attended college. At that point in my life I was very much into partying and school was not a priority for me. My first attempt at college was definitely unsuccessful. My life of partying eventually led to jail, having to hear strong but truthful words from a judge who didn’t even know anything about me, but had seen many others come through his court just like me; ultimately, this became the turning point that led to my return to college.
After high school, my life took a wrong turn. Partying became my main focus in life. Whether it was a party or just a small get-together with my friends, there always was something to send my life on a spiraling trip downward. College was the place where I found wonderful friends, avid partiers like myself. We stayed out all night, drank, and slept all day. Partying soon became the beginning of the end of my college career. I stopped attending classes on a regular basis. I showed up when I felt like it or when I wasn’t hung over. My grades began to suffer drastically and my life was getting out of control.
I left college, for it was interfering with my social life. At first, leaving school seemed like a good idea. Little did I know that things would only become much worse. Even though my dad was a devoted partier, he began harassing me constantly about getting a job. “Do something with yourself ” he repeated daily. He wasn’t going to just sit around and let his only daughter waste her life holding a bottle of beer. “Joan LaChelle, you are capable of becoming a much better person.”
Finally, he gave me an ultimatum: to get a job, go to college, or pack my bags and leave. I decided that the second variant was easier and much more interesting. I decided to call my mother begging her to let me move in with her and her new family. And yet, another door slammed in my face. She had no need for a twenty-one year old college drop-out who was well on her way to becoming an alcoholic living in her house. That left my wonderful friends, most of whom dropped out of college, as my only hope. As expected, they welcomed me with open arms.
My friend Cindy and I decided to leave Sherman and move to Dallas where life could only get better. But it became worse than I ever could have imagined. We both landed jobs as waitresses in the same restaurant. We worked the same hours, mostly daytime, as not to interfere with our so-called “nightlife.” As weeks went by, then months, Cindy and I realized that Dallas had a much better party scene than a little town like Sherman. I began going to clubs at least four, sometimes five nights a week. I would leave the bars highly intoxicated on most nights, sometimes not knowing how I made it home safely. Then that night came, the night that I got caught. I was on my way home when I was pulled over by a police officer, arrested, and thrown in jail where I remained for eighteen long gruesome hours. I could not be released from jail until I appeared before a judge for my sentencing. I will never forget the words that Judge Jasso told me on that early Monday morning in December. “Young lady, is this the kind of life that you really want to live?” Those words changed my life forever.
I decided that I wanted more out of my life and I knew exactly what to do to achieve it. Even though I knew that it would not be easy, I decided to go to school again. Once more I called upon my mother for help, contacting her immediately after my release from jail. To my surprise, she was willing to let me move into her house until I could get back on my feet again. I moved out of the apartment that I once shared with my former friend Cindy and moved to Quinlan. To this day, several years later, I have not seen, nor heard from Cindy again. I stayed with my mother for six months. During that time I landed a job at a local retail store where I advanced quickly. I had several management positions offered to me, but turned them down because I wanted to go to college again. I moved back to Dallas, found a job and began to save every dime that I could to pay for my return to college.
Still, it was not easy. I worked at least forty hours a week, sometimes more. I began by attending night classes. I would leave work at 5:00p.m. then go to class until 10:00p.m. At first, I had very hard time adjusting to my new schedule. As time went by, I gradually became more comfortable being back in school. Without the distractions of partying all of the time, I felt that this time my attempt at college would be a successful one. My mind was made up I was going to have a career.
As I look back on my life experiences, I have some regrets for the paths that I chose to take. I feel as if I have wasted several years and have missed out on some very important times of my life, as well as the lives of my family. However, I do realize that I must not hold a grudge, nor shall I store guilt, for that will only lead my life on a path of destruction. I truly believe that things happen to a person in life for a reason. Therefore, I must leave the past behind and concentrate on my future.
John Quincy Adams once said “From the experience of the past we derive instructive lessons for the future.” I now realize that through difficult experiences, I have learned to approach my future with anticipation. My life lessons have helped me become the person that I am today. After two years, I am still attending college in hopes of becoming a nurse. My second attempt at college has proven to be far more positive and successful than I ever imagined it could be.