Unacceptable Barriers to Break
I packed my bags and prepared to leave home, for sacrifices I needed to make. But some of my family members were not as excited about my decision.
“I can’t believe you’re just moving and leaving everyone,” said my cousin, glancing over all of the boxes.
“In order for me to be happy and for my dreams to flourish, this is what is best for me and [him,]” I told her. I was leaving Indianapolis with my 2-year-old son Jayden to attend Ball State.
Two weeks after that conversation, I helped my brothers load the U-Haul truck. I couldn’t help but think about the comment my cousin made about me leaving. I thought how could I leave everyone? Was leaving my family and friends behind the right thing to do? How would my son feel not being able to see our family, whenever he wanted?
I had to remind myself once again to break the pattern. Thirty-six percent of African American single mothers attend college, according to the Institute for Research on Poverty at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. But the rate of a single parent getting a four-year degree is lower than students without children.
I wanted to be the first person in my family to attain a college degree. In order to do that, I had to leave and create a better life for Jayden and me.
Once I got to Muncie, a few of my friends came to help me pull my apartment together. I left Jayden in Indianapolis with my mother. I wanted to surprise him with his new Sesame Street room décor; that was my way of telling him that everything would be OK. Even though we would not have our family right there, at least he had a comfortable room.
I picked Jayden up the next day from my mother’s. We said our farewells and hugged tightly, holding back tears. She said she was proud of me and that everything would be fine. My mother has always been my backbone and I was only moving 45 minutes away, but that seemed too far away from each other. I cried as I turned the corner of my mother’s street.
Riding through campus, the air seemed fresh and students were walking around in their Ball State attire. Everyone wore sweats and t-shirts. Coming from the city I wasn’t used to that. It made me think how was I going to represent my new school.
“I don’t have any [Ball State] clothes,” I thought to myself.
This was my first time driving through campus seeing students enjoying the weather and preparing for classes.
I surprised Jayden with his new room and he was excited to have all new furniture. He slept in his own bed the entire night.
The next day I took him to school and left for class. I had two classes on that Monday and I arrived 20 minutes early to both of them, not knowing what to expect. In my economics class, the professor gave a practice test on the first day.
The professor said that Economics 116 has the highest drop rate of 60 percent. I left that class feeling incompetent and discouraged. I dropped it because I thought I wasn’t ready for that type of stress.
Adapting to college life was not easy.
I struggled to balance my schedule between classes and home. I had to include Jayden in my time. He deserved the same amount, if not more of the time.
Time management is one of the main challenges single parents face, according to an article written by the Central Piedmont Community College in Charlotte.
I also wanted to be a part of an organization, but the meetings seemed to happen when I had the least amount of time.
When I finally joined one organization, I brought Jayden with me to the meetings. Speakers attended each one and he always wanted to go to the front where they were speaking.
It seemed unfair of me to expect Jayden to behave when he’s trying to be kid.
Members said I could bring him, but the look on their faces told a different story. After three meetings, I stopped attending. I felt out of place for having my son at the meetings.
I joined Cardinal Communications this year, hoping to be involved in something again. I applied for a position and was offered account director. I took Jayden with me to some of the meetings, and I didn’t feel insecure this time.
The members loved having him around. Some members even offered to babysit him.
Eventually, I put my fears aside and gained confidence about being a single mother in college. I am here to get an education like everyone else.
I even enrolled back in Economics 116 and maintained an A.
My journey is an assurance that I made the right decision to leave Indianapolis and attend school. I am happy that I stepped outside of my comfort zone and broke down barriers in my life.