I’ve been asked on a few different occasions in the last month, where I went to high school and graduated from. My response isn’t your typical answer. I always laugh and reply by telling people, even strangers that I was a bit of a rebel. I tell them that I was the black sheep of my family and I moved around schools quite a bit. One lady asked, oh why did you get kicked out? And the truth is I was never kicked out. I was more of a lost adolescent girl, searching to find myself. In my pursuit, I moved schools. Perhaps it was my way of running away from any feelings that I was going through at the time. Obviously, I don’t give this lengthy answer to people who are curious, but I don’t lie either. I fully admit, shame set aside, that I was a little bit lost. While most of my peers were pursuing good grades, joining sports teams and doing typical teenager stuff. I was on a mission to have the most absences on my report card and feel validated and accepted by older peers. I figured if I played the bad ass role, perhaps they would think I was cool, and if I was cool, then I would be accepted. My cries for attention and attempts to succeed in main stream high school failed, so I attempted the alternative school route.
I recall going home at the age of fifteen and telling my parents that I was attending a new school. When my father asked what school, he was a little bit surprised. His first response was, “isn’t that a school for pregnant girls?” It’s also surprising to me that I was able to just enrol myself into school without my parents permission, or on second thought, I probably forged a signature. Whatever I did, it worked. After attending alternative school for a few months, I finally felt a sense of belonging. Although we didn’t have the same curriculum that regular high school students did , we still learned, despite what people may assume. We also went on camping retreats, field trips, and were surrounded by staff that really cared about our well-being, and wanted us to succeed not just in school, but in life. I learned some of my most valuable life lessons, while attending alternate school. Staff would always tell me that I was a very articulate girl, and tried their best to guide me in the right direction.
One teacher in grade 11 English, gave me a piece of advice. He pulled me aside, looked me in the face and said, “Jamie-Lee, you are a very smart girl, I believe that you are smarter than you realize. I also think that you will be more successful getting your high school diploma at an adult education centre because you just don’t belong here anymore.” He saw something in me that I didn’t see in myself. He told me I was wise, beyond my years. I followed his advice and enrolled myself in an adult learning centre,where I eventually completed the last courses that I needed to graduate, with the help of my husband ,(who was my new boyfriend at the time) he strongly encouraged me to finish , and drove me every morning, because he wanted me to succeed too.
When people ask me the high school graduate question, in the past I would feel ashamed. Now I tell the story with some humour, and add that all of these life experiences built character and led me to where I am today. I could simply lie and tell them I graduated in the year of 2000, with top honours, but that’s not my truth, and it’s definitely not my story.
Each and every one of us has a unique story. The story of our lives are far from perfect. You rarely find a story with the perfect beginning, middle and end. It’s the plot twists that teach us, build character and make the story our very own. I’m proud of my story, and grateful for all the plot twists that I’ve endured and will continue to endure.