I think about the pivotal moments in my life. The ones where the fork in the road appeared and the path could have drastically changed. Mr. Frank Neils helped changed that path for me. It changed my life.
At 17, I found myself pregnant and an almost drop out from high school. I was a junior in high school. I had pretty much partied my first half of the year. In September, I had taken to getting up early, telling my mom I was going to the gym. Really, I was going to the bar and drinking with my friend’s mom who would serve me cocktails. I would drink until about 8 am. Go to school late and then cut out early for work.
I hardly showed up to first period and rarely stayed for 6th. By the end of 2nd quarter I was never in school. I showed up at the semester to take my exams. I passed them with flying colors but I don’t recall if it mattered, due to my attendance.
I continued to be a nuisance and not go to school. I did, however, have a strong work ethic. I worked more and more hours at Little Caesars Pizza washing dishes and tossing dough. I was a pain in the ass for my parents.
I was lying about going to school. Lying about where I was staying. Going to the lake and staying the night with boys when I said I was staying the night at a friend’s house. Sneaking around and lying is how I wound up pregnant.
At the same time I found out I was pregnant, my mom found out she had colon cancer. I remember telling my mom I was pregnant and she just walked away from me. She just couldn’t deal with it. She was just trying to stay alive.
I had already told my mom, but the dean from my high school, called and left a fucking message on my mom’s answering machine that it was rumored around the school that her daughter was pregnant and hadn’t been to school.
I wasn’t living at home. I was staying with different people, couch surfing. Trying to find a place to land. I had stopped going to school but I was still working. I was working one night, my stepmom came in to the shop. She asked for the keys to my truck. I gave them to her. They took my ride and told me good luck.
I got a ride home but then I had to learn how to use the bus. It was a bit complicated with transfers and whatnot but I figured it out. I also had a lot of friends who were giving me rides.
My friend’s mom, Maggie, who had been supplying me with the booze at the beginning of the year offered me a place to stay. It was not the safest place but it was a bed. It was a weekly rental downtown where drug dealers and prostitutes rented out of.
I had an epiphany.
I needed to go to school.
I was pregnant.
I was going to be a dropout teen statistic.
The next day, I walked from my crackhouse to Las Vegas High School. I told them I wanted to enroll. They told me I had to speak to the assistant principal. I waited a long time. I saw some friends. Chit chatted. I thought I could just get into another school. I didn’t think it would be a big deal.
This guy in a suit called me into his office. He left the door open. Asked me to have a seat.
“I see you want to come to school here. Why should I let you in my school?” he asked me.
In all my raging, hormonal, teenage, angst, “Fuck you! I don’t need your shit or your school. I just wanted to go to school!”
I stormed out of there. I made it around the corner out of the office and started crying. The assistant principal came after me.
“Hold on. Hold on. You really want to go to school?” He asked in a more gentle tone.
“Yes. I do. I’m pregnant and I need to get an education. I want to go to college. I have to go to school.” I said through the snot and tears.
He took me back to his office. He offered me a tissue.
“If you can promise me that you will not miss a day, I will let you enroll. I will let you in my school,” he spoke very firmly.
“I promise. I won’t miss a day.”
I didn’t miss a single day the rest of that year.
I almost miscarried with Patrick. My stepmom came and got me. She took me to the hospital. We had a long talk. I moved home.
The next school year, I got a zone variance to attend Las Vegas High School. I performed well. Had a good grade point average. I was in student council.
When I walked for my diploma, the man who I told to go fuck himself, who had come after me, handed me my diploma.
Thank you Mr. Neils. Without you, my life would have been very different.