I dropped out of high school.
I don't know how many people know about that. I'm not proud of it so I don't tend to advertise it. But, the fact is, I did. I then almost immediately went to Beauty School. I subsequently quit that too. Go ahead. Sing Beauty School Drop Out for your own pleasure. I'll wait.
After a year or two of working a minimum wage job though, I knew I was way smarter than what my school career record reflected. I also knew I had no intention of working for minimum wage the rest of my life. So I decided to go to college.
Because I'd had the foresight to obtain my GED upon deciding to drop out of high school, I was able to go straight to community college. Which, coincidentally, is how I ended up in Denver. I was able to claim residency at CCD because my dad was a resident of Colorado by then and there was no way in hell I was going to Last Chance Cowboy College.
I would meet him on a weekend trip home the October of my first semester at CCD and all of a sudden I'd wish I had gone to El-Triple-See. But when he headed back to southern California in December I was glad I hadn't and another idea dawned. Grandiose schemes of pre-med at UCLA took shape. Or, better yet, some kind of liberal arts degree at the University of Redlands.
But then reality set in. I couldn't actually pay for UCLA or University of Redlands. Even though I was a 4.0 student at CCD, I was still under the age of 24 and subject to the incomes (according to FAFSA) of both my relatively financially successful parents. I didn't have the benefit of my Great-Aunt Lue's inheritance like Dr. J did either. By then, the remainder of that money (after her time at University of California at San Diego, or UCSD) had been squandered by my father on a Fiero and 2 years of elective unemployment.
I was mostly on my own.
The goal then was to get as close as possible to the Inland Empire without expending too much future money.
I found my opportunity in the Western Undergraduate Exchange program.
As it would turn out, being a WUE student would afford me the opportunity to go to school out of state, a mere 3 hours from Andy, for less in tuition AND housing than it would cost to go to school in Wyoming or Colorado...even Metro.
So I moved...to Las Vegas.
And I dutifully attended the awesome campus of UNLV for 2 years. That is not facetious. I truly did love that campus. There was an In 'n Out right by the Student Union on the grounds. What was there not to love?
At least, for the first year, I loved it.
People like to visit Vegas and so I had an awesome influx of friends and family coming in to "see me" but who were really there to experience the cheese of Lost Wages.
Additionally, the weekends that were not eaten up by out of town visitors were spent nestled in the arms of Andy...wherever we landed. That might have been his mom's or a hotel (if we could afford it) or Scooter's house.
And then Jeff died.
And then Andy and I broke up (again).
All of a sudden, Las Vegas became a prison. And I hated it. I hated the traffic, the noise, the heat. I hated the people sitting bleary-eyed in front of the slot machines planted in a row along the front windows of the grocery store. I hated the very idea of a buffet (I still won't go to one voluntarily). I hated that, even though we were so close to LA, the only venue willing to host punk rock shows (the Huntridge Theater) would eventually be condemned...you know, after the roof collapsed just before a show.
All I really wanted to do was come home...even if I didn't know where home was. All I knew then was that Las Vegas wasn't home. I'm not sure it can truly be home for anyone.
Since I left and came back to Colorado and made Denver my home, I've been back to Las Vegas only a handful of times. Most of which had to do with me passing through to, once again, visit the Inland Empire...and Andy.
In an interesting twist, Andy fell in love with Las Vegas because of me. It was somehow different than where he'd grown up. Maybe he got caught up in the dream of a place built on false hopes and neon. He'd live there for awhile. His brother would move his family there - they remain there. I think he thought Nevada offered more opportunities for success than California did. Maybe it did for him. It would also land him in jail for DUI. Surprise.
The point of this entry is two-fold. Initially, I started writing it because several people I know - a number of them I count as friends - are currently in Las Vegas attending Defcon 19. And, for the first time in a long time, I wish I was there right in the thick of things. I want to see how things have changed, how they've stayed the same. I want to drive past my old haunts and see if the coffee house I used to frequent is still there and, if so, whether their triple iced espresso mocha still beats all other triple iced espresso mochas I've had since all hollow. I want to see what's changed on the strip. I want to go play BINGO at the Gold Coast. I want to play roulette at the Golden Gate on Fremont St. I want to give Andy's brother a hug.
Most of all - I mean, besides hanging out with my friends in the biggest partiest atmosphere of all time - because I really miss Acr0nym, Spux, Kelli, TC, et al? I want an In 'n Out burger animal style. Maybe two.
But truthfully? After contemplating Las Vegas for a long time, the only things I really miss are related to food...In 'n Out, Trader Joe's, triple iced espresso mochas. The rest of it can be had here. Even hanging out with my friends...at least, all the time 'cept Defcon time.
I can take or leave Lost Wages. It ain't nothin' compared to home.
The second part of this entry came after I started writing it. Peej, in her blog yesterday, asked this:
I guess the whole point of this rambling blog entry is - for those of you that actually went to college directly out of high school, especially if it was out of state, how do you think that the experience changed you? Are you still friends with the people you knew back then? What did you gain from the experience? Inquiring minds want to know.
As I stated, I didn't go straight out of high school. The reason I didn't was because I didn't think I deserved to be able to go to college after I failed miserably at high school. I didn't believe any college would take me. What I came to realize is that the reason I failed at high school is because high school (and life) had largely failed me up until that point. I realized that, in order to be successful, I was going to have to get past the idea that I shouldn't have aspirations beyond minimum wage and that I wasn't qualified to go to school.
Once I got to school - CCD and UNLV - I realized I still didn't have to study mostly (that was my junior high experience). I could still pull straight A's out of my ass with minimal effort as long as I showed up for the tests. That gave me confidence in me. It made me realize I could actually do ANYTHING I wanted to do. College turned me on to literature I didn't know existed. It turned me on to theories I wasn't aware of. It turned me on to SCIENCE! That's where I fell in love with Biology, Genetics, and people...how people tick, how societies work.
Did it make me more employable knowing the ins and outs of the young Hegelians? Maybe. I doubt it.
But that wasn't why I ultimately went to school. I went to school because I needed to prove to myself that I was better than what I'd handed myself. I needed to know I was better than minimum wage. I needed to (I thought) be closer to Andy...
Even though, I also believe college, at the end, was the reason I decided I couldn't be with him for all time.
I don't remember anyone from college except for Steve at CCD - a boy in my speech class first semester - that I remember used to volunteer at Planned Parenthood as an escort/bodyguard and Cricket at UNLV who'd lived all of her adult life - since sophomore year in high school - in a wheelchair...left quadriplegic from a school bus accident (she was a cheerleader on her way to a football game when they were broadsided by a train). I haven't talked to either of them in a decade. Friends came before and after.
Again, for me, college wasn't for the parties or the friendships. College was about self-esteem, self-confidence, knowledge, success, and (as much as I hate to admit it) following behind the love of a boy whose heart I'd ultimately break (damage to the point of death?).
It was worth every minute and every penny (that I'm still paying for...until October of this year). I learned a lot about myself in school - personally, at least. And it gave me tools for self-awareness and growth. While I miss Andy desperately and while he is undeniably intertwined with my college experience on another level, college, for me, was worth every minute, every penny.