How College Gave Me My Life Back

UCF Knight and Stallion, “Bounce House”, Orlando FL

In 2005, my brother and his girlfriend convinced me to go back to college and I could car pool with them. I drove a piece of shit 1989 Ford Tempo that was on its last leg. About to break down at any moment. So I thought yeah, this will be a great opportunity, I would go back to art school and do what I always wanted. I knew there would be challenges and hurdles along the way but I made a commitment to become a first generation college graduate. I had to go to my parents to borrow $500 to go back because I had to pay off a previous student loan from when I went to Tampa Technical College after high school in 1991. My dad reluctantly loaned me the money. He told me, “I don’t want to loan it to you because you will just quit like everything else you do, but I am going to loan you the money anyway and you have to pay it back when you can.” That was code for goddammit Carol here we go again…LOL…so this just created a mission for me. A mission to prove my dad wrong!! And boy did I ever!

I spent about a year at Florida Metropolitan University (FMU) and decided art school was not for me. I had a difficult time drawing thanks to those two brain injuries and I just didn’t feel it was right. I felt something was missing. I exceeded on a gigantic level. A perfect 4.0 GPA the entire time I was there. Of course I caught shit from my abuser. He was always jealous that I had to work with other adults, especially males. He HATED me working in a group with males. I had taken a basic psych 101 class while I was at FMU as an elective. That is when it hit me, psychology was it for me I fell in love and found a new passion. Right along with a basic criminal justice class I was interested in taking. I wanted a career combining the two. I was on a roll and doing amazing, I was proving my dad wrong while I was at it!!

Then the worst thing EVER happened! My brother and his girlfriend dropped out so now I was driving myself to the school, from Leesburg to Orlando, like 40 miles away 5 days a week. So yeah, that piece of shit Tempo said fuck you I am done. So it kicked the bucket! Now I cry my damn eyes out to my parents because dropping out of school was NOT an option. I had a 4.0 GPA and I had goals, and I had to prove dad wrong! So my mom would drive me to school every day and back. As much of a bitch that she was, she made sure I went to school. She started getting very sick and was too weak to drive me, so my parents would let me drive their red 1998 Mustang to school and then I would give it back at the end of the week on Friday, and of course I would get it on Monday. This was my dad’s idea. He did absolutely everything he could to make sure I stayed in school. He knew it was important to me. Ok so then the next worst thing happened, mom died in November 2005. As if things could not get any worse! I had taken a two week leave of absence from school to grieve and take care of things. Just two weeks. I had gotten my assignments from my teachers and all was good. The 10 days were not counted against me because they were death related.

After mom’s funeral my dad sat me down for a conversation. He told me it just wasn’t feasible for me to keep borrowing the Mustang. He made a deal with me. He said if I promised to stay in school he would sell it to me for $3000. I made that deal! I also told him I did not want to go to FMU anymore. I wanted to transfer to Lake Sumter Community College (now Lake Sumter State College) and I wanted to take up psychology and criminal justice. He thought it was a great idea and there would be a lot more career opportunities in those fields compared to art. So I met with an academic advisor at Lake Sumter and decided to stay another semester at FMU, for a total of one year or so there. I made the transfer to Lake Sumter in 2006 and was not giving up!

While I was at Lake Sumter I told as many psychology and criminal justice classes I could, as well as sociology. I started learning things about myself and was able to see what was happening at home was not normal behavior. My abuser kept throwing the jealousy card at me, almost relentlessly. So you have to do a group project with other guys? Yeah I do and so what? It was so nerve wracking the jealousy. I never gave him a reason not to trust me so the jealousy was based on his insecurities. Well, while at Lake Sumter I was able to get up the money to pay my dad back the $500 I borrowed. One day I handed it to him, he handed it back. He told me he was very proud of me and I haven’t let anything stand in my way of going to school. He said I deserved to have the money. I told him I didn’t want it, he said you NEED it and refused to take it.

Before graduation from Lake Sumter, I put in an application to the University of Florida and University of Central Florida (UCF). I was accepted to both schools. I chose UCF because they did not require a prerequisite of calculus for a psychology degree. Yeah fuck that, remember that brain injury? That level of math was not an option! So I became a UCF Knight!

In 2008 I graduated Cum Laude from Lake Sumter. I wore that cap and gown and walked across that stage with my head held high. I was proud of what I had accomplished. I had been through so much. I lost my transportation, my mother died, my abuser planting the seeds of negativity in my brain, raising three kids in an abusive relationship, and paying all the fucking bills while my abuser sat on his ass smoking cigarettes and watching the tv I paid for.

On to the next chapter! I started UCF in the Fall of 2009, right after graduating Lake Sumter. I was on a roll and did not want to stop or slow down! I enrolled in UCF to earn a bachelors degree in psychology and two certificates. The certificates were in crime scene investigation and criminal profiling. My brain was just eating all this information. I was now processing my own life, my own feelings, how everything was so VERY wrong. I learned abuse was not okay, EVER. I took abnormal psychology, abnormal child psychology, sex crimes, victimology, criminal investigations, criminal profiling. forensic anthropology and archeology, cross cultural psychology, all of the bad things in the psychology and criminal justice system I could take. I had decided that not only did I want to learn about my own mind, but I wanted to help others. I wanted to help other victims of domestic violence, people with mental illness, severe mental illness, I wanted to help children. All of those things.

And here we go! Towards the end of 2009 I started getting mouthy to my abuser! I found my voice!! I got tired of putting up with his shit. I was tired of always worrying when he was going to hit me, when DCF (Department of Children and Families, child protection investigators) was going to show up and take my kids, tired of the emotional strain, I was just TIRED OF IT ALL. I was gaining strength and courage and I was plotting the day I would finally speak up for myself and do something.

That day came a few months later, in February or March of 2009 that was going to be the day I would say NEVER AGAIN. I woke up one morning, walked downstairs, saw my abuser on the back porch smoking, like always. When he came inside I FIRMLY and LOUDLY told him, “pack your shit and get the fuck out of my house!.” He said “your house?” Of all the fucking nerve! “YES MY FUCKING HOUSE! You don’t pay for shit here. You don’t pay the rent, the light bill, the cable bill, the phone bill, you pay nothing! I pay for everything here. All you do is clean the fucking house and smoke cigarettes so the way I see it, you’re part of the problem and not the solution. Pack your shit and GET THE FUCK OUT NOW.” Jesus man I have no idea where I pulled that strength from! All I can say is I know what I was learning at UCF, learning about myself, about psychology, about what is normal and what is not, about criminal justice, about victimology, THAT is what UCF did, UCF saved my life. They unknowingly gave me my life back, my freedom, my joy, and my happiness. It felt AMAZING to have the courage to tell him to leave. And I said it with such conviction and attitude that he knew I meant it. He packed his shit and left. I looked out the upstairs bedroom window ONCE, and that was to make sure he was gone. I never went back and I never looked back. I looked toward the future and what I was going to do for myself and my children.

In Spring 2011 I graduated UCF, I defeated the odds, FATE let me have my victory. Fate knew exactly what I needed to go through to become the survivor I am today. I graduated UCF with a 3.5 GPA. I struggled with a few classes but I still persevered. To see the joy on my dad’s face, to see his tears of joy as he looked at my bachelors degree from UCF, I will never forget. I never gave up, I proved my daddy wrong. He was so proud of me. He told everyone about how his daughter graduated from UCF. It is a feeling I still hold on to today, 9 years after graduation.

From 2017-2020 I held the position of Rehabilitation Specialist on a Florida Assertive Community Treatment Team. I absolutely loved it. It was an amazing three years. I had the pleasure of working with individuals with severe and persistent mental illness. The consumers were some of the most amazing people I have ever met. To see their every day struggles really puts things in perspective.

In May of this year, 2020, I began wearing a new hat, I began the next chapter in life. I am going to be a certified child welfare case manager. My current title is Family Care Manager. I am about to complete my first phase of certification, I take my state certification text next week. I am nervous, but I know I can pass it. Then the next phase, 1040 hours of field work with my amazing supervisor and trainer. Now I am going to work with the people I am most passionate about, domestic violence victims, victims I can help to become survivors. I’ll have the opportunity to put families back together. I could have no greater joy in my life. I can honestly and finally say, I truly am happy <3.

Like the UCF Knights I will charge on!!

“Keep your face to the sunshine and you cannot see a shadow.”

-Helen Keller

One thought on “How College Gave Me My Life Back

  1. I bet it felt AMAZING to have finally found the courage to find your voice and say those words! I can feel the sense of empowerment coursing through your veins as I read. Truly inspirational!

    Liked by 1 person

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