The contrast was stark, which only made the decision harder and more painful. I walked from the home of the vice-principal where I was living down into the village and then up the hill to the high school. It was the middle of winter and the last of the Christmas decorations lingered on storefronts, homes, and along the streets. The snow had accumulated, firmly tucking in this mountain top village for a couple more months. With the air so crisp and clean, pure white snow settled on the tree tops and roof tops, against the Bavarian architecture, it was hard to believe that this was a community hurting, dying from within.
The mine closure decimated this community. Friends suddenly disappeared, along with their families, and daily we would hear stories of people handing in their keys – everyone abandoning this place in search of sustenance and survival. At the worst point in this mountain top village’s demise a house, not unlike my best friend’s bungalow, was selling for ten thousand dollars, mere pennies on the dollar for what they were worth less than a year earlier.
I wasn’t alone in this painful journey but it sure felt like it as I walked to the high school that day.
I went to meet with the principal. This principal was an amazing man. His leadership and dedication inspired a generation of children. His staff flourished under him and we all counted it joy to show up each day. Every morning he would be standing in the entrance way hallway with a coffee in his hand, greeting everyone who walked through those doors. He was approachable, personable, and invested in each of our success.
As I approached the school my heart was filled with joy and sorrow. This was an amazing place full of amazing opportunities and amazing people. I felt connected here, safe here – like I belonged. This is why I fought so hard to return here after my parents had dragged us to that forsaken valley city. I desperately wanted to graduate from this school but, now, only a half year away, I had my white towel in hand as I entered the school.
I found the principal where he would normally be and asked if we could talk. He saw that I was upset and so we left the hallway and went to his office. I explained my circumstances to him, along with the conclusion that I would have to leave. He was emotional and visibly upset. He went out of his way to say if there was a way he could convince the school board, he would even make special accommodations to allow me to live at the school, in an effort to make sure I would be able to graduate.
I loved that guy and I loved the effort he put into every student.
We finished our conversation and as the school filled with the other students I walked back to the place I was staying, packed my belongings into my car, and began the long drive back to the valley city.
I was back living at home with my parents for only a few weeks before I moved out again and in with a roommate – a new guy I had just met. We were around the same age and he was looking for a roommate, having just moved out on his own as well. This time it wasn’t a big move but merely to the apartment building across the street from my parent’s home. Shortly after arriving back in this city I also began to work full-time back at the restaurant as I needed something to help pay the bills.
Consequently, this meant that I was unable to attend school full-time. When the dust settled on my relocation I was four months from graduation and I was short two course credits, English and one elective. For English I would show up in class only to write the exams, often showing up to write make-up exams as well, in an effort to stay on top of the work, and finish the course for graduation.
However, the English teacher took a dislike to me shortly after I ended up in her class. She had a reputation for being a bitch but I was about to find out just how far that went. When I would show up in class to write the exams or show up after school to write make-up exams I would consistently end up with either A’s or B’s on them. This went on for almost two months before the teacher called me in to talk. At this meeting she explained that, unless I showed up for 180 days of school, she would go out of her way to fail me.
I explained to her I was living on my own and therefore working full-time to support myself. I also explained, although I wasn’t sitting in her class every day, I still showed up to write all of the exams and I scored top grades on them. This seemed to irritate her even more and she dug in her heels. Now, it was impossible to put in 180 days of school with only two months left, so what she was wanting was for me to quit my job and spend a portion of my day simply sitting in her class – doing the time, so to speak – in an effort to win over her support so she would pass me.
Necessity got the best of me and with that proverbial slap in the face by this English teacher I told her where to go, walked into the main office and told them were to go and officially dropped out of high school. I had two months to go before graduation. I was virtually a straight A student. I had two course credits left and here I was giving this school the finger as I walked out of it for the last time. The contrast between these two cities and these two schools could not be any more severe. It sucked that it was this city and this school that I was stuck with.
And so I walked away saying my goodbyes one more time. This time, no school to go to, no graduation to look forward to, no future whatsoever. All I had was this roommate, a job, and a view from my second story bedroom window to a dirty back field, with a couple abandoned vehicles sitting there. I reached down and grabbed my bottle of alcohol. My new friend.