I was never a stellar student. I wasn't horrible, but I did what I had to do to make it through. I got my first C in the 4th grade. I think it was in handwriting...mighta been math, but that's not important - I had never gotten anything lower than an A to that point. I did well enough through junior high to place into Renaissance High School - [arguably] the best public school in Detroit.
I meandered through high school with no real purpose or goal. I went to school because that's what was expected of me. I had a counselor, but no real guidance. I was active in a few different activities - Medical Careers Club, bands (marching, jazz, symphony). I even ran track...then after a week, I decided that running until I'm out of breath without being chased by something was just stupid. I ran my one and only meet in mid-top Air Force 1s because I forgot my track shoes at home smh...I was decent in everything, but excelled in nothing.
When senior year came around, I realized that college was coming, so I had to do something to differentiate myself from the pack of applicants to whatever university I would apply to. I had no idea where I wanted to go; I had never given it any real thought. In the middle of my senior year, we had on-site admissions, where universities would come to the school, evaluate students on the spot, and offer admission and financial aid then and there. Being that I had a slight interest in computers (I built one my senior year), people told me "hey man, you should go to school for computer engineering!" With no idea what the hell a computer engineer was, I went to on-site admissions for The University of Michigan's College of Engineering.
I was admitted through their Summer Bridge program, which was aimed to give students a head start at life on campus. I took a few college courses, and continued with the same mindset I had in high school -
"Everything will be ok. Just care a little bit, and the universe will provide."
Maaaan look...Thomas's Rules of the Universe don't apply to Michigan Engineering. I learned the hard way, you have to be firm in your resolve to succeed in highly-competitive environments. Unfortunately, I was not. I was given the option to leave the College of Engineering but remain at the U of M, free to pursue another degree, or take a semester off, come up with a plan for success, and return to engineering school. I left, stayed home a semester, and took classes at a community college.
Upon my [socially triumphant] return to the U of M, I decided to take classes in Computer Science instead of Engineering. I did really well this semester, achieving a 3.4 GPA. I had rebuilt my confidence, and decided I still wanted my Engineering degree. The following semester, I took engineering classes again, and got smacked in the face. This time, the U was not so friendly. Dismissal was the case that they gave me (obscure Snoop Dogg reference...sorry).
Now what I'm gon do?
I'm 19, maybe 20 years old, wasted two years of time and money, and still don't know wtf a computer engineer is. But I still know I'm gonna be one. I still owe U of M money, so I can't transfer any credits to another university, so I go back to community college and take all my prerequisites. This takes a solid 2 years. At the end of this, I transfer my credits to Wayne State University's College of Engineering.
This was it! I was enrolled in engineering courses, learning, and performing well. I seemed to finally have found my stride! Then, after 2 semesters there, they informed me that I'd be getting the boot because of the money I owed U of M. I fought it for a while, but there seemed to be no way around it.
NOW what I'm gon do?
I considered my options. I thought about going out of state. I thought about getting a job in a plant, taking time away from school, and saving money to pay my back tuition. It was at this time, 5 years after graduating from high school, where I began researching schools. I looked into different universities and did the legwork I should have done years before, to see which places most closely fit my interests. I made a list, called, visited, and asked opinions. At the end of this trial, I found Lawrence Technological University in Southfield best suited my needs.
My first semester there, I got a full-time engineering internship. I took classes full-time as well. The next year, I realized I'd have to cut back on the school hours. Working was no longer an option; I had bills to pay. I continued working and going to school for the next 5 years. Struggling at times through being laid off numerous times, taking the bus all over The Creation, and all types of other obstacles thrown in my path. But I eventually made it.
When all the dust settled, I spent ten years getting my bachelor's degree. By this time, I had friends who graduated high school the same year as me who are practicing doctors and lawyers. I think it's a good thing that I never compared my journey to that of my peers. I ran my own race. At some point, I subconsciously became incredibly focused, locked in on my goal, and relentlessly pursued.
Looking back on my experiences, I can honestly evaluate myself. I made mistakes. I sometimes made the same mistakes more than once. I learned almost all of my lessons the hard way, but I did learn them. Every setback along the way has made me who I am today. I am at a point now, where I can be proud of the man I've become, and look forward to who I'm becoming. Although at this point I only have one "4-year" degree, I have gained much more in life experience. I am now equipped with the confidence and insight to take on any challenge and emerge victorious.
My advice to anyone facing setbacks is this: never stop. If there is a goal in your heart worth chasing, chase it. Pursue it with fervor, and do not give up until you have it. When I started my journey, I was ill-equipped to fend for myself. Along the way, I picked up all the skills and tools I needed to survive. Find your ambition and use it to drive you. Rock bottom is wherever you decide that the only direction from here is up. Even from an abyss, know the stars are above you and shoot for them. Ad astra per aspera.
P.S - Somebody tell Sister Virginess, my handwriting is dope as hell now.