Best Mistake I Ever Made

I trusted my high school guidance counselor when he promised to write a recommendation letter and mail it with my financial aid and scholarship packet. The college only two hours’ drive from home had already accepted my application. He told me I’d get word from the college by mid-July.

While I waited for the “golden” envelope to arrive in the mail, I squirreled-away my babysitting money and carhop tips from my day job at the local greasy spoon. By mid-July, my friends packed boxes bound for colleges near and far. By the first of August I still hadn’t heard from the college financial aid office, so I called them. After waiting on-hold through an entire rendition of “Rain Drops Keep Falling on My Head,” the financial aid officer finally came back on the line: “Sorry, but we haven’t received a financial aid and scholarship packet for that name.”

We lived in a small Idaho mining town. Neither of my parents had gone to college. I was the first. They had no idea how to help direct me through the fog of the college financial aid and scholarship protocol. My high school counselor knew that, and told me to call if I needed any help over the summer, so I did. His wife told me he was out-of-town on National Guard maneuvers. I waited a week for his return call, but it felt like six. When he finally called, he flippantly said, “I just forgot. Maybe you can try again next year.”

As I hung-up the phone, I cried, “I’m not going to college, Mom!”
“Oh Pumpkin, you can save your money and go next year,” Mom tried to reassure me.
To drown my sorrows, we packed up our fishing gear for a day at our favorite mountain lake.

Every year, the greasy spoon closed for the season by Labor Day, and reopened Memorial Day weekend. August was fast coming to an end, and so were my tips. Babysitting jobs were sporadic at best. Steady jobs were scarce in our small town. My stomach ached with dread. Would I ever go to college?

A few days later, the phone rang. It was Mom’s friend who had just moved to Kansas, calling with her new contact information. When she asked how the summer was going, Mom shared my news and confessed her own fears over my educational future. She, in turn, told her husband who was on his way to his first Rotary Club meeting in their new community.

He struck-up conversation with the man seated next to him. The man shared that he was the dean of admissions at the local community college, and also shared his frustration that scholarship funding would soon be pulled from his college because not enough students applied.

When the dean heard of my dilemma, he called and offered me a great scholarship. I made my first plane trip, and worked hard to stay in school (and in spite of my objections, my mom’s friend’s college-aged children played matchmaker). I was determined to finish my Bachelor of Science degree, and no “boy” was going to steer me away from that goal.

One of the local boys they introduced me to kept showing up at the local pizza place, as my shift there would end. He walked me to my car. He opened doors. He’d already finished the community college courses he needed, so was on a different school year schedule at Kansas University, and often drove the three plus hours to spend weekends in his hometown (and to see me). We mostly had a long-distance relationship, which suited me just fine, since I carried up to twenty-one credit hours each semester and kept a part-time job. He often sent flowers just because.

When I transferred to the same university, he walked me to class. He ate meals with me at the dorm. He still sent me flowers without an occasion. Even though he was two years ahead of me in college, because I took so many credits regularly and he changed his major, we earned our Bachelor of Science degrees at the same time. Yes, I met the love of my life. We have been married over twenty years, have two children, and I have had the life with him I never dreamed of.

If my high school guidance counselor had followed-through on his promise, so much would not have happened at all . . . I might not have gone to college . . . I definitely would not have met my husband, or had my children . . . I would have never left my mountain home for the mid-west prairie . . . I am much better off than I would have been.

The best mistake I ever made was to trust my counselor too much. The best mistake led me straight to my soul mate and the life that never would have been.

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