I was a little girl being homeschooled meant answering the queries of
well-intentioned adult strangers who questioned with good reason why
I was out playing, or shopping, during the hours when most other kids
my age were in school. I would explain that I received my education
at home. My mother worked with me on my studies, and I tended to be
finished early on in the day. I wasn’t playing hooky.
when I was twelve years old, I moved to my ancestral home of the
Dominican Republic, with my mother, father, brothers and sisters, and
with no government to ensure, or care, whether my siblings and I
learned anything at all, our schooling quickly fell by the wayside.
We really weren’t being educated.
other American kids were lining up at street-corner bus stops, and
other Dominican kids were trudging to half-day classes in their
monochrome polo shirts, and khaki slacks and skirts, my siblings and
I were wandering the jungles, chasing rivers. I climbed hills until
the sun started to set and the sky turned more beautiful shades than
could properly be captured on a camera.
or not, we played all day when we weren’t doing chores, and
searched for waterfalls or food.
first, I played “woman of the house” while my mother went
to buy groceries because it was just her, and I, a tweenager, to
watch my little siblings and keep everything in order. But when my
father and older brother came in our wake, I did next to nothing,
besides dishes and laundry. Sure, it was summer in that log cabin in
the jungle, but we should have been in summer school, honestly.
Instead, we picked mangoes, and jelly-like fruits called quenepas. We
swung on a vine and waded streams - watered what must have been an
acre or more of cacao, with water we hauled gallon by gallon from the
stream. We played hooky for years on end.
younger than me started to catch up to me academically. I, the girl
who had been the all-star student, was now so terribly behind in my
schooling that I actually started to be embarrassed about my
didn’t want to see or think about anything that reminded me how
far behind I was in math and government. And all my parents did was
send me out of the house to go wander, make friends- get fresh air.
all my book learning fell further and further by the wayside.
later, my education had been on the back burner for so long that it
seemed like everything I’d learned before had been set on fire.
wasn’t just behind where I SHOULD have been, but I had to go
BACK and review all the things I’d forgotten.
had a 6th-grade education on my 17th birthday. And I cried and told
my parents how embarrassed I felt about being so behind, but they
excused themselves, saying that I put too much stock in education,
and that they’d been teaching me something more important
during all those months and years when my schooling wasn’t even
was angry, justifiably. But eventually I realized that I just had to
get over it. I couldn’t just wait around for people who didn’t
really care that much to change their minds and try, if they could,
to “catch me up” to where I should have been.
knew if I wanted to get anywhere, to make anything of myself, I would
have to do it myself. I would have to find some way to spin magic out
of the disaster of my life that honestly, in the dark moments, looked
I started, grinding with everything in me. In a few months, I managed
to get myself from 6th-grade math into high school. I crammed my
dormant brain cells and note book pages full of calculations and
equations until my brain hurt. And I still cried, but I wasn’t
JUST crying, and that was what mattered.
one saving grace of my under-education was my literary prowess, which
somehow managed to grow, even without proper education. I had always
written, at least, since as long as I could remember; as a little
girl in the States, as a teenager coping with the stress of caring
for my little siblings in a scary and unfamiliar environment, as a
miserable, stupid-feeling teen, just trying to cope with my
circumstances. In every possible way, writing was my means for
was published for the first time at 15 - because at 15 I decided to
push to start making something of myself. I had realized (or come to
the conclusion) that my parents didn’t seem to care very much
whether I could succeed in life or was fit to become anything. I’d
never had a summer job because my parents insisted I was too focused
on trying to make money, that I was a “little girl” and
needed to focus on being a child. So by the age when most teens had
at least worked at a grocery store or a fast food joint, I had done
nothing, and had nothing - nothing whatsoever - to show for myself.
But I set a goal that year that I wanted to be published before my
sixteenth birthday, and I was published about 10 months later, two
months before my self-imposed deadline. That achievement gave me a
much-needed confidence boost, a bit of affirmation that I hadn’t
grown completely useless for anything.
still fighting, working hard to try to finish high school and
graduate from the twelfth grade with my GED. It’s a work in
process, but one I believe I can, and will manage.
hold it in my head as a milestone, a huge target that will be a high
point of my life. A marker of accomplishment, maybe.
not the type to give up on things easily. And though this mountain
looks nearly insurmountable from the bottom, I motivate myself to
push forward with the thought that:
I can do this, I can do anything.”
Name is Gloria Mesa. I am a Black-Hispanic author and poet from
Maryland, USA. I’ve been published twice before for essays in a
women’s magazine but never for poetry or creative writing.
of the message
won't know where to send it.)
Another story by Gloria
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