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By Erika Martin
Getting a high school diploma at the age of 34 can be daunting for some. Others see it as a exciting challenge. For me, it was the challenge and satisfaction that I was looking for, along with being able to get something that was denied to me when I was in my teens.
When I was 14 years old, my parents pulled me and my siblings out of public school to home-school us. It was not done for educational reasons, but for strange and conservative religious reasons. I finished all of my schooling through the 12th grade, but because of my parents’ religious beliefs, they didn’t believe that women should go on to get a higher education or that they should work outside the home. They stopped reporting to the state and keeping a portfolio of my schoolwork at the beginning of my senior year so anything I would have done would not have been recognized by the state. In giving my sister and me homemade diplomas and denying us state recognized high school diplomas, it perpetuated their beliefs that a woman’s place was in the home.
I am a firm believer that things happen for a reason and that things happen in the right timing. As I have come through my own spiritual journey and healing from my spiritually abusive past, as well as battling depression, this year has been the awakening for dreams that were unrealized. The timing and the desire for my high school diploma lined up and I knew that it was something I needed to pursue this year. So much about this year has been about reclaiming things that were taken away from me. My high school diploma has been one of those.
Over the years, I have come to find that I have a deep passion to see women freed from oppressive and abusive situations. Throughout my years of depression and finally working with a therapist to process my past, I realized that I wanted to go into the field of psychology. I knew that I would need a GED or high school diploma to be able to pursue a higher education in this field and this is what started my journey for my diploma.
People have asked me why I chose to pursue a high school diploma instead of a GED. For me, the high school diploma was a bigger challenge than the GED program. Where the GED has only a preliminary test and a final test, the high school diploma program has 5 large projects that need to be completed according to state-set standards. I have always loved school work, filling in the blanks, research, etc., so this was a deciding factor for me. The biggest deciding factor, though, was that I would be able to graduate at the local high school with the Class of 2011 and I would finally get my cap and gown ceremony.
I have had people tell me that the cap and gown graduation is overrated, but when it is something that has been denied to you, it’s not as overrated as one might think. It takes on a whole new meaning and feeling of satisfaction that those that have graduated during their senior year feel. I have learned not to invalidate the feelings that are behind pursuing the things I want. There is power behind those feelings and reasons for them. When the emotions are so powerful, I listen to them and let them lead me. It’s no different with the feelings I have behind getting my high school diploma. Overrated as people may feel it is, it’s not to me and that is what matters to me.
About the columnist:
Erika Martin was withheld from attaining her high school diploma and a higher education due to living in a spiritually abusive upbringing. She is currently working towards attaining her high school diploma and plans to pursue a degree in Psychology after graduation this June. Erika will highlight relevant news and information that relates to education as well as chronicle her journey toward her diploma.