At the same time that I started junior college, my past was catching up with me. For the previous two years, I had been drinking too much, self-medicating the pain of childhood.
At the same time that I started junior college, I started getting counseling to fix my childhood woes. I ended going for counseling for six years, through junior college, university, the paralegal program, up until I started law school. I was pretty messed up at that time.
I wanted the pain from my childhood to stop. I was tired of the choices I was making. Either the pain had to stop, or I had to stop living. The turning point was when I was taken to a psychiatric unit after I made claims that I wasn’t sure that I wanted to continue living.
It was a long process. I don’t know why I did counseling and school and kids all at the same time. Maybe because no one gave me a road map to life, or an instruction manual. I was playing everything by ear. Actually, I was pretty messed up, but the details of that don’t matter too much.
I went from just being barely able to take care of my kids, to going to school, going to counseling, and on top of it, just for grins, I started a house cleaning business. Having a house cleaning business was more flexible because I could work my cleaning schedule around my school schedule and around my kids’ school schedule.
I was living with the guy who came to California by this time. We were so broke during those years, but it was okay. My oldest daughter said, when she was older, that she didn’t really realize how poor we were because I made everything seem like so much fun.
There was this one time that the only food we had were some tortillas and some potatoes, and we had no money.
We took the kids to the orange groves that grew on-campus at the junior college and “stole” some oranges from the trees, then went to McDonald’s to “borrow” some condiments and napkins, and we made potato burritos, with fresh-picked oranges for dessert.
I don’t know how I managed it all quite honestly. To this day, I get myself involved in stuff that later, I realize I had no business with.
When I started classes, I was so afraid to fail. I studied pretty hard. I didn’t do well in all my classes at Irvine Valley College, but that first semester, or maybe it was the second semester, I took five classes and I got five As and a B. Or something like that.
I had a difficult time attending class. It was almost as boring as it was in high school. The only thing that helped me stay in class was taking notes of everything the instructor said, even if unimportant. Writing everything down helped me to be involved, so that I didn’t become bored. Well, I was already bored. Writing down everything the professor said helped me to be involved so that I didn’t become so bored that I skipped class. I hated sitting in classes.
This was probably one of the first times in my life that I said to myself, “You’re pretty smart. How come you can’t pass that programming class?”
I had taken this one class called Basic A programming. It’s supposed to be one of the easiest programming languages. This is where topographagnosia was rumbling about, to my ignorance. I had to take that class three times before I passed. I don’t think it was a requirement for me, but I couldn’t give up once I started. I wasn’t going to let myself be defeated.
There was something about remembering where everything went in the flow chart, and how it worked once it was programmed into the computer. Even now, it makes my brain hurt. I finally passed the third time I took it with a C.
The only other class I had difficulty with was Biology. The memorization of words, as opposed to concepts, defeated me.
But my hard work paid off. I started at the junior college in 1986 and, a year and a half later, I was accepted at UCI with a 3.5 GPA.