I’d crack wise: “Fuck that, I don’t need college,” when I really meant: “I don’t want college,” or, “I’m not cut out for college”.
At 18, I didn’t give a shit about going to college. I got into my first choice school, Penn State, but it was out of my league financially (I can’t tell you, 13 years later, why I felt like that was the school where I belonged). I had spent the last twelve years in expensive private schools, even though I didn’t have wealthy parents who wouldn’t whoop my ass at the mere mention of “taking a year off.” Not going to college was simply not an option.
I grew up in the age of A Different World, with “A mind is a terrible thing to waste” booming through the single TV speaker during commercial breaks. For my family and the families in our all-black middle-class neighborhood, college seemed the greatest determinant of success. I would be the first in my family to go to a proper university, as I’d been groomed to do ever since I was a “young, black and gifted” six-year-old reading for Mrs. Harrison at Calvert School (alma mater of John Waters).
Through middle and high school, I would attend an all-boys private school, Gilman School, receiving an incredible education I was hardly grateful for. Neighbors and family who saw promise in me regardless pushed for college, and even provided modest scholarships as incentives. I thought the money would be better spent on PlayStation 2 games. I studied hard and burned out, suffering from both junioritis and senioritis in an environment where students of all races were pushed towards the Ivies and elsewhere. At the same time, I was reminded that I had to work twice as hard to get half as much as my white counterparts. That meant extracurriculars, athletic and otherwise, no transgressions (I was reprimanded and suspended for “honor violations” regularly), and keeping alive a sheer determination to win.
I graduated by the skin of my teeth, grateful not for the opportunity to attend arguably the best school in the state, but rather to leave, enrolled in college mostly to get people off my back.