Growing up can be a scary. Even so, most people move through life in the normal sequential order. Remember Shakespeare’s Seven Stages of Man. As for me, a funny thing happened to me on my way to adulthood. I made a lot of detours.
I came into the world like most people, a crying mewling baby. My life rolled along until I came of school age. That’s when I made my first detour. I decided school was not for me, so I played hooky. Consequently, I spent three years, that’s right, three years in first grade. I got my life rolling along again when my next road block came up.
It happened one summer when I was a young teenager playing baseball. I tried out and made the team for the Babe Ruth league. I soon found out my ability to play baseball was subpar and I sat on the bench quite a lot. But the manager saw another talent in me and had me coach third base. I guess I did pretty well because he also had me assisting hitting balls to the infielders. I felt real grown-up, telling the players what to do. That summer season soon came to a close and I never played organized baseball again.
The next few years rolled along without incident until 9th grade. Remember I spent three years in 1st grade. Well, good things can come out of negative consequences. I turned 16 years old the summer I went into 9th grade. I was the first among my classmates to drive. I felt real grown up driving to school every day. I would go around to each of my friend’s houses and pick them up. I drove an old Ford station wagon that allowed me to pick up lots of friends. I sometimes picked up as many as eight friends and with the radio on full blast, I would pull my car into the school parking lot and walk into school feeling the cool man that I was. However, I soon learned having the privilege to drive had its downside.
I tried out for the football team, but soon learned I was too old to play. Michigan has an age limit for playing school sports. I felt embarrassed, because I was considered a fairly good player. I played defensive halfback – at least I did the previous year. When the coach told me I could no longer play on the team, I did not feel grown up, I felt about two feet tall. I remember turning red faced. I went to a few games, but I spent most of my afternoons working on a sod farm.
The following next couple of years, 10th and 11th grade I was allowed to play sports again. I ran track and wrestled. I even earned my letter in track. My coach fully expected me to run my senior year, but the age rule sprung its ugly head up again and I became ineligible to participate in sports my senior year. I went to work full time.
Thanks to my dad, I got a job at Shell gas station pumping gas. I worked the afternoon shift from 4:00 p.m. to midnight. The owner soon saw I was very responsible and trustworthy, so he me trained to driver the wrecker or tow truck. I felt real grown up. I soon became the number one driver for my shift. He even had me take the wrecker home to be on call for accidents. So, from 11:00 p.m. to 6:00 a.m. I parked the tow truck in my driveway. When an accident happened I got the call, there’s an accident on Nine Mile and Middlebelt Road, we need a wrecker there. Whenever I got the call to pick up a car that was in an accident I would be out sometimes two or three hours. The downside of having such responsibility was lack of sleep.
Every night I went out to pick up an accident vehicle I went to school the following day. I found the lack of sleep during the night soon caught up with me during the day, and I found myself sleeping in class quite often. There were times I would be out picking up damaged cars from accidents 2 or 3 nights a week. As the year slid along my grades slid down.
The second semester, about half way through the third marking period, I was called into my counselor’s office. Mrs. Smith, my counselor asked, “Mike, do you want to graduate.” I looked puzzled, and then she showed me my grades from my current classes. The only class I was passing with decent grade was English composition. I went home feeling humiliated. I did not need to spend another year in high school. I’d be 20 years old, and it just did not feel right. I had to do something.
While the money I was making at the gas station was good, it was not the kind of work I wanted to do for the rest of my life. The next day I told the owner about my grades and asked if I could change my schedule. He agreed. He still had me on call, but he also had another driver on call too. That driver became the primary call and went on accidents first. I only went out when two wreckers were needed. I managed to get my grades up high enough to graduate. After graduation I went right to work.
Again, my father just happened to know a journey man carpenter and he got me a job working with him. I joined the carpenters union and became an apprentice carpenter. I felt real grown up. I forgot to mention while in high school I moved in and out of my house staying at friend’s homes. When I got my job as a carpenter, I moved out permanently. For a while I lived in my car, would clean up at the gas station where I use to use to work until a good friend of mine, Mike, told me about his sister who was looking for a renter. I rented a room with kitchen privileges from Mike’s sister, Randy, for just a couple of years.
I worked as a carpenter for two years but I found the layoffs to frequent. So I went back to the gas station where I use to work and asked for my job back. The work was steady, but I felt like I back tracked a couple of years. I knew I wanted something different, yet I could not see myself going anywhere else in life.
One day, I had the bright idea of going back to my high school to ask Mrs. Smith, my counselor for advice. A few days later, I did. She genuinely was glad to see me. She told me she could not help me in school, but said she could help me if I still wanted it. Desperate, I told her yes. So, she invited me to her house. Over a cup of tea, she told me never having taken the SAT or ACT tests, and not having good grades, it would be very difficult to get into any college. I sat at her kitchen table feeling degraded. Another turn of events to delay my life goals. Then she said there is a way I could go to college. Her husband, who was a professor at University of Detroit, just happened to be in position to get me into college at U of D. The stipulation was I had to maintain a B average or higher for two semesters carrying 12 credit hours. I enrolled.
That year I moved out of Randy’s Trailer and into my brother’s house. I worked at the gas station part time and went to school full time for the two semesters. I found U of D to be very expensive, so I transferred to Oakland Community College and started taking classes with the objective of going into journalism. But once again there was a turn of events. One day, between classes, I ran into an old high school friend Cindy. She asked what I was doing there. I told her I was going into journalism. She said, “Mike you should consider going into teaching, you’re really good with kids.” She told me she was going into special education and suggested I might want to consider it.
I finished up at the community college and transferred to Eastern Michigan University and enrolled in special education my major in Emotionally Impaired with a minor in English. I graduated I got my first teaching job teaching handicapped preschool children. I finally found my niche in life.
So you see I had many detours in my life. Yes, as I went through the early stages of life, there were times I felt really grown up. Then there were times when I felt like a little kid again. When I received my teaching certificate, and landed my first teaching job I knew I finally reached adulthood.