Better Than This
Edit: Monday, February 16
Writing is supposed to make people talk. It’s supposed to spark debate. It’s supposed to challenge what we think and how we see the world. It’s supposed to tell stories we might never experience ourselves. That is what this piece has done.
Since I published this article, it’s made its way around the country, and it’s landed itself squarely back where it originated: my hometown. I have never received so much feedback—both extraordinarily supportive and extremely negative—on any piece of my writing.
Some people have voiced disappointment over what I’ve written. Some people are very, very angry at me. I’ve received messages from my teachers, former classmates, and complete strangers who don’t like what I have to say. That’s okay.
Some of the people I grew up with, whom I have known since I was born, have voiced their immense disapproval of — and even hatred for — me and the message of this piece. People feel attacked. People feel like I have inaccurately portrayed the experience of growing up in my community and in my school system.
This piece is about my experience and no one else’s. It was not and is not meant to be an attack on any person or group of people. I don’t claim to represent the experience of any of my other classmates. I don’t claim to represent the experience of my teachers, some of whom were great educators who inspired us and are still inspiring students. All in all, my hometown has some wonderful people in it whom I still care about very much. I would hope some of those people still care about me, even if they don’t agree with what I have to say. However, I know some of them no longer want anything to do with me; they’ve told me as much since I published this story. That makes me sad, but it doesn’t mean mine isn’t a story worth telling, and it doesn’t mean the things I talk about never happened.
As much as I wanted to take this story down and return to my normal life, one free of terrifying messages from strangers, I know that I can’t. Taking this story down doesn’t change the fact that it happened to me and that it happens to students around the country every day. I came here to stand up for something, and I’m going to keep doing it.
Not all the feedback I’ve received has been so profoundly negative. Some of it has been overwhelmingly supportive. I’ve heard from old friends, classmates whom I knew from a distance for years when we were in school together, and complete strangers who have told me that my story meant something important to them. They’ve told me their stories in return, and I wish you could hear them. They’re heartbreaking, hopeful, inspiring, and as unique as the people who tell them. If I can help them feel like they’re not alone, I have done my job.
Additionally, some people have brought to my attention that some of the statistics I cite aren’t correct. Thank you for letting me know. I have gone back through the article and linked to additional sources for the information and made corrections (denoted by an *) where necessary. Thank you for giving me an opportunity to make this article better.
I encourage every reader, especially those from my hometown, to download and review Covington High School’s Annual Performance Report, the source for many of the statistics I cite here.
This morning, I read this Washington Post article about the educational and political climate in Indiana, the state that bred and raised me.
Effectively, legislators are at war with one another over the fate of public education standards. Last year, Indiana became the first state to opt out of the Common Core, raising questions about how Indiana planned to maintain academic standards while openly rejecting the national educational standards the Common Core seeks to maintain. Now, Indiana legislation is embroiled in crusades against standardized testing and battles over how to hold schools accountable for teaching their students.
I haven’t lived in Indiana in seven years, but when I read the article, I was plunged back into the halls of my high school. I was wrenched from my life as a successful writer in San Francisco, back into the mind of an angry, forgotten, gifted student in an educational system that asked nothing more of me than that I fail.
I fought the public school system to achieve my education the entire time I lived in the Hoosier State. Because of the same cultural and political stanchions mentioned in the article, I was forced to go to battle with an entire public school system—and an entire town—to simply earn my right to go to college.
August, 1996: Home
I grew up in Kingman, a poor, rural town in west-central Indiana. We had a population of 505, one ice cream stand, no stoplights, and a higher-than-average number of residents that lived well below the poverty line. Only 9.8% of the town held bachelors degrees.* Home was an 80-acre farm two miles out of town, where my nearest neighbor lived a quarter mile away.
In August, 1996, I was five years old. One day, at 6:30 in the morning, my dad dropped me off at the bus stop at the end of our gravel driveway to meet the Bus 9—a rattling, yellow monstrosity that would carry me 25 miles to Covington Community School Corporation, where I would embark on my educational career. It was one of three public schools in the county, and it was the only one my address in our rural township would allow me to attend.
I would ride that bus one-and-a-half hours each way to the same tiny public school for eleven years. As a shy, reserved, bookish five-year-old, I didn’t know that this moment, my first morning at the bus stop, would define much of the rest of my young life.
Indiana is home to 370 public high schools. Covington High School serves approximately 300 students total, about 70 per graduating class. In 2013, almost 40% of those students are documented by the state as being economically disadvantaged. 95%* of the student body is white.
Regardless of whether or not students qualify for more advanced curricula, there are limited options for students seeking advanced coursework. In 2012, no students were enrolled in College Board-certified AP courses, since none of the high school’s advanced courses are officially recognized by the College Board and its standards for the Advanced Placement program.* Covington High School consistently ranks below average in Indiana public high schools for proficiency in English and mathematics. In 2010, it was rated in the bottom quartile in state public school rankings.
In 2008, the year I graduated, the school’s budgets were slashed because of student body’s low academic performance, based on the standards set by the No Child Left Behind Act. Art and music programs evaporated from the course offerings. In 2009, our superintendent was indicted and convicted of embezzling almost $30,000 from the school district’s budget. The teachers weren’t allowed to print assignments for students because the school couldn’t afford paper that year.
August, 1997: “Gifted”
I was six when I first heard the word “gifted.” I sat in my first-grade classroom while my teacher, Mrs. H., rattled off a list of names. “Will these students please meet Mrs. N. at the back of the classroom for some special activities?” Mrs. H. said authoritatively, with no explanation.
My name wasn’t on the list. She sent the rest of us, myself included, to go play with the toys they stored on the shelves at the front of the shabby classroom. After a few minutes, I noticed the group in the back of the room were practicing reading and writing, and I felt jealous.
I shyly approached Mrs. H., tugging on her sleeve. “Why do they get to read?” I asked. “Can I?”
“No,” she whispered, leaning down to me. “That group isn’t for you. It’s for students who need extra help. Not the gifted ones.”
For the first time in my tiny life, I realized something: I was gifted, whatever that meant. I could barely reach a water fountain on my tip-toes, but I was already labeled as being different than my peers. It wouldn’t be until much later that I would discover that, in a small town like mine, people didn’t necessarily think that was a good thing.
Fall, 2000: Shame
“Caity can answer that question,” Mrs. Q. said loudly in front of my fourth-grade class. “Can’t you, Caity?”
I jerked my head up out of the book I was reading. I knew I wasn’t supposed to be reading in class while the teacher was introducing a new lesson, but I had already finished the worksheet she had handed out, and I was bored listening to other students struggle with the material.
“Well?” she accused.
“I’m sorry, what was the question?” I asked. The entire class stared at me while my face burned, and I knew I had done something wrong. I squirmed in silence for what felt like years as Mrs. Q. glared down at me, an awkward preteen who just wanted to find out what happened in the next chapter of my book.
“Go to the principal’s office!” she shrieked, to my horror, in front of the hushed classroom full of other students that I had sat next to for my entire life at school. Twenty pairs of tiny, wide eyes stared at me. “What makes you think you’re better than anyone else, that you don’t have to listen?”
I sat in shocked silence for a second, unsure of what was happening. All I had been doing was sitting quietly, reading, doing what I thought any teacher would want me to do. When I realized she was serious, I leapt out of my chair, tears streaming down my face, while I packed up my books and my papers and rushed out of the room.
I sat in the principal’s office for the rest of the afternoon. I listened to the principal chide me for my sins, for not participating in a class that didn’t challenge me. I cried the rest of the afternoon while I sat in the corner of her dingy office, ruminating over the unspeakable evil of what I had done: daring to sit quietly and read.
What makes you think you’re better than anyone else?
Spring, 2003: Can’t
I sat with my assigned group around a table in my sixth-grade science class, and my classmates and I chattered about the group assignment we were supposed to finish by the end of the period. Eli was a chubby boy in camouflage pants and work boots who lived in a trailer in the next town. His dad often came to our farm to help my father maintain our property, and I knew Eli came from a hardworking, poor family. He barely glanced at the worksheet before he pushed it away. With a listless wave of his hand, he refused to participate in the group assignment.
“Come on,” I said, “our grade depends on this.”
“I don’t care about my grade,” he said. “You guys do. You can do the assignment.”
“But why don’t you care?” I asked, frustrated at his indifference. “Don’t you want to do well? Don’t you want to get good grades so you can go to college someday?”
“I’m never going to college,” he stated simply.
“Why not?” I nearly shouted. “You can do anything you want if you work hard enough.”
He stared at me, annoyed. “We’re too poor,” he said. “I’m going to work after high school. My dad needs me. I can’t go to college. That’s just how it is.”
It would take me a long time to realize why, in so many ways, he was right. Someday I would learn that, despite what our culture tells children, we aren’t always allowed to achieve our goals just because we put our minds to it.
Summer, 2003: Camp
I was 12 when I was first accepted to a summer camp for gifted children at Purdue University. My teachers at school looked at me, puzzled, when I told them I was going to science camp instead of joining the summer basketball league. My friends told me I was stupid for wanting to go, that being a “smart kid” was unimportant at best, preteen social suicide at worst.
It was the first time I had ever been away from my farm and my hometown. No one else from my school was there. I was alone. I cried when my parents dropped me off in a sea of other ambitious middle schoolers.
For the first few days, I felt isolated and terrified. Other students trotted in groups to our science and math classes while I fought back my anxious tears.
The other students talked about their piano lessons, their parents with doctorate degrees, the AP classes and International Baccalaureate programs they wanted to go to for high school. And I didn’t know what any of it meant. I had always been the smartest kid in my small public school class, and for the first time in my life, I felt behind. I was an unextraordinary farm girl from an underfunded public school, surrounded by other incredible and extraordinary children, who had goals and dreams and communities that pushed them to succeed. I didn’t belong.
Matt, my advisor in the program, could tell I was struggling in the middle of my first week. He pulled me aside one day as I packed up my backpack to go to class. “You have to fake it until you make it,” he whispered to me.
I thought about what he said as I sat in my debate class. And for the first time, fighting my own apprehension, I spoke up during our class discussion that day. To my amazement, the other students listened. Some nodded in agreement. Some brought up counterpoints.
But no one said I was unimportant. No one said I was committing social suicide. No one told me I was unextraordinary. On the contrary, I walked out of class that day feeling like maybe, just maybe, I belonged somewhere because I was smart—not because I was trying to fight it.
Fall, 2003: Trapped
At the end of my two weeks at camp, I cried. Sobbed. I hugged my friends goodbye and sniffled all the way home.
I returned to Covington Middle School that fall with a pit in my stomach. No one talked about AP classes anymore, because no one in my hometown knew what AP classes were. No one discussed their plans for college, because most of my friends’ parents had never earned any kind of degree past their high school diploma. No one encouraged me to take harder classes or do extra homework that would challenge me, because my teachers didn’t have time or resources to devote to a student who needed extra help. My teachers told me to stop raising my hand in class, because I was an annoyance to them and a distraction to the other students. No one wanted to hear what I had to say anymore.
I had cried at the beginning of camp because I felt like I wasn’t smart enough to fit in with the exceptional students that surrounded me. I cried at the end because, for the first time in my life, I started to realize that maybe I didn’t belong where I had come from. And I didn’t stop crying for months.
A few months later, I was still in the throes of my young depression. I missed my friends. I missed being challenged. As an only child, my mother was paralyzed by fear and anxiety as she watched her only daughter slip into a depression that seemed like it would never lift. She constantly begged me for answers about why I couldn’t be happy, like the little girl I used to be. I didn’t know how to tell her that I felt trapped in a world that didn’t want me to be smart.
One day, I sat alone in my bedroom, my face buried in my journal, the only way I had known how to communicate in the months after I returned home. I hadn’t talked much in days. I still felt sad and utterly alone. Without warning, my mother stormed into my room, tore my journal from my hands, and burst into tears.
“What’s wrong with you?!” she nearly screamed. “Where did my little girl go? You used to be happy, and then you went away and came back like…this.” She sobbed and clutched at me, trying to bring back the little girl she used to know—the little girl who hadn’t known that she could want anything outside of Fountain County, outside the poverty-stricken, working-class world that had raised me.
“What makes you think you’re better than anyone else?” she said, still crying. I cried too. I didn’t know what to say.
Spring, 2004: Bus 9
Ryan was a tall, lanky farm boy who sat next to me on Bus 9 every day on our trek over gravel roads through what we only ever called “the sticks.” He lived with his illiterate grandparents down in the river bottoms. He was two years older than I was, but everyone knew why he was in eighth grade with us and not in high school yet. We cringed for him every time he was asked to read in front of the class, because we knew he wouldn’t be able to discern the easy words, and we knew the teacher would yell at him for not understanding. We knew that everyone in our school system had given up on Ryan a long time ago.
We were only in middle school, but we all knew why his dad was in jail. I remember the day that Ryan brought a rose to school to honor his mother that had been killed when he was still so young. I remember when he told me about how she had been murdered by his alcoholic father while he hid behind a couch in his living room. And I remember the day when Ryan stopped riding the bus, the last time I ever saw him.
Ryan was in my eighth-grade class when he turned sixteen, the year he was legally allowed to drop out of the public school system that had shamed him for the life he hadn’t chosen, the life he had been forced to live. But he was one of us, and I always wondered if anyone else was sad when his seat on the bus remained empty.
Fall, 2006: The Academy
“The application came out today!” I proclaimed to my parents at the kitchen table one night during the fall of my sophomore year in high school. I was still attending Covington High School, but I had developed a plan. I was going to apply to the Indiana Academy, an elite private high school for high school juniors and seniors at one of the colleges across the state. The Academy would be free, if only I could get accepted.
I rifled through the printed pages of the application, thinking about what I wanted to write in my essay, talking excitedly about the classes I wanted to take if I got accepted.
Since I had found out about the Academy two years before, I had worked feverishly to be the type of student and person that the application board would accept into the program. I took piano lessons, taking a gold medal in the state classical music competition. I learned French. I excelled in all my classes. I took advanced math and English through a correspondence program with a university, even though students and teachers alike rolled their eyes at me as I pored over my extracurricular work. I knew what I wanted, and I was going to get it. I wanted out of Kingman, and I knew how I was going to do it.
My dad flipped through the pages of the application with me, discussing my plans enthusiastically. I knew he would miss me if I left, but I also knew that he was proud of everything I had done to qualify for the program. He talked about all the colleges I would be accepted to someday, how impressive the Academy was, how proud he was of everything I had already accomplished.
My dad and I chattered over our dinner for several minutes before I noticed that my mother had said nothing. Her eyes were cast down as she pushed a pile of mashed potatoes around her plate, sitting in stony silence. I fell silent.
“You’re not going,” she said simply.
I didn’t understand, not right away. I looked at her, perplexed. “What do you mean?” I finally asked. I looked over at my dad, his mouth agape, staring across the table at my furious mother.
Her voice rose to a fever pitch. “You’re not going! No other kid does this—goes off and leaves when everyone else goes to a normal school and does normal things. It’s only you! You’re the only one who does this. You’ve only thought of yourself and you are not going.” Her face was red, and her tone was murderous. “You. Are. Not. Going.”
I fought with her. I screamed and cried, shrieking at her about how hard I had worked, how this was all I had ever wanted, how unfair it was that I was being punished for trying to be somebody, God damn it!
After a while, I noticed my father had stopped speaking. “Dad, help me!” I begged. He looked at me, tears in his eyes, and shrugged.
I learned something that night: If I was going to insist on not being ashamed of my own mind, I would have to fight all of my battles for my education alone.
I found the application in the kitchen trash can the next morning. We never talked about the Academy again.
Spring, 2007: “I’m going”
I sat across from my mother at the same kitchen table where we had had our explosive fight about my education just months before.
“I’m going to graduate early,” I told her, matter-of-factly, preparing myself for the inevitable war that was about to ensue. “I’ve done my research. I figured out how to do it. I’ll take extra classes online and I’ll tell my principal and guidance counselor that I’m going to take classes with the class ahead of me. If they won’t let me, I’m going to withdraw and take classes on my own. But I’m going to do it.”
I knew graduating early was the only chance I had at showing colleges that I was capable of succeeding in the competitive world of college admissions. It was the only way I could think of to set myself apart, to show the world how badly I wanted this. It was the only way I could convince anyone that I deserved the education I had been fighting for.
She looked up at me, her jaw set, her eyes glaring at me across the table. I could see her mind working, trying to formulate a counter-argument to tear down my plan.
I stared back. I didn’t budge.
After a few minutes, she pushed her plate away and sunk back in her chair. “Okay,” she sighed.
It wasn’t the war, but it was an important battle. And finally, I had won something.
The next morning at school, I walked determinedly into my guidance counselor’s office. “I’m graduating early,” I said. I slid a piece of paper with my proposed schedule for the spring and the next full school year across her desk so she could look at it. “I know how I can do it. If you plan to stop me, I’ll leave and do it myself. But I’m going to do it.”
Before she could even respond, she called Mr. B., our principal, into her office. “Caity wants to graduate early,” she declared, flustered. “Tell her how hard it’s going to be. Tell her how difficult this is. She probably can’t even get a diploma if she does this. The state won’t even let her do something like this, right? Students can’t just graduate early, Mr. B. Tell her!”
Mr. B. looked at me, bewildered, from the doorway. Before he could respond, I coolly reiterated every step of my plan. “I’m doing it,” I said finally.
Mr. B. sighed. “Why do you want this?” he nearly pleaded. “Why would you ever want to leave this place?” He sighed, realizing that I wasn’t going to let him win. “This is the greatest town with the greatest people in the world. What makes you think you’re better than anyone else?”
I didn’t respond.
“If you’re going to do this,” Mr. B. said finally, “there are a couple conditions. You won’t be ranked with your graduating class, even if you’re the valedictorian. We won’t let you take calculus. And you probably won’t qualify for any scholarship money from any of the organizations in the county. We can’t just let you set a precedent like this. We’ll give you a diploma, but that’s it.”
I was horrified. My educators—the people who were supposed to take care of us, encourage our learning, guide us to achieve our goals—had erected as many roadblocks as they could muster to keep me from achieving the best education I could allow myself. These two adults who had been placed in charge of our educations stood before me, trying to squelch the achievements I had already earned and standing squarely in the way of any new ones I planned to obtain.
What makes you think you’re better than anyone else?
I gathered my stack of papers and stood up. “I’m going to do it,” I said and walked out the door.
Fall, 2008: Rejection
I pored over college applications the fall of my senior year. I wrote and rewrote essay after essay, paying the exorbitant college application fees with money I earned at my after-school job as a bank teller. A slew of private and public Indiana universities. Northwestern. The University of Chicago. Harvard. Carnegie Mellon. I mailed more applications than I could count, and I waited.
“Let’s be honest, you’re probably not going to get into any of these,” my guidance counselor told me one day, as I begrudgingly sat down with her to discuss my college plans. “Do you know how competitive these schools are? You should be applying to state schools. Those will be fine for you.”
I gritted my teeth. I had heard it all before. My friends, my teachers, and relative strangers who only knew me as “that girl who wants to leave” constantly reminded me that I would inevitably be disappointed when I would surely get rejected from all of the top-tier institutions I was applying to. I had learned to live with their hurtful and unsolicited remarks, but I refused to let them change my course of action.
I wasn’t going to let them win.
And then the rejection letters came pouring in.
One after the other, I got a dreaded form letter in a plain envelope: “Dear Ms. Cronkhite, We regret to inform you that…”
The truth was staring me in the face, in the form of anonymous letters from colleges I had lusted after, begged to accept me, to let me be one of them: Despite everything I had accomplished, I still wasn’t good enough. My academic background at a low-ranking, rural public school in a backwater town wasn’t good enough for admissions committees to take a chance on me.
My background in math was sub-par, because I had been prevented from taking any of the advanced math courses I qualified for. I didn’t have any AP or IB courses on my transcript, because my school couldn’t offer any. Even though my GPA was higher than my graduating class’s valedictorian’s, I couldn’t site that as a qualification, because the school wouldn’t recognize it as part of the contract I had signed to allow me to leave school a year early.
I might have been gifted. I might have been tenacious. I might have taken three extra courses a year by correspondence to try to fill the gaps in my education. I might have fought a war against an entire town by myself. But it wasn’t enough.
One particularly conscientious rejector even left a hand-written note on my rejection letter: “Caity, you are no doubt a very accomplished student, and the admissions committee is impressed with your dedication. But there were unfortunately too many qualified candidates whose academic backgrounds were more suited to our institution. Best of luck to you.”
I was ashamed. It didn’t matter who I wanted to be. All anyone else could see was where I had come from. And that wasn’t good enough for them.
What made me think I was better than anyone else?
Spring, 2008: Acceptance
Spring came, and with the shift in seasons came a fortunate shift in my luck. I opened the mailbox one afternoon to find a huge envelope from the last college that hadn’t rejected me: Carnegie Mellon University.
I was in.
Not only was I in, but I had received a scholarship equivalent to half my tuition, as well as a place in a competitive academic program for students in the sciences and humanities.
And at the bottom of my acceptance letter was a new handwritten note: “Dear Ms. Cronkhite, we love your background and hope you’ll join us this fall.”
The next morning at school, I slipped a copy of my acceptance letter under my guidance counselor’s door. She never told me congratulations.
I graduated from high school that May. Even though my GPA was the same as the student who was named the valedictorian, I wasn’t acknowledged on my graduation day. My principal handed me my diploma, and I walked across the stage and out the door of my high school. I never went back.
Fewer than half of my fellow graduates attended college that year. Of the half that did, only a handful of them managed to finish either associate’s or bachelors degrees. Most dropped out and moved back home. Only myself and one other student, our valedictorian, had been accepted to an out-of-state college.
That fall, I moved to Pittsburgh.
But I hadn’t been able to leave my past Indiana behind when I began school at Carnegie Mellon. During my first semester, I struggled immensely with my coursework, and I finally realized the full extent to which my background in a rural public school had handicapped me for a competitive higher education.
I learned that a great majority of my high school education had been riddled with holes and gaps. The teachers who had instructed me my entire life before I went to college simply hadn’t been able to teach to the level and rigor required to prepare us for a college classroom.
During my first semester, I spent days weeping over calculus and biology assignments, because the material was too advanced for my level of education. I learned that my high school curriculum had skipped entire courses and chapters of work that schools were supposedly required to teach.
One night, a friend of mine sat helplessly next to me as I had a veritable meltdown over what should have been a simple problem set. “I just don’t understand,” I pleaded with her. “I don’t even understand what I don’t understand. I need help.”
“But… didn’t you learn this in high school?” she whispered, furrowing her brow in disbelief. “This is basic stuff. Everyone should have learned this years ago.”
“No,” I sobbed. That night was the first, but not the last, time I debated whether or not I should drop out of college. I knew I was smart, but my education had put me woefully behind my peers. I had done everything I could to learn what I knew my underfunded high school couldn’t teach me, but now it was obvious that it still hadn’t been enough.
Despite how hard I had already worked to earn my education, I knew I would have to work even harder to be able to maintain it. And that seemed incredibly unfair.
Luckily, I persisted at Carnegie Mellon. By the end of my sophomore year, I had taken enough remedial courses to be able to keep up in classes that came easily to other students. I found my niche in the English department, where I discovered the only subject in which I could excel naturally: writing.
Four difficult years later, I graduated with honors from Carnegie Mellon, and I was asked to give the graduation speech at my English Department ceremony. I had a job offer from a company in San Francisco, a city I had only dreamed of growing up in Fountain County.
The week after I moved to California, I got a call from my mother. “I saw Mr. B., your principal, at the store today,” she chattered. “I told him you were moving to San Francisco. He said to tell you how proud everyone is of you, isn’t that something?”
Now: “It’s a mess in Indiana”
I succeeded. From my humble beginnings in a rural public school in Indiana’s farm country, I managed to get into a university. More miraculously, I managed to graduate. And I managed to get a job that has afforded me a happy and comfortable life.
But it was miserable getting here. And my story isn’t a typical one.
Most of the friends I grew up with in Fountain County are still there. Many are unemployed. Most didn’t go to college. Many became victims of dismal teen pregnancy or drug abuse statistics. These are people I have known and loved my entire life, and sometimes I still feel guilty for being one who “got out.”
My entire life, people have asked me why I thought I was better than anyone else. I never knew how to answer them.
But now I do. I’m not better than anyone else, and I never have been.
Every single student deserves better than what we were offered within the walls of my dingy high school, more of a prison for our minds than anything else. I demanded more because I knew my classmates and I deserved it.
With the persisting turmoil about the state of education in Indiana, I can’t help but be angry that my home state is, yet again, forgetting about its students. I firmly believe the public school system that raised me set us up for failure, with a steadfast insistence that we didn’t deserve better, and a sharp whip for those who dared to challenge that.
Not every student can do what I did. I acknowledge that, and despite my tribulations, I enjoyed immense privileges that helped me get where I am today. I had a stable home where I could do homework. My family was financially able to send me to summer camp and on college visits. I was born with an IQ that made it possible to dream of doing any of those things in the first place.
Fighting the battles I fought for my own education was easier for me to do than it would have been for others, but it still wasn’t easy. But I hope I didn’t fight them for nothing.