Sidewinder: Beyond those darkened borders

Don't drop out of school, it can be a costly decision for a teen

Fifty-eight years ago, my classmates graduated from Maple Ridge Senior Secondary School.

Due to circumstances which were entirely within my control, I wasn’t among those receiving a diploma at that time.

With the disdain for formal education that only an arrogant teenager can muster up, I dropped out of school to pursue a career which I thought would be more rewarding.

I wanted to make big money in construction, logging, sawmills or whatever and to travel the open road. I sought adventure and excitement. I guess it was the restless vagabond spirit in my soul.

I want to tell you that my self-determined goals and the reality of my life for the following decades were separated by a huge gulf of disappointment and many failures. Instead of big money, excitement and adventure, I reaped a life of trouble, alcoholic insanity and very little success. It was a path I followed for too many years before returning to the real world.

I had always wanted to be a lawyer; but, instead of becoming one, I spent many years needing a lawyer.

Somehow or other, throughout the turmoil of my personal life, I managed to retain a desire to learn and to someday return to school to at least obtain a diploma for graduating from high school. Although I had the desire, I continued to set aside that relatively modest goal.

I have previously chronicled how my grandson’s wife, Maria, was the ultimate inspiration for me to get the job done. A few years ago, she enrolled in continuing education classes to obtain her high school diploma and she did this while playing the pivotal role of motherhood in a very active family.

It took two more years, but I finally ran out of excuses and last September, following a 58-year absence from the classroom, I contacted continuing education at Riverside school.

Rather than complete the requisite courses by correspondence, I attended classroom sessions and, I have to tell you, I loved almost every minute of that experience.

I successfully completed the courses and three months ago was granted a high school graduation diploma. In effect, I will be the last one of my classmates to graduate. I guess you could call me a slow learner.

The fun part will come June 11, when Riverside holds its graduation ceremonies. I will be there along with several members of my family, including a couple of great-grandchildren and my ex-wife.

I will don a traditional cap and gown and will offer a few words on behalf of the adult graduation class.

Even though I must have originally been a great disappointment to my earlier teachers, they did instill in me an unquenchable thirst for knowledge, which continues unabated. I dedicate whatever honor there is in this graduation to their memory and resolute determination to teach the unteachable. Arthur Peake, Eric Langton, Louise Poole and several other teachers deserve much credit for this achievement.

Even though, at 75 years old, I am probably well beyond my best-before-date, Pat Boyle and Erin Smeed, my teachers at Riverside, helped re-awaken that long dormant spark of intellect. They offered the best support and opportunity for scholastic achievement that an old fellow can expect. They made learning a great experience that anyone at any age can embrace.

The entire experience at Riverside was offered with cheerful, professional support that should encourage others to get back to the classroom, regardless of age.

As some wise person once explained, when the desire to broaden your knowledge begins to fade, you begin to descend into the darkness and emptiness of your remaining time on planet Earth. Continuing education, libraries, travel and other avenues offer a rewarding way to reach beyond those darkened borders.

Sandy Macdougall is a retired journalist and former city councillor.