After leaving homeschool high school at the end of grade 10, I thought my future was in retail, and I made a really good go at it. I worked the same job from age 14-17, becoming a part of the management team by the time I was 17. This was the year that I left my parents house, since I was making my own money and could afford it. Despite ending up homeless a few years later, I never did go back.
Right before I became homeless, I went through the process of “alternative entry” to university. I studied and took some exams that showed that I would be able to cope with college, and I entered the Bachelor of Arts program at Central Queensland University. I was homeless during my first semester, so I studied in the park across from the homeless shelter, and at night I studied in the homeless shelter.
My very first classes were Australian History, Australian Society, and Public Relations and the Media, which I took at the recommendation of my mentor because she said that would help me figure out what to major in. Both Australian History and Public Relations and the Media were unremarkable, except that I learned that I was damn good at writing. It was Australian Society, or rather, the professor, whose name was Shane, that would be life-changing.
As a struggling fundamentalist, sociology probably wasn’t the best subject to take, but I’m glad that I did. Shane was a cool professor and my mentor thought very highly of him. I struggled with the course content because it went against a lot of deeply-held beliefs of mine. I was so excited when I submitted my first paper. It made me feel like I was legitimately a university student. When I got it back, I was devastated. I got an F. He had left a lot of comments on the paper about how I needed to back up my claims and leave religion out of it.
I was very confused. One day I showed up to his class wearing fishnet tights and a short skirt, the next I would come in the regular frumpy and modest fundamentalist attire. I had a deep desire to express myself, but the church said that was wrong. Shane forced me to think beyond my religion if I wanted to pass his class. Somehow I managed to adapt and actually pass the class. It didn’t really change me very much at the time, but years later, it would totally rock my world and change my life forever.