San Francisco, CA

High School Dropouts Meet in Grad School

Sandy Wynn
FriendshipPhoto byAlexa by Pixabay

When 3 friends met in graduate school, they weren't exactly sure what had drawn them to each other. Riley was a 31 year old White woman from Arizona looking to build a community in San Francisco. John was a 45 year old sci-fi nerd from New York City disguised as a savvy bartender. Nga was a reserved 27 year old Vietnamese immigrant who suddenly found herself going through a bitter divorce. The 3 met their first semester of graduate school as they were asked to share their personal story in class.

Their burgeoning friendship perplexed many. Amidst a large university campus with thousands of students from all walks of life, these 3 seemingly divergent souls connected through writing papers, studying for finals, late night San Francisco adventures, and loads of mediocre coffee. They shared their war stories, failures, and triumphs. Periodically a funny youtube video or witty joke would befall them, resulting in concessions of laughter.

Riley, Nga, and John had all grown up at the mercy of poverty, and, a single mom. Life was more about dodging homelessness and surviving chaos than performing well academically. Riley, Nga, and John may have been considered troubled, disturbed, or dumb kids. They couldn't focus in class. They lacked discipline. They defied rules. They were runaways, drawn to trouble and attracted to America's underbelly. But these under-achieving high school drop-outs somehow found their way to college, and, supporting each other through a Masters degree program. Each struggled in their own way. They were vastly different, creatures concocted of unique physiology, family background, religious beliefs, and cultural values. These differences could easily separate people, typecast them into convenient categories. But in 2009, armed with residual rebellion and passion to help others, their wicked mess brought them together, forever changing the course of their lives.

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A daughter, sister, partner, mother, and, most importantly, a friend to those seeking perspective or resources. I aim to share stories and letters that not only allow access to pain, but also normalizes it.

Santa Cruz, CA

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