It is good to be back home. As always, the first sight to welcome me back home is the sign for Jumpin’ Jack’s Drive In Charcoal Pit and Twin Freez across from Collins Park, right under the end of the Western Gateway Bridge connecting Schenectady to Scotia across the Mohawk River. I talked to my best friend Kathy for hours on my first night back, immediately reconnecting as if we had never been apart.

I called Vinny to let him know I was home. He told me that he is in a serious relationship. I said I understood it had been a long time, and figured he was seeing someone when I didn’t get any letters back from him. Kathy had already told me about his girlfriend, I just wanted to hear it directly from him. He did not ask, and I didn’t tell whether or not I had been seeing anyone.

My father is still pretty mad and wants me to do my correspondence schoolwork eight hours a day, five days a week. People who attend high school full time don’t do that much work. I researched other options and found out I don’t have to finish the course work. I can take the GED exam to get my high school diploma and start community college this summer. I’ll be ahead of, not behind, schedule for my education. I bought a GED study workbook with review materials and sample tests I easily pass.

The community college is just across the bridge in Schenectady. I can ride my bike, take the bus, or even walk to get there. They have a good hotel & restaurant management program. In fact, the college building used to be a hotel, so they have a huge kitchen and banquet facilities. I can do all the basic classes and get my two-year associate’s degree there, and then transfer to a better culinary school, like the Culinary Institute of America or Cornell for my Bachelor’s. I want to be a chef, and one day own a restaurant, or even better, own a hotel. My mom thinks I am destined to marry a rich guy and have it all. I don’t mind working and am not looking for anything to be handed to me. I worked pretty hard and a lot of hours relative to most of the other people on the cruise staff, and only got about $25 a week. I even managed to save a little bit of it to go toward college. My parents certainly can’t afford to pay for it.