Before I start posting things and offending someone, because I know I will ‘cause that’s what I do, I should say that this is in reference to a post that featured the exact images featured throughout this post. It is also in reference to quotes from this entry by the same girl. Lessons for this girl and others like her will be bolded.
Hi, we haven’t been introduced, which is honestly fine with me. My name is Janet. I am 27 years old. Ten years and 1 month ago, I started to college. I still have not finished. And I am going to explain to you, Christine, and others like you why it is that you can’t act like you’re somehow better than other people and why you can’t judge people who are in debt. Hopefully, you will be able to understand it.
You may not be whining about how you are going to pay for your education, but I can assure you that that scenario might change. You see, you’re two years into what I can only assume will be at least a four year degree program. I say at least because I spent the greater part of a decade in college and I know how insanely hard it is to get a degree cracked out in a year these days, especially if you’ve changed majors (which I did), go to a smaller school (again, that would be me), or if you have trouble with getting classes or aid approved. Oh, hey, that’s me again.
We’re taught as kids that we’ll go to primary and secondary school for 12 years, or 13 if you include Kindergarten. We’re taught that our post-secondary education will begin with a four year rendezvous in the world of bachelor degrees, aka our undergraduate education. Well, that’s great and wonderful, unless you go into certain schools, degree programs, or have any issues at any time with any teachers, financial aid, or basically anything in your school, personal, or work lives. We’re also taught that if we don’t achieve the goal mentioned in that first sentence of this paragraph that we are utter failures, and this sentiment gets reiterated by people like you or your favorite candidate, Ron Paul.
So, my first official lesson to you is that you shouldn’t count your chickens before they hatch. You don’t know what will go on in the next couple of years. You don’t know what will happen in your life in that time. No one really knows for sure what their life will hold.
That brings us to the next lesson: do not judge that which you do not understand. You are not one of the people that you are mocking in your images, so you don’t know what is going on in their life. When I started to college so many moons ago, my dad actually had a job. His years of anger and torment and depression hadn’t eaten up his entire ability to work yet. I also had some level of energy that I no longer have. I was also happy that I was getting to go to college a year earlier than my friends, which made me feel like the luckiest human being in the history of the world. I hated being in high school. I had lots of friends and I was no longer being bullied, which went on some when I was younger. I was very smart and I had a lot of potential, but I was always miserable at school because I would spend seven hours a day (at least) listening to lessons on stuff that I had studied in my own time when I was much younger. I was bored out of my mind with school by the time I was in second grade, so the sooner I could move on, the happier I was going to be. There were issues that I was having with my psychiatric problems, including that I would go into such severe depressive spells that dying seemed like a good idea or that cutting would somehow allow me to bleed my pain out. I was also grieving because at around this time my parents were told that my former foster sister wouldn’t be allowed to move back in with us, which broke all of our hearts and spirits, and they were told that the reason was that they had raised a daughter who ended up depressed. She was kept out of our house because of my mental health, and I felt like any suffering or pain that she went through from that point on was on me. And I still feel guilt because I know that her life might have been different if I had somehow not managed to go crazy my Junior year of high school. And though this may all seem unimportant, I am stating it because you wouldn’t understand what all of this was like unless you went through it yourself. Even then, you wouldn’t completely get it because you’re not me. So, I started to college a year early with high expectations, massive depression, horrible guilt, and paranoia and anxiety episodes that were crippling me on a daily basis. I had to start off very, very slow. So, I already knew I was going to be in college for more than four years.
This is where we get to majors. When I was in high school, I was going to study music management and production. I was going to go to MTSU, which has a stellar program for that degree. I changed my mind, which isn’t uncommon and isn’t a bad or irresponsible thing to do. I decided to go with a double major of social work and religious studies. I was going to go to the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga. That was my goal and I was going to achieve it.
After almost 3 years in community college, because that’s where you go (instead of going to some school like Yale, which was my childhood goal) when you have dropped out of high school, I applied for a transfer to UTC. I was admitted there. And after my parents had written a hefty check so that I could live in an apartment on campus with 3 other girls, I started having massive panic attacks. They were coming regularly. It got to the point that if I even thought about the state of Tennessee, I would break down into tears or I would hyperventilate. So, after three years of working my ass off to prepare for this one specific school, I had to change my majors again.
I realized I had to stay in town, which meant either going to Oakwood College, the University of Alabama in Huntsville, or going to Alabama Agricultural and Mechanical University. My mom went to UAH, so that made me hesitant about going there. It also didn’t have a social work program, and that was the program that I wanted to use so that I could become a counselor. I could have chosen to get a degree in psychology, but I really didn’t want to do that because it wasn’t the exact path that I had my hopes set on. This leads me to another lesson about college and a lesson about your politics, as well: be flexible. If you’re flexible, you might find that your path is a little different than what you imagine it is. If you think that being flexible might not matter, I can promise you that it does. If you understand that you need to be constantly thinking about if the path that you’re on is the right one for you, then you might understand that you may one day end up in a situation where you, once again, must reevaluate your options.
There were two places that I could go to for my education that offered what I wanted, or what I thought I wanted. I didn’t go to Oakwood because it was a private, religious school, which meant higher costs and stricter moral standards. While I’ve never had sex and I rarely wear any makeup or jewelry, I would have had to agree to an honor code that forbids students from wearing makeup, wearing jewelry, promoting certain ideas (abortion/women’s rights, gay rights, etc.), having premarital sex, etc. and that wasn’t something that I was willing to do. I chose Alabama A&M. It was cheaper. I was a lot cheaper, since I got to go there on what was basically a a free ride. I was given a diversity scholarship because I was a white girl going to an HBCU (also known as Historically Black College & University) and I had the grades to get one that covered tuition, books, and room and board. So, that should have been enough, right? Well, the fun thing is that sometimes you need financial aid in order to cover the costs of your education while a school is deciding whether or not they’re ever going to apply your scholarship. I didn’t apply for financial aid very early during my first year there. I didn’t realize I needed to apply for it, since I had a scholarship that was going to cover everything. It didn’t cover everything because it wasn’t being applied to my education. So, I had to get the Department of Education to approve loans for me so that I could cover my tuition so that I didn’t get kicked out of school.
I realized at that point that I needed to make sure I always had tuition covered via loans that would get distributed to to the school because the school wasn’t going to just give me the free ride that I’d been promised. The loans would get refunded a few weeks after the scholarship would get applied to my account and then I would spend the loan money on luxuries like food and shelter, because by this time my father had lost his job and was no longer really employable. My loans started covering our monthly grocery and utility bills because we were living on my mom’s Social Security Disability checks and (eventually) my SSI/SSDI checks.
The school that I was going to was not a $50,000 per year school. Even now, it isn’t that expensive of a school, but college is an expensive thing for a lot of people. Tuition there is (currently) at $220 per semester hour (for in-state residents) plus mandatory fees that are $750 for anyone taking more that 10 hours. (I took 15, which was sometimes too much for me.) So an in-state student going there is going to pay them about $8,000 per year. Not bad, huh? Even when you consider that I was paying for access to buildings that still don’t exist on campus, a parking space that I didn’t need since I still don’t drive, a fee that allowed me to use the computers on campus—which was only necessary when I was trying to access the Alabama Virtual Library, and a yearbook that I only was able to get a copy of in my last year there. I never got reimbursed for things that were supposed to be covered by my grants and loans and scholarship. Basically, I was losing money by going there, which wasn’t really bothering me that much. Even when my parents and I were trying to figure out what we were going to eat on Thanksgiving because we’d run out of money to buy food and our food stamps were used up for that month, I wasn’t worried.
The worrying began in January 2007. I was set to graduate in about four months. I was in my last semester as an undergraduate. I had already taken my GRE and had a high enough score that I should have easily gotten into the Masters program at that college. That would’ve meant that I would be finishing my Master’s Degree in one year, instead of two. I would be saving more time and money. I was studying for my licensing exam for my B.S.W., and I was doing two seminars and my (required) internship. Everything seemed okay. Sure, I was still having issues with depression, but I had accepted by this time that I was going to have those problems for the rest of my life. I was okay with that.
On the first day of my internship, I showed up extra early and I was excited. I had been told the previous semester that since I was going to be doing my internship at the Boys and Girls Club (an internship that was given to me at the very last possible minute) and I had been told (at school and at my professional interview for the internship) that I could wear the same exact clothing to my internship that I’d been wearing at school. To me, that meant that I could wear jeans, t-shirts, my jacket (since I was always cold) and my sandals. I always wear sandals. Even when it is cold, I will wear sandals, and that is because they are comfortable to me. So, I wore my sandals the first day. I got called into my boss’s office and asked if I could go home and put some “real” shoes on. I told the boss, who happened to be a friend of my professor, that I would, but I would have to call my dad and he would have to either take me home to get the shoes (which would take an hour and half for the whole trip) or he would have to bring me a pair (taking half the time). When I explained how long it would take, she told me not to worry about it and to just wear them the next day. I told her I would.
The next day, I was wearing the appropriate footwear (sneakers) and my professor showed up. She wanted to make sure that I was wearing the right shoes, since I had messed up. I smiled and told her I had. I tried to show that I was being a competent future social worker. I tried my hardest to prove to her that I was doing a damn fine job. I thought I had shown it. On Friday, at our seminar to discuss our week, she didn’t mention me by name, but she made jokes in front of the entire class about my incompetence and about how I was ill-prepared. Because she mentioned the sandals, everyone knew it was me. I was horrified. I tried so hard not to let it show, because I’d grown up with a grandfather who liked to humiliate me often and I knew that would make it worse. I found out from my friends, a few weeks later, that I was often joked about by this professor. Apparently, my sartorial choices and “lack of insight” (i.e. how I wore the sandals on a rainy day and ended up walking across the campus without the sandals on, which was comfortable, and because I never brought an umbrella) were commonly joked about by this professor in front of my classmates.
The next week, I was called into the boss’s office again. This time to find out why it was that I wore the “same” clothes every day. I change my clothes many times during a given day, even when I have done absolutely nothing. I feel dirty if I’m in the same clothes for very long, so a whole week of wearing the same clothing every day would just be impossible for me. I was wearing different jeans (different colors even) and different shirts every day. The only thing that was the same was that I always had my jacket zipped. So, I was confronted about this, but this time my teacher was there. And it became evident that something that had been disclosed to the staff from the day I showed up for my orientation was about to get thrown into my face.
First, she asked me to call my parents to have them come pick me up from the internship because she thought I needed the day off. This began to eat at my already fragile psyche, and it got worse when I said that I was having to wait until my parents heard my voice on the answering machine. Apparently, I was a horrible person because my parents couldn’t afford to have Caller ID. My day off soon, within minutes, became a week off, which wouldn’t be counted against me. I had to agree to it, of course, but I thought that she had to be doing what was in my best interest and she wouldn’t do something that would hurt me. I trusted her, and I don’t trust people easily, but I trusted her. I couldn’t stand her, but I trusted her. And that was the point in my life where I realized that people suck. Within the next forty minutes, while waiting for my parents, I got grilled on my psychiatric history. I also got asked if my adviser, who I liked and trusted even more, could go with me to my next psychiatrist appointment. It became evident that I had no choice, so I agreed, which actually brings me to a lesson. Don’t ever be naive, because people can tell and they will fuck you over in a heartbeat. So, I was a twenty-three year old who was going to have her adviser meet her psychiatrist. I wasn’t too concerned, but I should have been.
The next week, both of those professors showed up at my appointment. They went back with me. They got to listen to me tell a psychiatrist that I had never seen before (I go to a mental health center, so you don’t always get your assigned psychiatrist) that I’d been psychotic, depressed, and suicidal in the previous two months. They also heard me say that I wasn’t actively depressed, suicidal, or psychotic at that time, but that didn’t matter. Because at this point, I was told by the psychiatrist that I needed to be hospitalized. I was given a hospital order, which I didn’t follow through on, and I was given that in front of two teachers who would, months later, end up using as part of their justification why, with so little classtime left and a history of complete honesty about my psychiatric condition, I was being dismissed from the program. In January, though, I didn’t realize that that was going to happen. I was told to take a few months off, and that it wouldn’t held against me. I was also told to call back in the spring about my internship, so I called and called and called and called. The lovely teacher that loved to joke about me didn’t call me back. She didn’t answer notes left at her door. She didn’t even answer questions sent to her through one of her colleagues, who had become an unlikely ally for me. Eventually, after I’d started back to school and was taking an entire semester (except for 2 hours that were specifically linked my major) of classes that had nothing to do with my degree, I would be pulled into a meeting with the two teachers and told specifically about my dismissal. During this meeting, I would be told to get a degree in business or something and to never work in a job where I had to deal with people. They were very specific about how I shouldn’t be around other people. And that was when I realized I had worked almost 7 years to get a degree in a field that I had come to hate and it meant nothing. I was in a pre-professional degree program, and I was going to have to start all over again.
Oh, but wait, there’s more. When I dropped out of my internship back during that January of “fun”, my student loans for that year were returned to the government/banks. The school returned all of the money from not just the spring semester, but the fall semester (when I was actually in class), too. So, I had to pay the school again. I now owed thousands of dollars that I didn’t have, and that I couldn’t pay to them. So, I chose to try to go to UAH, but I was dishonest on my application. I omitted that I went to A&M because to mention it meant that I had to get my records. I couldn’t get my records because I couldn’t pay the loan back to the school. UAH figured out my dishonesty, put me on probation, and said that I couldn’t be admitted to their school until they had my complete record. I had to wait until my dad’s disability got approved so that I could have my grades.
When I finally went to school there, I was so burned out and so tired from everything that I couldn’t do it anymore. I couldn’t go to class and take tests and write essays for another four years and not know if that degree would ever come. I didn’t have the energy to get out of my bed in the morning, so I had to quit. I had to completely quit, which led to some nasty comments by people I know, about my laziness and about how I was just taking everything before too seriously. So, that was the end of my education career, but not the end of my debt.
I shouldn’t owe the amount that I do, but I do owe it. And that is not as you suggest in the very next image, because of my dumbass choice. No, it’s because I believed that people who were supposed to help me wouldn’t turn my whole dream into a nightmare.
So, in terms of your apology, I have to agree on one thing you said. You stated, “I am an idiot.” That, my dear, is true. Because you made the most asinine of statements, and you deserve the shit that gets dished to you. I think it is petty that you criticize people for getting mad at your post, but you don’t seem to realize just how horrible those 5 images are. You don’t realize what anger and what emotions you are evoking in another person because of your petty need to feel better about yourself. If you want to state your opinion, then do it in a nicer way. I bitch at people all the time now, which is not who I used to be. I was the girl who didn’t do that kind of thing, even when I was pissed, I was never outright cruel to people…not like I am now. And the stuff that you were being a brat about is part of what contributed to the bitchier version of me.
Like I said, you have no clue what is going on in another person’s life. You have no clue what your education career will be like. Most of all, though, you’ve just proven how incredibly immature and inconsiderate you are.
So, unlike many of my very, very snarky opinion posts, I shall end this one with a big fuck you. Why? Well, because your images inspired this post, which inspired me to reflect on everything that has happened in a decade, and that made me cry for two hours straight, while I tried to figure out what exactly I could say. I know it is unimportant to you because I’m just another whiny person with a lot of debt who made bad choices, but what you said was hurtful. It was cruel. It was unnecessary. You can be opinionated without going into full-blown bitch-mode. And you need to learn how to do that. And, I’m going to give you some advice that hurt me a few years ago, “Never get a job around other people.” They don’t deserve to have your judgmental behavior around them. No one does. If you do want a job around other people, then you need this advice as well: learn to be a more accepting human being. Learn to look at a person and see a person. I also need to say thank you, though, because this is probably the most that I have ever completely mentioned on the subject anywhere outside of just with my parents.