Tuesday, April 10, 2012

40 To 40 Day 22: On Higher Education

Most of my childhood I never really thought about what I wanted to be when I grew up. Once music entered my life and it was discovered I had a talent, I was raised to think that was all I had going for me. If I screwed it up I wouldn't succeed at anything else. During high school while everyone was working towards what college they wanted to go to, I was mostly waiting it out so I could leave home. College just didn't seem part of the equation.

Once I started life with my foster family, I pretty much had one year to figure out all the things my friends had all ready figured out when it came to where they would go after high school. I did enjoy music and knew I was good enough for a scholarship. I looked at universities that had a strong music focus, but at the end it seemed best (safer) to stick close to home. That means I tanked my SAT's, and just barely made the cut on the ACT. So I applied and was accepted to ASU. I also managed to receive a music scholarship which helped cover tuition.

It was scary and exciting, and I even went one step further and stayed in one of the dorms instead of staying at home, which was only a couple of miles from campus. I was doing what any normal person would do after high school- and for me it sucked.

I didn't know the first thing about living on my own. I also was very unprepared for college life and the self-discipline that was involved. I had no study skills, and quickly fell behind in classes. Eventually I just stopped going. That was also when music became more of a chore than fun, and I began to avoid it all together. I lacked a lot of self-confidence and took on too much, and the consequences of that was I flunked out of college my first year.

My foster parents have told me they blame themselves for a lot of this, but you know I don't blame them at all. None of us knew what we were doing, and they were only doing what they did with their other two kids. They have two highly intelligent children of their own and they both went off to prestigious universities. Then there was me, average intelligence and no skills in which to broaden it. I was trying to live up to the wrong standard.

I tried community college for awhile, but by then college started becoming less and less important to me. Eventually Bret and I were living together, and I had a job cashiering at Fry's Food. He graduated from ASU a couple of months after we were married, and for his last semester of student teaching he quit his job and I supported the both of us. My life was going in a different direction, and I didn't worry about higher ed. or a career for several years.

All this time I was cashiering at Fry's, and I was really starting to hate it. Leave it to a bad job to get you thinking about school again. At this point though, college looked really daunting and I still didn't think I had it in me. Then I discovered a trade school where I could get some legal training in just 8 months. I researched the school, talked it over with Bret and also my foster parents. I was a little afraid to bring it up at first, because I felt by going to something less than a university I would be disappointing my husband and family that all had bachelor's degrees. Turns out I was wrong. They all just wanted me to be happy and succeed, and if this was the way then I had their support. I got my mad legal assistant skills, also had a baby in the process, and found a job with a bankruptcy attorney who did debtor work.

When I had the second child, I stopped working and you know the rest of that story. I've had a couple of moments of thinking it would be great to go back to school and finally get a degree. I toyed with my two loves, political science and journalism. But you know, my thoughts on having a career have changed so much since I was cashiering in a grocery store. I look at that cashier job now, and I could totally do it and be perfectly happy. I don't need a college degree or a career to feel successful. With all the extra things I do with the radio and writing and the connections I've made over the years, I have a full social life, and a life full of "hobbies" that I take quite seriously. It's also help me build a resume' that could help me should I want to expand on the hobbies and make it a career.

My feelings on college make it hard to discuss it with my girls. Yes, I want them to go. I still do see the importance, and they of course have a better shot than I did graduating. However, where I separate from my husband is if they said they didn't want to go. I wouldn't have as much of a problem with it as I know he would.

It's just a matter of figuring out what you want in life, and then figuring out how to achieve it. It took me a little longer, but I have no regrets. And I always have options and even things to fall back on should I need them.

Just do what makes you happy.

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