This semester has been brutal and every time I go into one of my hard classes I feel like I am walking into a mine field. And every time I walked into taking a test it was like walking into a firing squad.
I have been trying to come up with a plan B in case this fails but I haven’t come up with any. I am not the entrepreneur type (which is rather ironic because I have a Business Degree) and do not have an idea for a business.
Financially, I’ve managed to break even: an important aspect of not having to borrow money for school. And hopefully this will be useful once I file my taxes in February (yes I file early!).
My priorities have changed: I don’t mind wearing my sneakers with holes in them (even though I patched them twice) when going to campus nor I care much about going to a party or to concerts as much. The pursuit of knowledge in order to enter the STEM field has consumed my free time and mental energy. Speaking of which, I am learning to work with UNIX and it is a pain to work with since I don’t have a compiler to check for errors. So I am programming the old fashioned way and hoping I don’t crash the university servers when I submit my homework. I haven’t ridden my bike or gone to the gym in months because my laptop wouldn’t handle the bumps (and at 15lbs it would hurt my back while cycling uphill). The time I spend working on my homework and studying has affected my relationship with Cutie: I won’t be able to get a good work-life balance until this semester is over :(
Digging out of the world of virtual books, late-night coding and numbers to write freestyle.
My schedule this semester has been horrible and I have been counting the days until it will all be over and at the same time dreading tests. I hate tests even when they are stupid-easy. Especially in subjects like science and math.
I have been stressed out with school work while at the same time been scouring the area to see what potential employers want out of a newly-minted programmer with a business background. What I have found has been disappointing: a constant need for over-achievers or “geniuses” that have little to no real life experience in the work force and willing to take a pay cut out of desperation in spite of paying up the nose for an education. Some were even willing to sponsor a few international students if they accepted even lower compensation offers. I gave several out of state employers my resumes, in spite of the fact that they will end up as recycled toilet paper to be sold at Wal-Mart. At least I know what to expect once I graduate.
On the home front, I am constantly pained with feelings of failure and dread. I ask myself over and over if this whole thing is worth it, if this whole journey is worth ruining the lives of others in order to pursue this knowledge that I desperately seek. I tried to seek it out on my own, but I needed help. And so here I am, attending university again and trying again to carve out a better life. After this journey ends is where I have to decide to quit the pursuit of a better life and do something else. A last resort option would be to create my own business but even that is a huge risk.
Sometimes I get stupefied by the kinds of conversations I sit through/encounter. There is one type of conversation (among many) that baffles me to no end but can make my head explode in less than 5 minutes.
It is the constant reminiscing about overcoming personal poverty and dismissing the current struggles that other people face while in poverty.
Why? WHY REMINISCE ABOUT THAT???!!! POVERTY IS NOT A RITE OF PASSAGE!!
It’s irritating because such attitude dismisses other people’s struggles as if their problems were so easy to solve. It is also heartless to say the least.
Maybe to these people who succeeded to get out of their dire situations have forgotten that not everyone in the world has access to the same opportunities as they do. The “pulling up by your own boot straps” attitude is so condescending, to say the least. It is also unrealistic. For example, phrases such as:
“Oh I remember back when I didn’t have _________ but managed to to _________ for several years and did just fine”.
“Oh but why don’t you do __________ or __________? I did and everything came out just fine”.
talk down on people who are still struggling and ignore other factors and setbacks that do not allow the proposed solutions to solve the problems. It is a constant lack of empathy from those who are oblivious that is ruining any hopes and chances of a lot of people to get out of bad situations and escape poverty. If you are not in that kind of situation, congrats! Why not point at the right direction on how to overcome similar setbacks? Yes it is true that there are lots of opportunities to overcome such setbacks, but not everyone has the same information on how to do so. Or even the same luck. Yes LUCK. That is something no one wants to admit but it does take hard work and LUCK to succeed. LUCK is that overall factor that is beyond personal control. LUCK can cover and influence everything from job prospects, housing, health issues, etc. A person can do everything within his or her power to get out of poverty and then something like BAD LUCK can wreck havoc on such plans (bad health, bad boss, bad job market, bad housing, bad family situations).
That is why I don’t reminisce about my past or current struggles. Misery likes company and I’d rather not partake in that. The best way to help people get out of poverty is providing some useful information and some empathy. Or take him or her out for a beer.
As I was working hard on my Chemistry homework (and silently cursing at how stupid Pearson programs charge an arm and a leg for books, computer applications and other crap), I realized that a combination of political, economic and circumstances beyond my control have created these road blocks to financial stability.
As in, I am currently working hard (academically) and paying for entrance into a possible well-paying job in a field that may or may not be automated (I hope computers will not learn to program themselves). This is how it feels like to “pay your dues” so to speak. Which is asinine because the most knowledgeable people can become unemployable because of lack of communication skills and a good network.
This is why I am going to also start working on the latter.
I have signed up for 3 professional student organizations in my field of study, which would lead to more networking career fairs I can attend to than the usual one that Walmart attends. The more people I can talk to, the better the chances that I can land a job somewhere, far away from the South. Worst case scenario, the time and energy spent would yield nothing and I would be stuck here.
I hated doing this, but I had to:
My schedule is SO FULL of time-consuming classes that I had to turn down a job interview because I wouldn’t be able to fill the hours they needed me for. If they had weekend hours I would have accepted the job in a heartbeat. If I were studying 12 hours or less, I would have accepted the job. My cost of opportunity was $1,015 for the semester. But if I took the job, that would leave me less time to study (and no time for math tutoring) and would end up failing the semester. In that scenario, I would be out $6,000+ and land myself into Academic Probation, meaning loosing my scholarships and the ability to continue to attend school loan-free. And the “loan-free” part is important.If at some point during the long academic journey manage to enroll for 12 hours or less, I will look into finding employment somehow (internships).
The non-stripping alternatives….
If I didn’t suck at working in manual labor, I wouldn’t go back to college. I would excel and become a union member somehow. I wanted to donate plasma this semester for some money, but I couldn’t spare 2 hours during the day to pass out from lack of blood proteins (this was from previous attempts). First time I donated plasma, I was so weary that when I got home, I ate 6 eggs (horrible cravings!) and passed out for the rest of the afternoon. I donated plasma 2 more times and had to quit because I couldn’t get my body to get used to it. So that option is out :/
Patience is a virtue that only saints possess. But I am not a saint…
I’ve kept in constant touch with the financial aid office on campus. They must hate me by now, but I don’t care. If the roles were reversed, they would send collections after me. Such irony that the university is quick to offer me a loan to pay for school, yet it drags its feet when it comes to dispersing loan-free money. So is the college life.
This month has been a bit nerve wrecking (so to speak). Apart from Cutie’s health scare, I have been super-nervous about the Fall Semester. I am referring to the financial aspect of affording school without taking out loans. Yes I did get a few scholarships but so far only a small amount of it has gone through, putting me in the whole for the rest of the $6,000 I owe for the semester. The anxious me becomes the pro-active me, and makes a lot of phone calls and sends emails to the university and the scholarship department. That is my current battle. My hope is to break even or not be in the hole too damn much. I already spent close to $300 in books (in spite of searching high and low for used copies and purchasing them during the sales-tax free weekend).
And then there is Plan B….
No, not the drug (although I used it once and I felt like a cow full of hormones :( ). It is the where I am going to go after I graduate from university (for the second time!). I worked on my degree plan and estimated that I would finish in 8 1/2 semesters or 2 1/2 years, give or take. Cutie is getting impatient about living in the South but I can’t rush this kind of thing. The logical place would be anywhere where I can find work but it seems that pre requisite is not enough anymore. I need to look towards a place where to “lay down roots” so to speak. A place where the weather isn’t too hot and does not hate women (cutting funding on Planned Parenthood is a big no-no on my book). I have started doing research in several states using sites like numbeo.com, looking for reasonable cost of living, towns or cities where DINKS can live and enjoy a good gaming community, etc. I have narrowed it down to 3 states and I hope that the next time we move, it would be the last time.
After recovering from traveling for family events, I will keep this phrase in mind whenever I have to book another trip. This is something that rings true especially when you have to travel.
It’s hard to be good to yourself while traveling when you are on a budget. Or short on cash. But traveling is going to be expensive (money-wise or comfort-wise): -Excessive cheapening out on lodging can increase your exposure to bed bugs, noise and unclean places. I have stayed in hostels, shacks, tents, etc during my travels and honestly I will always prefer to stay at a hotel with a good track record for a good night’s sleep. BTW I will never stay at an America’s Best Value Inn AGAIN. Especially in Kentucky.
–The Flying -vs-Driving Debate: While flying has become obnoxious and irritating, driving through long distances (8 hours or more) can be just as draining. I’ve found that if the drive is more than 4 hours long, it merits some overnight stay either at the destination place or mid-way to the destination place. At least with flying you can opt out of driving far afterwards. -Food: It’s hard to eat healthy while traveling. If you want to save money, invest in a plug-in cooler that will keep your food either hot or cold and prepare some simple meals like sandwiches and snacks. Traveling with a few homemade meals will not only save money, but help avoid the dreaded food-poisoning (and a ruined trip!). If you can’t prepare meals, scout out the nearby restaurants along the route or destination point for some healthy choices. -ALWAYS BRING WET-WIPES/DISINFECTING WIPES! I can’t stress this enough. You will encounter enough contaminated surfaces to catch at least ONE COLD/FLU if not careful. Excessive hand washing is encouraged while traveling.
-BRING YOUR OWN LINENS AND TOWELS. Better safe than sorry. Check for the bed size of the place you are planning on staying in and either bring your own clean linens and towels. Seriously, don’t even bother using the provided comforters: most only get washed once a year. While on the subject…
–Bring a flashlight and check the mattress for signs of bedbugs! If you find them, change rooms immediately! I don’t care how paranoid this may look but after roughing it throughout the years (worst was while staying in an old dorm for bible camp with roaches falling from the ceiling), I have become more careful on avoiding as many bug-infested places as possible.
If you can’t be good to yourself while traveling, then don’t travel at all. Unless you are traveling for an emergency, don’t expect to be 100% fully-rested/nourished after cutting one too many corners on lodging/food and transportation mode. I learned this the hard way and which was why I haven’t written in while (thanks food poisoning!)
I will state this now because I have seen too many idiots do this for fun: I do NOT gamble (cards, slot machines, casino games, etc).
Yet what I have been doing for the past year has been so far, a gamble.
Months of silence were caused by a long semester of intense studying in American Government, Modern Greek and Math. The most pain in the ass one was Math, trying to test into another Math class. I worked my butt off, but those online tests are just AWFUL. I managed to test out of one class, but could not test out of the other class. So I had to take summer school. Six months of Math into one month was brutal. My days consisted of 8 hours of studying, doing homework and testing. The hard work paid off (for now). I’d thought after all of that Math I should have come up with a formula (or two) on how to estimate whether this expensive gamble will pay off. (I haven’t :( )
I agree education is a good investment but frankly when you tally up the expenses (tuition, books, food, etc), you do get the feeling that the process itself is a gamble:
A few caveats:
-I didn’t factor in a meal plan because I live off campus, until I had a good look at my schedule and realized that I wouldn’t leave campus until 8PM. And there are microwaves around campus but absolutely no refrigerators available for student use to store leftovers for lunch and dinner time. :(
-I spend about $40 a month on gasoline, give or take depending on how much I have to drive to campus. If the weather is nice enough (no snow or rain) I would ride my bike on the 6 mile trek to campus to save some money. Another peeve: the $36.14 Transit Fee for a bus system that does not run pass 5PM and would add 2 hours to my campus commute because everyone who isn’t a student also gets to ride in it. And there are no stops within walking distance.
-I’ve managed to get two scholarships to cover tuition and fees (excluding parking permits) and the meal plan but did not qualify for the book scholarship, which means I have to pay for books and if I am lucky to get a good parking spot, I would have shell out another $624 for the student parking permit at the closest parking deck on campus. At least this permit will last for two semesters. The reason I am considering upgrading my student parking permit is because the regular low-cost lots need to be cleared out on Tuesdays because of basketball games. The parking Nazis have handed out parking fines like candy because sporting events are more important than academics.
-Did not include housing because I live off campus and since the rental company did not raise our rent, we just renewed our lease. I have considered moving closer to campus until I realized that a) the noise level would not let Cutie and I sleep and b) the rent spikes are increasing at an alarming rate in that area. I dodged a bullet by not being a first-year freshman under the age of 21, which would have forced me to shell out nearly $9,000 for a dorm room on campus per semester.
If I were still working it would have taken me 2 1/2 months to earn enough to cover the above expenses (excluding housing, groceries, utility bills, etc). By the time I have saved enough, the yearly events would have popped up (holidays and birthdays, anniversaries, etc) and would have been too dead broke to even afford car maintenance. Time wise, I would not have enough time to spend with Cutie, run errands or sleep if I were working full-time and studying full time. The only way I can manage to work and study is if I am lucky enough to land a part-time job on campus or near campus that would not conflict with my studying schedule. I am still waiting from a few places I applied to.
Yes this is a new level of gambling. Because I have NO CLUE on whether once I graduate I will land a full-time job before or after graduation. Or, if I do, I would be able to recoup most of the uncovered expenses for the education from the best university in the state (not a diploma mill!). Or not get a job because of other factors, such as a decrease in demand and age discrimination, among other things. If I am not able to find full-time work after this, I am just calling it quits. I understand that in order to compete in a demanding field, education is important but I cannot afford to do it continuously for the rest of my working years. I have considered opening a business or doing contract work, but I do not have the ideas to meet an unmet demand and I am not able to travel extensively because of my family life. It would take A LOT OF MONEY for me to work super-long hours because the time I loose with my family is time I won’t get back. I really hope, with time and hard work, that this will all pay off.