Q&A Series – Being a Non-Traditional Student, Occupy WallStreet & Reality TV

Today I am doing Bio labs, studying for a math test at the end of the week and preparing for a short paper comparing three short stories (I often find short stories most difficult.)  I have started this new thing where I try to work for 90 minutes and then take a 15 minute break.  Since I am not doing any real work in the math studying department, just studying and since I am just re-scanning the short stories we read, this far it feels a bit ineffective.  I am rewarding myself with a blog post.  I am turning over a new leaf, and attempting to do so with a Q&A series.  The first set of questions is from Liz @ Lark&Bloom, I guest posted in her Mother’s Day series  – you know being a mother and all… Here are her questions and my answers, God bless her for bringing one of them up.

1. Most people feel that they have to stay committed to the direction they started out going in their mid-twenties. You worked, liived in Germany, moved to Boston, got married and THEN went to college. What fears did you have of starting a ‘new’ direction in your 30s?


Fear is a part of life.  In every stage of life I have been uncertain if the decision I was making was the best one.  As I continue on this journey I realize that it is not nearly as crucial IF I am making the RIGHT decision, but if I am simply making decisions that still scare me.

At 34 school isn’t the same deal it is at 18.  You can’t pick a major and hope it is what you want, pick your major and it’s what you’re probably going to do.  Also, your mind is a bit out of the learning mojo.  It takes a bit to remember how to study, and what you need to learn.  As well, I have never recovered from my fascination with school supplies, and in the years that I’ve been gone from academia they have so improved, how do I know if I am picking the right specialty pen?

Seriously though, I was terrified of putting us in this position financially.  Justin got a scholarship to undergrad, he had an assistantship in grad school, he was able to live very frugally and serve in Americorps when he graduated off the money he saved as a result.  He worked really hard for the position he has and now I am kind of a financial drain on our family and I hate the cold so I still want to go to the beach in February or March… We have REALLY struggled financially, and I feel bad for that – and that is the REALIZATION of my fears.  NO ONE TELLS YOU THAT – they always say, “Oh I was so afraid of such and such but then it all turned out perfectly and we never missed a bill…”  Ummm, NO – not the case.  We have followed the path we felt was right, our biggest fear has come to pass, we were humiliated and I am still in school.  So there you have it.  No one died, no one quit.  My biggest fear happened, it was hard and we all are still making it in the midst of it.  There’s a reality TV show for you.
2. Occupy Wallstreet. Is it successful or not? Why?

2 things.

One – We are guaranteed through the first Amendment the freedom of Speech, and the freedom to assemble. Initially it would be difficult to evaluate the effectiveness of Occupy Wallstreet, though effectively assembled, the message was unclear.  However, the message is being hammered out. As with any young movement they are gaining a voice and leadership… as well as global criticism – which will inevitably sharpen their message.

Their success could be evaluated from a plethora of different angles, but I hope that their voice and the numbers will result in Wall Street being evaluated from a less opaque lens.  Wall Street has clearly experienced LESS of an economic collapse than the rest of us, unfortunately they cannot hide behind the numbers.

This video (certainly propaganda – but compelling propaganda!) may help clarify the frustration of the protestors a bit:

I also want to remind people that the constitution also protects the right to mass assembly – even at the tax payers expense – here’s a loosely translated version of the first amendments guaranty that people may freely assemble:

As Americans we have the right to peaceably assemble. This means we can form into groups
and debate a subject or stand up for something we don't think is right.
We can do so by going on strike or boycotting something, as many people call the activity.

Two – When I was at Vassar I realized that I was taking a professor’s criticism of my writing very personally.

In some ways she was personally criticizing me – or at least the way I was presenting something, but, in another way she was challenging me to fight back and to not let my little feelings get all wrapped up in it.

Not. My. Strength.

I recently saw this posted on a precious friend’s wall in the form of a photo (it’s Facebook viral and it was a re-post by her and applauded by MANY people on her wall),  it took everything I had not to personally respond.

However, having been given the perfect opportunity to, this is my response to why I think Occupy Wallstreet is doing a GREAT job giving people like myself a voice in the face of people who seem to be a bit lost as to why we are so UPSET at the state of the global economy and our PERSONAL economic condition.

The words of the original post are in normal type face, I think it is obvious mine are posted immediately after in italics:

“I am a college senior, about to graduate completely debt free.

Congratulations, this is a huge accomplishment and meritorious on so many levels – it is also more easily understood by your later admission that 90% of your tuition is paid for by scholarships you received due to your grades in HS.  Many of us are not attending college right out of high school for a sundry of reasons.

I pay for all of my living expenses by working 30+ hours a week making barely above minimum wage.

You are lucky that you have a job.  Many people with a college degree, masters and a family are not so lucky.

I chose a moderately priced, in-state public university & started saving money for school at age 17.

It seems that you came from a home where you were generously supported by your family – I moved out when I was 15 and though I was supported by other family members, many people are not so lucky and do not have the luxury of saving up all their money.

I got decent grades in high school & received 2 scholarships which cover 90% of my tuition.

I could make a lot of deductions from this, but I am guessing that you are from a working class home in suburban white America, because the rest of America is not given the opportunity to succeed in such a generous way.  I do not blame this on you, but instead ask you to consider this when you communicate this as if it was an equal opportunity accomplishment.  It was not.  

I currently have a 3.8 GPA.

With 90% of your tuition paid for, a solid academic foundation and a supportive family you were prepped for success.  Many of us were not and are equally proud of our GPA.  I have a 3.87 – I received my first B this summer due to that 30+ hour job a week I know you understand.

I live comfortably in a cheap apt, knowing I can’t have everything I want. I don’t eat out every day, or even once a month. I have no credit card, new car, iPad or smart phone – I am perfectly OK with that.

Good for you.  Please do not impose your ideals on me.  I made a commitment to buy all my clothes and home goods from second hand stores this year – we’re all doing our part – I promise to keep doing mine and you keep doing yours.  I won’t judge you, you don’t judge me.  However, I do WELCOME and APPRECIATE the challenge to KEEP doing more and to live MORE AND MORE SIMPLY! 

If I did have debt, I would not blame Wall St. or the government for my own bad decisions.

I do have debt.  I don’t blame Wall Street either, but I am concerned that if I am working this hard and doing this month and going to THE CHEAPEST school possible and living this simply – and still struggling this badly, that maybe there is something more as a SOCIETY that we can do.  Am I wrong to ask the question, and to gather with others who are asking the same question? And am I wrong to look at those who are turning a blind eye to the struggle and ask them to help us figure out how to keep on being millionaires while everything else is crashing?  I mean – they’ve got some sort of answers right??? To this point I can stomach almost everything you say, but to insinuate that EVERY person who has debt is in debt as a result of bad decisions is an obvious imposition of moral judgement of the most generalized and harsh kind.  May you be be treated with far greater kindness in your own life. 

I live below my means to continue to save for the future.

YOU HAVE NO IDEA HOW MUCH I WISH I COULD – I AM CRYING AS I TYPE THIS.  YOU JUST DON’T KNOW HOW SCARY IT IS TO BE MARRIED, 34, NO SAVINGS AND MORE SCHOOL TO GO. I HOPE YOU WILL NEVER HAVE ANY IDEA WHAT IT IS TO BE FORCED TO BASE YOUR DECISIONS ABOUT EVERY SINGLE ASPECT OF LIFE, INCLUDING FAMILY, ON YOUR POVERTY INSTEAD OF ON YOUR DREAMS AND DESIRES.

I expect nothing to be handed to me and will continue to work my @$$ off for everything I have.

I am humiliated that we have had to ask for help, and I will work my ass off until EVERY penny is paid back in full.

That’s how it’s supposed to work.

Thank God for generous people, who are empathetic, compassionate and once were poor.

I am NOT the 99%, and whether or not you are is YOUR decision.

I am.  And proud to associate with those who are struggling to get by or CHOOSING to empathize with those who are

My point is this.  That post was not personal, but it felt personal.  And we need to remember that.  We are all on a journey, with different stories, ideas, perspectives, experiences, backgrounds and ideals.  And WE ALL THINK WE ARE RIGHT.  Therefore, we MUST learn to communicate and disagree in a more healthy manner.  And I MUST LEARN TO NOT TAKE IT ALL SO PERSONALLY.  (Unlikely) Here are three places that I think are doing a great job opening up political dialogue, social discourse and societal tension

No Labels – A politically neutral, but active organization

The Public Conversations Project – Because we have to be able to be on opposite ends of an idea and still have a conversation

The Institute for Cultural Inquiry – Studying Global Tensions and the benefit of those tensions in modern times and today

3. Why does is our generation addicted to reality TV? Honestly, I wonder this all the time.

Because things like #2 are happening – we are desperate for escape and our favorite mode of escape – Parks and Rec is only on Thursday nights.

No, seriously.  Because we are a society who loves to compare ourselves against others.

I love to watch Hoarders and then feel great about how clean my house is, it also leads to an almost OCD compulsion to non-accumulation.

I know that a lot of people watch Jersey Shore and the MTV-esque shows.  I have always been a 60 Minutes, Extreme Makeover Home Edition reality TV kind of girl because I don’t really like fiction.

I think that people love the Bachelor and Toddlers and Tiaras because we are voyeurs and we are desperate to know that we are normal and that the little bit of crazy in us is in everyone.  I think – who knows????

I watched Mob Wives the other day and felt so proud of J’s and my marriage – despite the fact that  I may or may not have thrown a fit the previous night that he ruined one of my favorite kitchen aprons while GENEROUSLY doing the laundry for me – AT LEAST HE WASN’T DOING LIFE!  At least I didn’t find out about his affair when the lady at the hair salon recognized my daughter because his girlfriend used to bring her in when she got her hair done. Right? Right? Anybody with me? (This stuff happens? In real life? Really? I am not so sure…)

Does that make my marriage any healthier – NO!

Did it produce a little needed thankfulness? Yes!

Pros and Cons.

In conclusion –  If anyone says anything bad about Ty Pennington I’ll chop their knees off… So, to the matter of reality television and our generation, I have no idea, but I love it as well.

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6 thoughts on “Q&A Series – Being a Non-Traditional Student, Occupy WallStreet & Reality TV

  1. I love Ty, too.

    I really appreciate your honest answers to the Wall Street questions. As a society, I think it seems to take times of crisis to get people to live the command to love our neighbor as ourselves and we sometimes forget about the day to day needs of our neighbors (be it really in the neighborhood or anywhere else in the world) because we get consumed by ourselves. I think there is a lot more to this, too, but my brain cells are quickly fading…

    Aside from all this, I am loving your words, loving you, and so glad we are friends.

  2. Love you. Love your answers. I just sent you an email because I couldn’t post all my thoughts here, but I’m with you. So thankful for the help we’ve had too.

  3. I just recently wrote my own response to the debt free college student in my blog. When I posted it on my Facebook, I found several friends of mine that were upset about what the person had written, as it seemed to demean those who weren’t just like him/her for all the obviously terrible decisions they’ve made in life.

    Maybe it’s a lack of empathy or an ignorance about how bad life can be for some people that is the biggest reason for people disliking OWS. Or, at least, a lack of understanding of what the movement is even about.

    Me, I’m empathetic. Pathetically so. I hope your choices bring you better successes in your life so you won’t have to continue to live in financial worry. ^_^

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