Sit Down and Listen

Young men and men in general have not been held accountable by the same standards as women. Period. End of story. You can scoff and joke at the #metoo movement but then, you’re just part of the problem. I’m not going to argue with anyone about it. Don’t try and defend the Brock Turners of the world to me. I will not listen any longer about how they are just boys being boys. Don’t tell me that it was unfair that he had to be a register sex offender for a few minutes of ass. Just stop. The news today reporting assaults, rape and abuse and the perpetrators walking away with slap on the hand and a stern, “Don’t do that again” sickens me. Women coming forward, finally trying to find justice for being violated are being shamed, called a liar or an attention seeker. They are questioned on why they didn’t say something back then if that is really what happened… FEAR. Obviously, that’s why.  This cannot continue. So, sit down and listen for a bit. Here’s a few little ditties that I’d like to call, me fucking too.

I was 7 years old when I learned the hard way that boys “can’t help themselves”. I went to a catholic grade school from kindergarten through 4th grade. From 1st grade on, you wore regulated uniforms. Girls in jumper style skirts or plain skirts depending on your grade and boys in slacks all wearing white button down shirts. I’m not sure who started it or how it started but one friday, the boys in the older grades started flipping up girls skirts over their heads yelling “FRIDAY FLIP UP DAY!” then running away laughing and slapping high fives with their nitwit friends. It only happened outside, before school started, recess or walking home after. It didn’t take long for the younger boys to start emulating their older counter parts. That’s how things work, the younger ones look up to their older brother, cousins, friends siblings etc and want to be as cool as them and follow along. Every Friday if you were a girl and not in the safety of the halls, under the watchful eyes of the nuns and teachers, you had to be vigilant about watching your surroundings and holding your skirt down or you ran the risk of every one around you seeing you underwear when some asshole sunk up on you to flip your skirt as high as he could get it before you shrieked and awkwardly slapped it back down.

The first time it happened to me was at recess and I ran to the closest proctor on the playground and told her. She told the boy to stop it and that was it. It happened several more times over the next couple of weeks. It was embarrassing and the adults I told on the playground literally just kindly told the little shits to “cut it out.” It was mortifying as a little girl to have the entire school see your underwear. Lesson 1: Girls’ embarrassment and public humiliation didn’t warrant a boy getting in real trouble. Seriously, what in the fresh hell?

At recess one day some poor dip-shit flipped up my skirt for the last time. Sadly it was one of the nerdier kids that was usually quiet and avoided getting sucked into the melee that most the other boys participated. Unfortunately for him, my fiery little self had had enough of the embarrassment. I spun around and kicked not caring who or what I connected with and screamed “STOP IT!” Sadly for the little jerk, it was his balls that caught the brunt of my hard toed saddle shoe. He doubled over on the blacktop groaning and crying. A proctor came over and physically dragged me aside and asked me why I would do that. Then promptly dragged my ass to the principal’s office. I was forced to apologize to the boy. I complained that it wasn’t fair. That all the boys kept flipping up my skirt and they didn’t have to apologize. I was told, “The boys were not physically hurting you. You attacked that boy. It’s completely different.” Lesson 2: My complete emotional hurt and embarrassment did not warrant a boy getting reprimanded and it was not equal to his physical hurt. Ok. I understood violence was never the answer. I accepted that but, I still didn’t understand how the boys were not getting in trouble for exposing us. Like, my little seven year old brain even understood that it was wrong. I was like, “Hey, I feel like I’m being attacked too so…. What the fuck gives adults?”

All the girls banned together and decided to wear our gym uniform shorts under our skirts. But they looked bulky and occasionally showed when we were sitting. We didn’t care, they hid our underwear. But the nuns were having none of that. It was a breech of school uniform. If they allowed that then, how long before we tried wearing colored socks and random sweatshirts? We were made to take them off and wear our uniform “appropriately”. Lesson 3: My comfort was not as important as being dressed “appropriately”. Utter bullshit but, fine.

The skirt flipping continued but, the next little asshat that flipped up my skirt? I retaliated by walking up behind him when he wasn’t paying attention a few minutes later and yanking his pants down exposing his little tighty-whities to the the playground and yelled “HOW DO YOU LIKE IT?” as I ran away laughing and my friends all cheering for finally having some small bit of vindication. Again, he cried and a proctor dragged me to the principal.  I was lectured on how inappropriate my actions were. How a proper young lady doesn’t behave that way. That it was very upsetting to little Johnny Snotface… Blah. Blah Blah. Lesson 4: Boys feelings were more important than girls. Girls had to behave better than boys. Girls had to just deal with the boys acting like little assholes. I cried. I snot-running-down-my-lip-hiccuping cried. Not because I was afraid of that evil Nun we had as a principal (I mean, I was) but, because I was so frustrated. My seven year old self could not understand how this bitch was lecturing me about that little asshat’s feelings when for over a month I had been begging to have MY feelings of exactly the same thing taken seriously. I remember saying “It’s not fair,” over and over.

From that point on, every Friday, all of us girls started wearing our little backpacks really low on our back. It acted as a barrier so that your skirt had to really be pulled hard to show your butt. It usually bought us just enough time to slap out skirts back down. At recess we played along the wall never turning our backs to the playground for fear of letting our guard down long enough to let those little vultures attack. Eventually, Friday Flip Up Day went away. I don’t remember the boys getting in trouble. Maybe some of them did eventually. Maybe the boys in the older grades got in more trouble. I have no idea but, it’s popularity wound down and finally stopped. Even when we noticed it had stopped, it took us young girls weeks to trust that it wasn’t a ploy for us to drop our guard. I was seven years old and for what I am sure was only 3 or 4 months I literally acted like I was battling guerrilla warfare at school to protect my underpants because, boys will be boys.

I was 12 or 13 when I realized that boys were disgusting pervs that thought they could get away with anything. We had moved just a couple years before this to a rural suburb. I was attending a nice public school that was mostly filled with kids from pretty wealthy families. Most adults would equate this to being better, safer, and above average. Whatever. I was sitting in my English class in the back row writing or working on something when the fucker sitting next to me whispered my name. I looked over to him pointing at his dick which he was methodically pulsing up and down using just his pelvic muscles. “It’s doing push ups. Ha ha ha…” He was so proud of himself. I made a gross grimace and went back to my work. 2 more times he whispered my name and I ignored him. I didn’t want to see what he was doing to up the ante to try and shock me. I know how this works. I wasn’t buying into his stupid dick game. Finally, on his third attempt to get my attention, I said in a loud I-want-everyone-to-hear whisper, “I don’t give a shit about your fucking tiny dick!” The teacher literally yelled my name and told me to go into the hall. I did begrudgingly. She met me out there and asked what was the problem. I, for whatever reason was embarrassed. I had no control over that little assholes actions yet I was the one embarrassed. But, I told her. Explicitly. I could tell she was confused on why the hell some little shit would choose to do that in public in an afternoon english class by the look on her face. She shook her head and said, “Just ignore him. He won’t keep doing it if you don’t react.” To which I told her I HAD been ignoring him and he had continued to bug me until I said what I said… Her answer to the problem? Go get your things and you can sit out here in the hall to finish your work so he can’t bother you. Yes, rather than approach the fucking perv that was actually causing the issue and have the difficult discussion with a young boy about inappropriate sexual behaviors in class, I got to sit on the floor in the hall, like I was being punished to finish my work. He was never even approached or talked to by that teacher or any other one. He continued to do shit like that all through middle school and high school. Good job.

I was 16 when I realized for sure that boys thought they would never have repercussions to their vile moments… and they were right. I had walked into my Social Studies class early. There were maybe 4 people already in the room and at their desks. The teacher was not in the room. There was a big sign on the board telling us to pick up several handouts laid out on the back table. I set my stuff down at my desk and walked to the back to get my papers. As I was leaning over the table collecting them, unbeknownst to me a boy in my class, the tallest largest one in our grade if I remember correctly, walked up behind me and slapped me on my ass and said, “What up Raymer, nice ass.” He slapped me so hard that my hips hit the table edge and I almost hit my head on the back wall had I not caught myself with both hands on the wall. I spun around and hissed, “Don’t you ever fucking touch me.” And stormed out of the room. Looking back, I wish I had punched that fucker but, in the moment, I knew I’d be in trouble for lashing out physically. I had already learned that lesson almost 10 years prior. I left because I started to cry. The hit had HURT. I went in the girls bathroom and stood in the stall trying to see my ass cheek with tears rolling down my face. When I finally went back to class, I was close to 10 minutes late. My teacher didn’t say anything but, a few minutes into silently reading she stopped by my desk and whispered, “Are you OK?” I nodded trying not to cry in class. She asked if I wanted a pass to the rest room trying to give me an out to collect myself. I said no. She looked concerned the entire class anytime I caught her looking at me. I sat slouched over leaning to one side because my butt cheek still hurt. I should have told her. I didn’t. He was a varsity football player and and I think basketball player and honestly, I didn’t think telling anyone would really change the fact that my fucking ass hurt. I knew at most what would happen was he’d be told to apologize, which would not be sincere and is nothing really. After that, I would be targeted as a bitch that will narc on anything. I didn’t need to deal with those repercussions and being made miserable for the rest of the long year. By the time I got home that day, when I looked in the mirror at my butt cheek, there was a dark purple bruise roughly in the shape of a hand. It lasted over a week. I lived for a week with some assholes uninvited hand print on my ass and never said a word because I knew, nothing would happen to him and that I would be punished for it in the long run. Let that fucking sink in.

When I was 17, I learned a harsh reality about being in the wrong place at the wrong time. I drove two friends to a house party. I’m was not a fan of house parties in High School. I just always felt out of place and didn’t have much fun but, they wanted to go and I didn’t feel like staying home so I went and I drove. Everyone was wasted; drunk, high and/or doing whippets. I enjoyed none of the above and plus I was driving so, even if I had a penchant for getting stoned or drinking  Mad Dog 20/20 and Boone’s, I wouldn’t have. The party was in a huge fancy house so, I quietly disappeared to snoop and see of the other half lived; an excuse to avoid all the drunk idiots. I didn’t know that while I looked at family photos on the wall in one of 7 bedrooms, that I would be stumbled upon by a very drunk boy that was older and liked to get black out drunk. Apparently he had “always found me cute” which he slurred in what I’m sure he thought was a seductive manner as he leaned one hand against the wall. I was immediately uncomfortable. I went to walk away and he leaned his other arm on the other side of me. I have never felt more trapped and legitimately terrified. He was close to twice my size, so fucking drunk he could barely function and had me trapped. I froze and flattened against the wall so hard that I knocked a few pictures down with my head. Just as he leaned in to my turned head for some horrible attempt at a (gag) kiss, a male friend of mine burst in the door looking for the very dude that had me prisoner. That moment of distraction that made him turn was opening enough that I ducked under his grasp and practically ran out the door. As I rushed passed my would be assailant, he reached out to me and snagged part of my shirt and it tore at the sleeve seam. I kept power walking right on out of the room. He could have torn the sleeve clean off and I wouldn’t have stopped. I vaguely remember hearing, “Raymer….?” from my drunk clueless friend as I picked up speed down the hall and down the stairs. I spent maybe 5 minutes finding my friends and telling them I was leaving. They didn’t want to leave but, I said it’ wasn’t up for discussion. They never asked me what was wrong. They barely looked at me other than to be irritated that I wanted to leave less than an hour into being there. I told them if they needed a ride home just to call my house but, I was leaving. They chose to stay and I left. I drove around for almost 2 hours trying to get my mind right. There were no tears. Just that panicked numb tingle you get when you narrowly escape rear ending someone or missing a step walking down stairs. That rush of fear based adrenaline that makes your skin prickle and your fingertips go numb. I needed that to go away before I went home. I didn’t want my mother asking me how my night was, why I was home so early or seeing my face and asking what was wrong. I was embarrassed and ashamed. If my fiend hadn’t walked in what would have happened? Was I being dramatic? But, if I was just over reacting why did I feel sick still? How had I let myself get in a sketchy situation like that? I don’t drink. I don’t do drugs. I hardly ever even went to parties and yet, here I was driving around random country roads taking deep breaths and replaying the 5 minutes in that room over in my head. I stopped hanging out with those two friends after that. I avoided my would be assailant but once, shortly after that night, I ran into him. He said hello like nothing. I asked if he remembered the last time he saw me at so-and-so’s party and he just said, “No.” It made me feel sick all over again. He didn’t even remember something that had been making me feel ill for days. I avoided him everyday possible for the remainder of my high school time. I never told anyone about those 5 minutes in that room until years later with a new college friend driving around on those same country roads trading snippets of shitty stories that helped make us into the neurotic people we had become. She reassured me I wasn’t over reacting and that she knew first hand what that feels like.

I have more stories. These few just happen to be ones that stuck out to me. Ones that I still remember clearly and always will. But, I was a lucky one. All my cases were minor altercations and one narrow miss. Unlike a friend in high school who I worked with. She sought me out during a lull on a Sunday when we were both working the same shift. She confided in me that she had lost her virginity the night before at a party. To an upperclassman. A much lusted after upperclassman. She said it kind of sucked. That she has a couple drinks and kind of didn’t really want to go that far but, you know it happened and she didn’t think he was that cute anymore… I didn’t understand. He was so hot and the way she was talking… I was confused. Looking back on it now, I’m pretty sure he coerced her or even forced her and she didn’t know how to say it and I was too young and dumb to read between the line and understand.

Or a college friend who during her first year  went to a bar with a group of friends and after only 1 beer and a couple sips of the 2nd doesn’t remember anything else other than waking up feeling terrible in a strange bed nude from the waist down and sore. Apparently a supposed guy friend had “helped” her home but really, he helped her to his home and then took advantage of her… blacked out possibly even roofied. She didn’t report it. She was afraid and ashamed. She had a beer so who would believe that she wasn’t willing. Plus she didn’t remember anything so… She went home and took a scaling hot shower and scrubbed her body until her skin was raw.

I can go on. Other girls I was friends with in high school and college had conversations eluding to boys that pushed them too far. That did things that made them uncomfortable. Took things farther than they wanted. Hurt them. That were harassed and physically smacked, pinched, poked and groped in hallways and stairwells. Like me, none of them ever came right out and said it. Not to us, their friends and definitely not to adults or police.

We were afraid.

We were ashamed.

We were embarrassed.

We didn’t think anyone would care.

We didn’t think anyone would do anything for us.

It needs to stop.

Ladies, I hear you. I see you. I believe you. Because #metoo.

Archie’s Dad Likes Throw Pillows Apparently

I’m trying to watch Riverdale on Netflix but, I’m struggling. Not because of the plot or acting. Those are fine and intriguing enough. It’s because a house that consists of a single man who runs a construction company, his teenage son and his teenage sons best friend has throw pillows. I’m sorry, I don’t care if his wife literally left less than 48 hours ago, the first thing to get tossed would be throw pillows. I have never met a straight man that doesn’t mind throw pillows. For example, please see My Throw Pillows

A Brave New Generation (Original Post 05/26/15)

My generation is weird. I can’t think of a better description; simple and straight to the point – WEIRD. We live in a strange no man’s land somewhere between Gen X’s damn the man cool grunge ways and Millennials tech savvy computer driven worlds. Some people call us Gen Y but really, let’s admit it, we made that shit up in a weak attempt to fit in. And Gen Y isn’t even that creative. We deserve a better designation though I can’t think of one that would pass as acceptable. It’s like we are the silent always ready to please middle child of the generations.

Think about it, we are the last ones to say we used a library card catalogue to find our “Choose Your Own Adventure” books but, also have navigated the computer catalogue system searching for the latest Anne Rice novel so we could imagine a dreamy vampire Brad Pitt seeking us out in the shadows.  Heck, we remember going to the library to use actual books to research papers as well as scouring the internet for legit citations. We remember the awe of the first home computers and saving digital files but we can tell you how to load a typewriter tape and make manual type corrections. We can tell you tales of committing numerous phone numbers to memory, hand dialing them in to the phone mounted to the wall of our kitchen to see if someone wanted to go ride their bike to see a movie but, we can also tell you how to program a recording on your cell phone to become a ringtone. And bless our middle child hearts, we know what life was like before social media. Back when if you took a picture, you made damn sure it was a worthwhile memory that you didn’t want to forget because each one cost you precious earned money for the film and the developing. Then again, we also know what our friend from 3rd grade, now 35 years old, had for brunch on Sunday thanks to Instagram.

Thankfully we were lucky enough to learn to navigate those shark infested waters as relative adults. I mean, I didn’t even have MySpace until I was in my 20’s and Facebook I was closer to 30 and I’ll leave it at that. We didn’t have to worry about some bullshit whiney post complaining about one thing or another coming back in 8 years to bite us in the ass and eliminating us from getting a job we applied for. Or worse, getting us fired from a job we already had. I mean, when you are 16 and you type “I’m stoned as fuck and I don’t caaaaaaarrrrrreeeeeezzzzzz” Do you really think about being 22 and applying for your first internship at a law firm? Or better yet being 38 and contemplating getting into politics? Heck no. You’re not thinking because you are 16 and dumb to begin with and now stoned on top of it.

We didn’t have to worry about super creeps trolling for young girls and boys to prey on by disguising themselves virtually as a same age love interest. Then proceeding to lure them to sneak out and hop a train or a bus to their “hometown” to meet where they are attacked or worse never heard from again. Don’t think it doesn’t happen. It does, and it’s scary. This, this chills me to my core. The internet helping predators find young people who are naive, looking for love and attention and exploiting it. My friend once worked with “To Catch A Predator” as a young 20-something posing as an underage girl. The things these pervs would type to her… It left me aghast at what she would talk about. Some things she just wanted to forget and I will never know.

We didn’t have to learn the harsh reality of cyber bullying. Once we made it through the gruelling days at school of being pushed into lockers or your head being bopped down into the drinking fountain while you stole a sip on the way to your next class, we were safe. Save for your evil older siblings and the occasional weekend run in with the trashy girl from the next block over that always seemed to be dating a boy several years older that somehow seemed to always catch you riding your bike around the block or walking to a friend’s house. Inevitably she would make her stupid grit stash boyfriend jump over your head or power lift your scrawny self over his head because you were skinny and nerdy and helpless… her name was Yvette and she was a bitch, I’ll never forget but, I digress…

Outside of school we had a relative safe haven. We got home and played our 8 bit Super Mario Brothers, climbed trees, rode bikes to the playground or just aimlessly walked/rode around the block and went about our kid lives for the most part. We didn’t log onto the internet to continue the barrage of insults and cruel jokes. Lets face it, the buffer of the internet rather than face to face has empowered a whole new league of hate filled shit mouthed brats. I have personally witnessed some of the evil and vile venom these little punk ass clowns have spewed at there peers and it’s horrifying. I walked away from my computer screen feeling like a worthless rat and I am am adult (well in theory I am at least). I couldn’t have handled it. It would have broke me in a way that is vile and sad. It practically brings me to tears thinking of the poor girls and boys as empathetic as I was at that age enduring that kind of blind hate and insults.

When you start to break it down, we are the last innocent generation. Oblivious to how hate filled and ugly the world could be on such a personal level. At the same time, we are adaptable in ways we never imagined as young’uns. We have changed with the times and rapidly at that. We know and appreciate the innocence and simplicity of our youth and can successfully deal with the in your face digital sensationalism that is our adult years.

I weep for current and the near future generations. They don’t know any better. They will never know or understand the freedom of not having a cell permanently affixed to their hand demanding immediate and constant attention. They will never know the anonymity that having a digital free life brings. They will always have information at their fingertips, immediately and in most cases whether they want it or not. Social and online news media will report world events before they happen and quietly slink away into the shadows when the fear mongering stories turn out to be less than a blip. That fear will stay with them and continue to be fed by each successive in your face breaking news story jammed down their eye sockets. The grass will always be greener in the Jones’ lawn proudly displayed all over Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. They will always strive to keep up with the next, to post the better picture, to get more likes and to have the most viewed life so much so that they will forget to enjoy it. Or worse yet, they will over look the unhappiness that those hundreds of “happy” pictures cover.

I shudder at the thought of where their bigger faster more better I hate you because you’re different generation will lead us and the next generations to come. We could turn out like the Jettson’s with Rosie pressing buttons to 3d print our hot family meal before we get in our flying car to go to the 4d cerebral movie venue or we could become Huxley’s “A Brave New World” limited by each other to such extremes that critical thinking and emotion is frowned upon just do what you’re told but here, here are limitless amounts of material things to play with and amuse yourselves for as short as you like, then just toss them. Like Dick and Sue next door. Just don’t start thinking for yourself or feeling and we will keep giving you more stuff.

Work to Live, Not Live to Work (Original Post 06/30/14)

I have come to a cross roads in my life. I am 1 year away to what is typically mid life in my genealogy. I am a little healthier than my predecessors so maybe more like 6 years but whatever, back to the cross roads.

In my early 20’s my thoughts and concerns lay solely with finding an enjoyable job that pulled a decent paycheck. Slowly that mindset moved towards just getting a decent paycheck as the reality of rent, insurance, car payments and the cost of life in general sunk in. I wanted nice things and to not be dead broke all the time. That’s how I ended up slipping into Project Management. It wasn’t creative and exciting like Design was. I didn’t get to have “visions” of how to create a space but, the next best thing I figured was getting to oversee bringing someone else’s vision to life. And the pay was almost double. Ultimately that’s what clinched the deal for me. Dolla bills. And for a while, I enjoyed it.

My first real job was busy and had certain levels of stress but I was young and eager to prove myself at a real job. I did well and quickly got a promotion. When my career started to feel stagnant, I changed it up and tried a different facet of my job and went into Strategic Planning. I liked that too but my employer was unpredictable and offered a sense of unease every Friday that no fat paycheck could over shadow. So after that extra stress and unrest, I took a step back, a small pay cut and took a job back in Project Management for commercial furniture dealership. It was about 6 months into that job that I realized, I shouldn’t have taken that pay cut. My stress was off the charts. But I chalked it up to a difficult account and customer that I worked on and muscled through until we had to move to the other side of the country for the sailor’s job. Once again I was happy to take another small step back and slightly larger pay cut for the sake of my sanity as well as eliminate any long gaps in unemployment.

Upon arrival back to EST it took me a whooping whole 6 weeks to realize any job in this field would never be low stress let alone stress free. Even if it’s just furniture installation. And then I had my moment of true clarity. I realized that back in 2002 when I declared my major that I had been delusional and made a rookie mistake. I choose a profession based on the illusion that you need to have a career that you like, that you think is fun and are passionate about. Which is true in a certain small respect but, the trick is knowing and understanding that no matter how much you love you career choice the day will come where you fucking hate it.

There will be a day if not multiple days were you would rather drive hot rusty nails under your finger nails with Rebecca Black’s “Friday” stuck on repeat in your headphones than go into your life depleting job. It happens. To everyone. And when that day comes, you need to be able to find something good behind what you do to get you through that fucking soul sucking bullshit. You need to feel good about what you are accomplishing. Feel that what your doing matters and makes a difference in the goal of bettering the world in some way. I look back on my jobs and the majority of them were inconsequential to the bettering of anyones world in a substantial way. Oh, let me elaborate for you.

I found ways for a bank to need less real-estate and save money by consolidating space in leased buildings. Yes, I saved a leech of a large global bank money. No feel goods looking back on that stint in the seventh circle of hell. I installed furniture for a huge online retail market. When I couldn’t get their fucking sofas with the special ordered fabric in before they occupied a building you would have thought I had told them that I was planning to shit in their Cheerios. Bitches please, the stupid fucking sofa in the cafe isn’t solving world hunger. It’s just a place for your hipster developers to park it while they drink coffee and look at their smart phones while thinking up new technology that we really don’t need but will pay big bucks for. No warm and fuzzes at all from that one. Nope. Not at all.

The closest I could get to feeling decent about my job was when I managed projects for a Health Care and Insurance Co-op. I over saw building of Medical buildings that helped sick and dying people. I installed updated equipment and renovated lobbies to make patients visits easier and more comfortable. At least, at the end of those stressful long days, I felt like I was actually accomplishing something for the greater good even if in a little way.

I am tired of looking at my job and wanting to scream at people that their desk chair that is arriving late is not the fucking end of the world. The old one you have is fine for another few weeks. That the cubicles you want built in your new office at a law firm being 2 weeks later than you wanted will not END YOUR FUCKING LIFE. It won’t even be the end your business. I am tired of every bullshit thing being the end of some jackhole’s world when in fact it is just a minor irritating interruption in the over all blip in the world that is their life. I am simply exhausted and I don’t think there is a vacation long enough that can cure this apathy that my jobs have planted in my brain and that festers in me. I need a change. I want a change. If I am going to come home at the end of a day exhausted and drained, I want to feel like I accomplished something other than kowtowing to a corporate head only to get raked over the coals for not doing it better and faster. If I am going to be be held to these standards I want my efforts to make a difference, truly. So, it’s time for a change because something has got to give and I refuse to let that something be my personal life or my sanity. If my work has to be part of my life, I choose it to be something more. Something better. Then again, anything will be better than this.

Help Me I’m Poor (Original Post 06/25/14)

I’m just gonna throw this out there, I am the richest poor person I know. What does that mean you ask? Well let me tell you. I make good money. By all means I should be able to buy myself a nice car, save up enough for a nice downpayment on a cute starter home and still live comfortably paying that mortgage all by myself. I should be able to splurge and go to a 5 star restaurant on occasion or at the least buy myself a fancy cut of meat with which to pamper myself by cooking a culinary treat at home. I should have fine clothes and shoes that fit me nicely.

I should have all this. But, here’s the reality. I have a 2007 Prius that I had to finance for seven years. Yes, seven. Unlike a normal human that finances a compact car for say 4 or 5 years. Thankfully I love that car and it’s reliable even if it isn’t that cool or even nice. I rent a small ranch that I can barely afford even though I only pay half the rent and utilities with the Sailor footing the bill on the other half. My savings account doesn’t even hold a 1% downpayment let alone the recommended 20%. Frankly, I am lucky to hold a balance high enough to fulfill the minimum that my credit union requires to keep my accounts active. Tonights gourmet fixings include a box of Kraft dinner that is a little runny because I didn’t have enough butter so added more milk and an Oscar Mayer hotdog cut up and mixed in. Bon appetite motherfuckers. And clothes and shoes? Don’t make me laugh. I bought my current ballet flats for work from Target for $15 not including tax. I went on a $250 clothes shopping spree at Marshall’s when I filed for divorce. 3 days later I felt so guilty I returned $100 worth of the purchase. That was the last time I bought new clothes. Today I wore dress pants that I purchased from Old Navy in, wait for it, 2004 to wear for a studio presentation of some sort. And by studio I mean the 3rd year of fucking college. Yep, I still have and wear pants that are a decade old.

But yet I make a slightly above average salary for my age. What gives? 2 words: Student Loans. They are the soul sucking curse of my financial life. When I decided to put down the pitch fork that I was shoveling shit with at a horse farm making minimum wage as a horse groom and throw away the hot wax pot of my evening and weekend job as an esthetician and pick up the books to get an education, I was filled with the same song and dance that so many others were. “You’ll never make a decent wage without a 4 year degree”, “McDonalds isn’t even hiring people with out at least some college these days” blah blah fucking blah. I didn’t know it then but, that’s all bullshit.

But I fell for it. So I enrolled at a small rural branch of Kent State University and started taking all the fucking useless “Liberal Education Requirements” that you will never use again classes. Don’t get me wrong, I loved all those LER classes. History of Civ I and II were so interesting and I had a fantastic teacher that made it even better. I owned that class with a 112%. But, the point is that they had NOTHING to do with my career path which at that point was Zoologist. But, it was a requirement that each class was 3 credits for a total of 6 credits. Did I mention that I paid tuition and a fee per-credit. And those pre-requists took me 3.5 semesters to fulfill. That’s 3/8s of my college education that were just “because we said so” classes. 12 credits per semester, yeah, Kent made some bank on those classes. Now, I did change my major as I was drawing in on the close of all my LERs but, that didn’t add to my tenure surprisingly. My major changed to Interior Design. Because I liked spaces, color and furniture. Never once did I ask my counselor what type of job I would get and he, an English teacher by trade, didn’t offer up that info. He just directed me to the classes and the program requirements and sent me on my way to the main campus. Stellar.

That’s when the financial “aid” became important. This was the big time. Thousands of dollars a semester in tuition and credit hours. And that’s not including the books and supplies for my studio classes. Oh then there was my daily living; rent, gas, car insurance, food… Fuck my life. Oh and my parents? Dad was in early retirement due to getting laid off and my mom cleaned houses. Good old FAFSA thought they should be able to contribute about $24k a year. Yes, you read that right. My unemployed/retired father and my housekeeper mom could afford $24k a year. And me? I worked 2-3 jobs and averaged about $15k total a year before taxes. I made too much, even once I was no longer required to list my parents information, to get grants. Oh and speaking of listing my parents information on FAFSA, I had to until I was 24 years old. 24. I asked my financial advisor what if my parents disowned me or were MIA in my life. Her answer, well I guess you can’t file for finical aid then… Yes. Oh, you’re parents disappeared and disowned you? Fuck you student, stay uneducated. Thank you.

So I checked the box, “I am interested in loans” and resubmitted. That check mark was the second worst decision that I have ever made in my entire life. An example of this scale of bad decisions: Number 4 is when I dated a former coke dealer that was on house arrest living with his parents at the age of 30 so… that’s a tough number spot to nab on the list, let alone number 1 if you catch my drift. These federally funded loans can only be used to pay tuition of a full time student. And they didn’t even give me enough each semester to cover that. It covered about half. Two-thirds if I slipped under the full time status with 9 or 10 credit hours rather than the typical 12. 2 semesters of upper-division classes books and supplies set me back $8,000 dollars. Which I had to put on my credit card. Yes, you read that right. $8k give or take a hundred or 2. I was stupid and bought all the required books that first year which usually ran right around $1,000 a semester if you weren’t lucky enough to snag a used version. I never was. Sadly, my stupid classes’s books were revised so often that the used ones often became out dated in a year or 2. Then there were the “suggested books”. I waited to buy those until I realized they should have been on the required list as often as some of the teachers referenced them. The other $6k were studio supplies. No one told me how expensive paints, vellum, mechanical pencils and led, erasers, ink pens… (I am sure you get the point) end up being. I freaked. My credit card was almost maxed out. I had just paid it off shortly before from my need to use it to pay for medical care when I let a strep throat infection go untreated so long that my lungs developed an infection… yep, I had NO health insurance. But that’s another rant for another night.

So I started looking into scholarships seriously. I applied for hundreds in various dollar amounts, some for a couple hundred others for a couple thousand. I didn’t win a single one. I spent hours and hours researching what kinds of family heritage that I could exploit to try and get a few dollars to help not have to accept debt. Nothing paid off. I was willing to sign up for various clubs and groups if they were willing to help me financially. None were.

I got desperate not wanting to just stop and give up. So, I searched for private student loan lenders. Good old Chase Morgan offered them and ones that could be used for anything, like books and art supplies. And all I had to do was make $15k a year minimum or have a co-signer and prove I was enrolled in a viable College or University. So I applied. And they approved me for $30,000 a year. You read that correct. They wanted to give me $30k. So I asked for $15k. The check arrived in the mail within 5 business days. Accepting and depositing that check into my savings account was the number 1 worst decision I have ever made in my life. Another bad example of this scale of bad decisions just for perspective: I married a Bi-polar convicted felon thief that decided that getting a new girlfriend after 1 year into our 2 year marriage which I found out about on Facebook which led to our subsequent divorce ranks in at 3. Yeah, that only ranks as number fucking 3 after the student loan decisions.

I took 4 years worth of full time upper division courses. I applied was approved and accepted a private loan for $15K every year. After 6 years, 2 of which I attended summer semester part time as well as the normal Fall and Spring semesters full time, of federal loans for my tuition and then the additional private loans for all the ridiculously expensive supplies and books for the last 4 of those 6’s upper division courses I accumulated a hair past $100,000 worth of student loan debt. I had the equivalent of a mortgage for a 2 bedroom condo in the nicer burbs in Ohio in student loans. For a piece of paper. I graduated Magna cum Laude. I was fucking PROUD of that piece of paper.

By then, I was 26. I had moved back in with my parents and had been living in their unfinished basement for the last 3 years of college. For year after I graduated with my fancy piece of paper saying, “Christan is smart, hire her”, I worked for a small commercial furniture dealership making a record breaking $23,000 salary. They had to lay me off after 6 months. Then 2 months later asked if I would come back full time but temporarily for a large project. I supplemented my income waiting tables and slinging drinks at a local bar and grill at night and sending out resumes trying to get something better with more money and stability. For the first 6 months I focused on the greater Cleveland area. I got a whopping 1 interview with a display company that I wasn’t even remotely qualified for the job. So I broadened the regional resume outreach. After over a year, I still only had that one interview under my belt and I was applying anywhere in the country. I was finally interviewed and offered a job. In Seattle, WA. I had no choice but to take it and choose to move 2,700 miles from all my family and friends. The only other choice was to continue to live in my parents basement at 28 years old, working at my meager design job by day and slinging drinks by night, just scraping by making enough to cover my student loans, putting gas in my car, car insurance and the occasional meal out with friends to feel like a normal adult.

After almost a decade of experience I am making an above average salary. And I am the richest poor person I know. Because My student loans cost more than my rent every month. I should have stuck with shoveling shit and waxing bikini lines. I would been making less money but I would have twice as much at my disposal. And I would be ten times happier.