Making Mistakes

Today was not a scheduled posting day since I am getting ready for hernia repair surgery in the morning. The thought of this surgery along with the idea of being put under general anesthesia is so not appealing that if I had a choice I would rather walk bare foot on hot coals. However I don’t have a choice and unless I wimp out at the last minute I will be getting my abdomen ripped open and repaired. So with that sort of thing on my mind you can see where writing a post would not be a top priority.

However I took part in a discussion today that while I had no energy to get into a verbal sparring match with this person, made me realize I needed to write to do some venting. Long story short the conversation was about young folks who make poor choices and end up dropping out of school but in Maine there is a push to get such folks enrolled in GED programs. Which might not be a bad thing…anyway the person I was conversing with made a very throw away comment that GED‘s are horrible and that kids who choose such a path are relegated to a shitty life.

Um….I don’t think my life is so horrible. For years I out-and-out lied about my early years because of the shame that generally comes from telling someone you are a high school dropout. Yet in the past few years I have started to realize that telling my story especially with youngsters on the edge is a good thing, its one of the reasons I do the work I do. See, not only did I not graduate from high school; I actually never got a GED. I know you are wondering, but didn’t you go to college and later graduate school? Yes, I did. I have no idea if a kid can even do this anymore but a year after dropping out of high school, I went to a community college and before enrolling I took what used to be called the ability to benefit test. It’s exactly what it sounds like, you get a passing score on this test and are deemed to have the ability to benefit from taking college courses and voila you are in school. I took classes at the community college and eventually transferred into a 4 year college and later went on to earn my bachelor’s degree. By the time I applied to graduate school, no on was asking whether or not I had graduated from high school.

I was not only a high school dropout but having a kid at 19 actually means I was a teenage Mom to boot. Statistically, it means I should have 5-6 kids, live in government subsidized housing and if I am lucky have a job as the night clerk at Wal-Mart. Obviously none of those things are applicable to my life.

Yet the point of this is not to say look at me, but to actually say that mistakes including the big ones do not define us. There is more than one pathway to success and hell, how are we even defining success? For most folks success might include a big house, nice car, important job, vacations and fancy toys. Yet none of these things are guaranteed to make you happy. I see plenty of folks who lack all those things yet seem pretty damn happy. I think of my family that just had their 5th kid, they don’t even have car and I saw the Dad walking home loaded down with groceries yet noticed he seemed content. I see his kids daily and to be honest they may lack most of what some of us consider essential but they appear well fed, clean and most importantly happy. This family by the standards of my buddy is a failure yet who are we to judge?

I think especially with young folks it’s so important to let them know that even if they make choices that may seem wrong and generally dropping out of school and having babies is not considered a good choice (let me tell you I get a laugh at the number of folks who look at me like how is it possible that I could have an 18yo kid..After all I am a college graduate in a “good” job. Dude, no one said you have to do life in some type of order) that life goes on and that as long as they are living the sky is still the limit. Yes, it is a lot harder when you lack a minimal amount of education and or skills to get a job that pays a living wage. Though, I found bad paying jobs to be a great incentive to make different choices.

Even if you are not a young person, maybe you are more established yet find yourself becoming a single Mama. It’s not the end of the world and you may find it’s the beginning of a brand new world. As long as you draw breath shit will happen, what you do after that shit happens is what matters most.

Readers, I will catch ya later, if you are the praying type I would appreciate your prayers and good thoughts during this surgery. I doubt I will be up for any blog postings anytime soon, but if you follow me on Twitter I may post a few tweets if I feel up to it. Have a great week!

No…you don’t have a choice

Parenting is a hard job and as I say regularly raising kids may be one of the hardest jobs there is and in my humble opinion its the one job that if you fuck up the resulting effects can be devastating for generations to come. Which is why I don’t quite get parents who seem to want to take the easy route and be their kids friends while they are raising them. Look, when your kids are well adjusted adults there is plenty of time to be their friends.

I was recently taking part in an online discussion when the subject of would you let your kid drop out of high school came up and was stunned when many of the parents in the discussion said they didn’t feel there was anything they could do if their child was inclined to drop out. Some of the folks said they would seek alternatives but the general feeling was that completing high school is not all that critical to their child’s future success.

Um…..statistically speaking folks without a high school diploma earn less than everyone else. Yes, there is always the oddball case when someone will do well but lets be real, most folks who drop out end up living really hard and difficult lives. Shit, I know this firsthand, I dropped out and after 6-7 years of scrapping to get by, decided in my mid 20’s to go to college. While my path turned out well all things considered, there is no way I would let either of my kids drop out. Thankfully my son is happy with school and as a junior is getting ready to take his ACT and SAT and narrowing down his list of colleges to apply to; so barring some unexpected shit, next spring the boy should be graduating. Which leaves me with one down and one to go.

What I find interesting in these sorts of discussions its always the white folks who generally come from middle class stock that seem to think its okay if little Johnny needs time to find himself. I have never met a poor or working class white person or person of color that would say its ok to let their kid just drop out. Maybe its because those of us with less resources know you need everything you can in your resource bag to make it in this world, maybe its because we don’t have to look far to find the family member in their mid 30’s toiling away at a dead-end job with no benefits to know that education makes a difference.

Plenty of folks like to say college is not all that, no it may not be all that but the reality is we live in a world that many jobs that used to be held by high school graduates now require a degree of some sorts. Even my own job doesn’t require the advanced degree that I hold but it gave me a leg up over the competition and as I heard today “being employed is the new Black” so while I have days I feel like shit about the hundred grand in student loan debts, the fact is those 2 expensive pieces of paper have helped me get jobs.

No, I think class allows folks to romanticize what it means to scrape by, yet the reality is there is nothing romantic about busting your ass to survive. I feel like I missed much of my son’s early childhood because Mama had to work and there were times I had to work 2 and 3 jobs as a single Mama to put food on the table.

So while you may not be able to force a kid to go to school, I think you can do a lot to make that kid understand early on that not going to school is not an option. Sadly my parents did give me the option, it was either work or school, well for a 17 year old who was earning $200 a week back in 1990, working didn’t seem like a bad option. Of course I learned early on that $800 a month was crap money when it came to actually paying bills.

Nope, I am sorry kids but you don’t have a choice, not only must you finish high school but I expect you to do something after high school as well, preferably college but at the very least you need to learn a trade.