As I begin to write this post, it is with the utmost agitation, as everything within my introverted spirit is telling me to withdraw to the quiet places where no one can see the things I’ve been battling. I have had SO many thoughts on what to write over the last month, but nothing has come to fruition. It’s becoming evident to me that the greatest challenge to being a writer is not in having nothing to write, but rather having too many thoughts competing for my attention. To push my way through the mental traffic and put together a coherent thought would have required more energy than I had to give in the last month.
Please don’t read this as a personal pity party, but the last few months of my life have been a struggle. When I went to the chiropractor a few weeks ago and was chatting with Dr. Huey about my schedule (full-time title clerk, full-time wife and Momma, and part-time accounting student), he said, “There can’t be much left in the tank!” Right on. Truth be told, I am tired. I’m simply doing more than a woman should. But I know it will be worth it one day.
In the last month, I’ve managed a few feable petitions to the LORD for help in seeing this time through. He has been faithful to answer me in His own amazing ways. Two weeks ago I got a glance at a precious little man’s perspective…
Yesterday was a tough day, but it was also a blessing in so many ways. You see, the last few weeks have been trying. I had been in the heart of Payroll Accounting, and although I loved this class, after working full-time, doing housework, and spending quality time with my sweet little family, there’s not much left to give at 9pm when I usually sit down to start schoolwork. I ended up in bed anywhere from 11pm-1am every night. That might not seem like a big deal, but I have always been a person who needs a minimum of 8 hours of sleep each night, or I end up delirious and sick. And lucky me, after two weeks straight of that cycle, I did end up sick. Yuck. I had successfully navigated through the bulk of the class and was ready for a reprieve when, BAM! Monday morning I woke up with a burning in my throat and that deep down crummy feeling. You know the one…
Tuesday and Wednesday I spent at home, mainly lounging, bummed that I was neither at work, nor really enjoying my family time. Yesterday, Thursday, I headed back to work, still not feeling all that well. I dropped Josiah off with my great Aunt Tc, saddened by his tired eyes and stuffy nose. My baby had caught my bug. The thing that’s worse than being sick is knowing that it lead to my baby boy being sick. Thankfully, he was loved on all day by his Aunty and cousins, and when I picked him up, he was a little more perky. I wanted to make sure he ate well, so I had decided earlier in the day that I’d take him on a Momma-Son date. We went to Dairy Cottage for a “hanguber” (one of my very favorite Josiah words), chicken nuggets, and fries. While we were sitting there, he looked up at me with pure delight and said, “This place is REALLY NICE, Mom!”
Without a doubt, Dairy Cottage is not what you’d call “nice,” nor “really nice.” It is simple, and it provides relatively fast food. In the eyes of a two year old, it’s the perfect place for a date. I decided right then and there that he was right. It’s a place for my boy and me to enjoy eating his favorite foods and savor one another’s company.
His perspective is what I needed in that moment. He isn’t tainted by the world, and he knows how to deeply enjoy the simple things in life. Thank You, Jesus, for “the mouths of babes” to remind us that life really is sweet, even with puffy eyes and sore sinuses.
About a week after that sweet date, we drove to the Smokey Mountains with Daddy for family “cu-cation” (Thank you to my dear Dad-and-Mom-In-Law). I’d like to say I was fully embracing this time in our lives, ecstatic about the break from routine, and completely carefree to enjoy the mountains. I wasn’t. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t still struggling. You see, I’ve been wrestling with so many regrets from years gone by.
I see images like this on Pinterest, and I have to swallow back the lump in my throat because I can’t be that carefree.
I regret so many major decisions I’ve made since I was young. Maybe I’m embarrassing myself a little bit to announce that, but what have I to hide? I know that every path I’ve walked, every person I’ve encountered, every decision I’ve made has shaped me into who I am today, and in many ways I’m grateful for that. However, as I’m struggling to fight off a season of depression, there are obviously choices that I regret.
In the past, I made time and financial commitments to a career that wasn’t right for me, because I bought into the lies that being who I really am was NOT enough.
That, friends, is the ache gripping my heart. I want more than anything in this world to be a full-time Momma with a part-time skill to contribute financially to this simple life we love to live. We don’t want for fancy things, but our life is very expensive.
The making of this situation began long before I was married, long before I was in college. You see, what I really wanted was to go to vocational school during my high school years to become a hairdresser. I LOVED doing hair when I was young, and I even did hair for weddings and school dances while I was still in high school. It was a natural skill that could have been mastered for only a few hundred dollars before I even left Mom and Dad’s. I could have began a trade at age 18 that would have allowed me to pay for college classes or begin a simple life until I married and had children. I could have used those skills to be the family hairstylist and to work part-time while my children were young, because all I really wanted was to be a momma and a wife. Becoming a hairdresser would have given me a career to fall back on if my husband fell ill, if he lost his job, or heaven-forbid, if I found myself a single mother. Let me tell you, I have experienced all three of those situations, and the only thing I had under my belt were thousands of dollars in student loans, a useless degree, broken dreams, and no marketable skills.
All the promise of a bright young woman’s future only left her desperate and scared, scrambling to pick up the pieces.
I can’t give you the name of the person who told me being a hairdresser wasn’t enough. I think it was a collaborative effort by society and the school system. I’m not trying to be critical, but I was vulnerable and moldable, and I was steered in the wrong direction. Sure, I’m smart, but that doesn’t mean that I have to use my brain to make “the big bucks” if that doesn’t agree with my heart. From a young age, I made high scores in class, as well as standardized tests. I have a very high IQ (Awkard. It’s awkward to tell people you have a high IQ. It feels like bragging no matter what. Blah!). For those reasons, I was pushed, yes PUSHED, to “Go to college! Change the world! Live up to your potential!…oh, and just take out loans if you can’t pay for it. You’ll be able to pay them off with the gobs of money you’ll make doing the awesome thing that only a college graduate can do.” I’m smart, but I’m also apparently incredibly naïve.
I saw this cartoon on my Facebook feed the other day while contemplating this post. I doubt it was a coincidence. I HATE admitting that I was with the kid on the right. NO…I absolutely did NOT think the kids who went to trade school were “losers.” They were some of my best friends! But I did believe that if I didn’t go to college and get some prestigious degree that I would somehow be failing my teachers, my parents, my school, myself, and worst of all God. Somehow I’d be failing the society that molded me. And to add insult to injury, I also believed that since I was “so smart,” there was no sense in going to trade school when my AP classes would surely pay for my degree. I should keep my mind on the books, not on getting a job right then.
Therefore, I took all the hardest classes, spent my days of high school completely miserable, because there was homework, not joy or fun, to be had. And it paid off…but not in the ways I wish it would have. It paid off by teaching me to be proud. I was proud to be named Scholar Athlete. I was proud of my straight A’s and beyond perfect GPA. I was proud of all the local scholarships I “earned.” But I was NOT proud of who I was. I filled my journals with cries out to God to teach me to be real. In my pursuit of “living up to my potential,” I forgot who I was. I knew I was a phony. I didn’t really care about straight A’s and being “most likely to succeed.” What I longed for so deeply was a family of my own.
Those scholarships ran out my first year in college. Learning a trade would have lasted far longer than those financial gifts. Don’t get me wrong. I am not ungrateful for that support, but it would have been better for me to learn to truly stand on my own two feet before making such a large purchase. That is what college is…an enormous purchase. But society tells kids that college is a right, a necessity, an investment in your future. It is definitely an investment, but in what? And with whose money? College, just as with anything you want in life, should be earned. It is not a right, nor a necessity. Your basic needs are water, food, shelter, clothing, and love. Those things can all be attained without ever stepping foot on a college campus. Just ask my dad, who started working his tail off in eighth grade and never looked back. Without even a high school diploma, my dad provided for four children. Not only that, but he was able to provide a stable home, all while my mom stayed home with us kids. Hard work is what gets you where you want to be. Not college. College is merely a tool. And now that I’ve experienced this whole crazy cycle, I believe it is a tool that you should pay for with your present money, not with the government’s (i.e. your future money). Sure there are instances where student loans may be necessary (like medical school), but that isn’t the norm.
One of the ideas we buy into is that college will pay for itself.
That is not true. Just ask so many of my classmates. At its best, college is expensive job training, and at its worst is a lot of time and money spent for a degree that won’t really prepare you for an actual career. I know that sounds jaded, but ask even the most successful college graduates. Hard work is what pays for your life (and your degree!), and hands-on work, applying the book knowledge, is where the real development happens. I am not suggesting that kids should avoid college. If I had the chance to do it all over again, I would still have gone to college (I loved it!). I would have just done things differently. I would have chosen a degree that was practical, and I would have learned to work to pay for my classes. I would have only taken the classes I could afford. It may have taken me years longer to complete, but in the end, I would have been debt free, and would have had years of real world experience under my belt. The future would have been bright, not dimmed by the nearly $30k in student loans that I now owe.
I did not have the confidence to take that road less travelled.
I was a scared, insecure girl who wanted desperately to do the right thing. I was not brave enough to question the norm, nor to do what I really wanted. I started running after goals that were wrong for me before I even went through puberty. The pressure to succeed starts young, friends. I hope that any young people reading this will have the courage to learn from my mistakes. Seek a life that you really care about, despite how much money you’ll make or the prestige that you would otherwise earn. Before you start taking steps and financial commitments for the future, do some soul searching and figure out if what you’re doing is really suitable for the life you desire. There are a million reasons to pick any specific career, but if your heart is not in it, you probably won’t succeed, and even if you do, you’ll be miserable. What kind of success is that?
The reason I’m struggling now is that I have what I’ve always wanted, a husband and a child…but I don’t get to invest in them nearly as much as I feel they deserve. I spend my days working a job that I could have done without a college degree just to pay for society’s dream for me. I could have made a bigger impact on my family and the world around me with a simple trade that I let slip through my fingers at a young age. I wouldn’t have put such a huge financial burden on myself that keeps me from spending my days with my sweet baby boy. But the truth is, I cannot go back, even if I wanted to…I need to lift my eyes up to the LORD, ask for help through this difficult time, and keep on working toward my dream.
My dream is that I would be available.
I want to be available to my husband and child whenever they need me. I want to be available to my extended family, my friends, my neighbors, and the people around me who need to hear about Jesus. I’m not there, yet. I’ve made decisions that are making it very difficult for me to be present with my loved ones, but the bright light at the end of this tunnel is that my dream is not impossible. It is just going to look different. One day, I will finish a certificate program or degree that will give me a marketable skill. I will be able to work part-time, if the LORD wills, to support my sweet family financially, but also to be available to them more. This time around, I’m doing things differently. No more student loans. No more belief that taking classes will earn my way. I am taking classes in accounting because I really love it, and I’m applying those lessons at work. Like being a hairstylist, accounting is practical and will be a valuable skill wherever we live. I’m developing my skills daily, and I am slowly chipping away at the debt that is bogging my family down.
If you’re reading this and you have influence in the life of a child, will you please let him know that he is enough, and that he doesn’t have to buy into society’s demands to be successful? Being a parent is enough. Being a hairdresser is enough.
Being you is enough.
So work hard to be you, and please, please, PLEASE don’t steal from your future to do it.