“I’ll just need you to sign this waiver before recess.”

I’m gonna let you in on a great BIG secret. Gail is the only person in my life who knows this…. and multiple people know that my vibrator is named Fluffy.

secret

It is HUGE.

sinkhole

The secret, not the vibrator. The vibrator is actually fairly small, so’s I don’t stretch myself out before the next time I get the real thing.

Here it is, y’all.

I owe $135,000 in student loans.

shocked face

Yup. That’s what it costs to be a librarian these days. Oh wait… I forgot to mention something…

NO IT FUCKING DOESN’T.

Seven years ago, when I was 18, I sat in a financial aid office… alone… next to a bunch of other 18-year-olds who had competent parents acknowledging that they were still children. It was here that I was offered one of two choices: accept a little money… or… accept a lot of money!

little girl with moneyHmm…

There were extenuating circumstances here. My mother had left me my senior year of high school to go live with her online boyfriend a few hours away. It was made clear that I needed to get out of her house, so she could sell it, which she did not do for three more years. Gail and I had drifted and she was paving the way for her own shit decisions, so I clung to my ex-husband in a desperate attempt to hold onto something-fucking-anything-at-all surrounded by all that change. I was unable to transfer my job to the college town where we moved and my future ex-husband was “really trying to find work”… so we needed the money. Then, I threw myself into my studies, not allowing a lot of time for more than my video store job and my ex-husband was “filling out applications everywhere” with no luck… so we needed the money. Then there was a house fire that “started out of nowhere” and we lost everything we owned… so we needed the money. Then there was that one job and that other job and even that last job that didn’t pay my ex-husband “illegally” and totally not because he made them up… so we needed the money. Then we were evicted, even though he was “paying the rent”… so we needed the money. Then I got pregnant… so we needed the money. Finally, fucking finally, I was getting shot of him and starting a new life and buying new furniture for my new apartment where he wouldn’t be breaking in and stealing from me while I worked two jobs… so I needed the money.

No matter what happened in the past, my financial aid was how I cared for myself… even if it’s just retroactively from this point in time. I’m not sure that, given the opportunity, I’d have even let a Christian Grey swoop in and pay off all my debts, because that would mean I never provided for myself. Okay. Fine. I’m lying a lot. I would totally let a sexy millionaire shove me full of jacks and marbles in exchange for $135,000. Yeah. That’s actually exactly my going rate for weird shit. I don’t really have a problem with paying back these loans, though, because I finished my degree and ultimately accepting them allowed me to leave an abusive relationship while educating myself. I’ll gladly pay back $135,000 for the $303 it cost to hire a paralegal and get a diploma.

bargains galore

My point here, is that the majority of these life-altering decisions were made when I was a child. Lawmakers can talk all they want about legal age of consent and being tried as an adult, but your basic Intro to Psych student can tell you that the pre-frontal cortex has not fully matured until around age 25*, and ironically so, because they’re likely 19 and paying for this class, that laptop, and those new shoes on credit. At 18, I could’ve signed my life away to kill for Uncle Sam, but couldn’t have owned a gun for target practice? I couldn’t rent a car, but I could get a credit card? I couldn’t drink alcohol, but I could make a binding legal commitment to an unemployed sociopath? I couldn’t gamble, but I could legally sign onto thousands upon thousands of dollars worth of debt… repeatedly?

kids in suits
Sure, sure. I’ll sign the promissory note.

In Mississippi, you have to be 21 to get a marriage license without parental consent.* That’s brilliant and that’s my proposal. Pick one legal age for all of these decisions and don’t make it fucking eighteen. I work with 18-year-olds and the majority (yes, there are exceptions – end disclaimer) of them are not capable of making decisions that will affect the rest of their lives so strongly as getting married and taking on extreme financial burdens. Had I not been married, I couldn’t have accepted near the amount of loans I did, because my parent’s income would’ve been considered. Had the law said I had to be 21 to get married, maybe my mom wouldn’t have taken off. I don’t know. Maybe this wouldn’t have helped me, but it would undoubtedly help many others. Three years of brain development is astronomical, particularly when you’re discussing the part of the brain controlling….

  • Foreseeing and weighing possible consequences of behavior
  • Considering the future and making predictions
  • Forming strategies and planning
  • Ability to balance short-term rewards with long term goals
  • Impulse control and delaying gratification
  • Modulation of intense emotions
  • Inhibiting inappropriate behavior and initiating appropriate behavior
  • Simultaneously considering multiple streams of information when faced with complex and challenging information

I understand that one of the arguments against this is the Armed Forces. That’s why I exclude them entirely from these restrictions. If we’re going to allow 17-year-olds to fight for this country, buy them a round of shots. Whether or not I think we should be doing that in the first place is a different issue. Additionally, I suggest a firm 18 for medical decisions without parental consent. We allow a 15 year old to get Plan B, but not fucking cough syrup or even birth control? How about we not let children medicate themselves at all before they’re old enough to understand the potential consequences for their health? I’m not referencing a moral dilemma here. I’m referencing studies of the human brain.*

Personally, I’m lucky. I lost the baby and there’s a warrant out for my ex-husband’s arrest, keeping him away from this state. Yeah. Those things make me lucky, because my marriage only affects me emotionally… mostly. I owe three times what I’d make in a year with a full time job, but I’ve applied for an income-based consolidation plan and in 25 years, they’ll forgive what’s left. At least I actually graduated. My friend from high school who dropped out, though, after years of accepting the maximum allotted amount for a woman with three kids,  primarily due to her shopping addiction? Well, according to Direct Consolidation Loans, you can receive complete loan forgiveness as long as…

“Your servicer receives acceptable documentation of your death.”*

bling casket
To be fair, she’s probably already purchased this.

Yeah. I look this shit up.

http://www.hhs.gov/opa/familylife/tech_assistance/etraining/adolescent_brain/Development/prefrontal_cortex/

http://www.usmarriagelaws.com/search/united_states/mississippi/

http://www.loanconsolidation.ed.gov/

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A Chronicle of My First Failure Since the Driver’s Test

When I failed the driver’s test at 16, I cried for hours.I couldn’t even talk about it for months afterward. Two months ago, I wept because I made a 98.5% on an assignment. I felt it deserved a 100%. I was heartbroken. I was also a complete pain in the ass to anyone who would listen to my “woe is me, I”m 1.5% less than perfect” rant. So… take that and imagine my reaction when I “did not pass” my End of Program Assessment for graduate school yesterday. “Fail” is too negative a term for graduate students, which I swear have some of the most delicate selves-esteem in regards to their intelligence. Ironic huh? Following is a dramatic retelling of yesterday’s ordeal.

The committee sat with bated-breath, awaiting a presentation on the depth of my learning experience during my last two years in graduate school.

I entered and promptly presented to them… an orange.

A Chronicle of My First Failure Since the Driver's Test
… but it was an awesome damned orange.

That’s pretty much exactly what happened. I had the complete wrong idea of what was expected of me. My original advisor was a woman constantly being encouraged to retire. She rarely responded to e-mails and gave me a pat on the back and a thumbs up each time I presented her with what I’d accomplished for my portfolio. Then she retired without telling me and I had to acquire a new advisor the summer before presenting. My new advisor is kind and gentle… too gentle. She didn’t tell me that what I had sucked… and was a fruit. So, as I started speaking and saw the committee member’s faces, I knew I had it wrong. I was presenting an overview of what I thought would make me a good librarian, not an in-depth presentation of my learning experiences in relation to YALSA approved standards and objectives. I’m talking about how working circulation has helped me to put a smile on my face when this guy’s acting like a dick, and they’re wanting to hear about the Public Relations tactics I’ve learned in my Public Relations course. I knew I was screwed and just became more and more flustered to the point that, when asked what the purpose of a Reference Collection was, I actually said “I don’t know.” No. Fucking. Joke.

As I stood waiting while they convened, I began to think up other possible careers. I texted Gail and told her it was all over. She told me to relax, I probably did fine. I didn’t respond, knowing very well this was bad. I was going to have to change the name of my blog. “I don’t know.” What the fuck? I do, too, know! A Reference Collection houses Almanacs and Encyclopedias. I just didn’t know I would be asked that or that I’d show up to the singing competition with my prized dancing mule.

A Chronicle of My First Failure Since the Driver's Test
Mildred. You expected a boy, didn’t you?

I sat down as they opened the door, shocked that I was intuitive enough to recognize the body language and energy of someone who was about to announce that I had cancer and had taken a shit all over the presentation podium.

“We’re disappointed.”

My first thought was “But can you pass me anyway?”

I pretty much just heard a roar of white noise in my ears after that. I remember blaming my advisor situation and then trying to simultaneously say that I wasn’t trying to blame my advisor situation and telling them that I just didn’t understand the portfolio requirements. I truly didn’t. I’m not going to lie. There a lot of readings I didn’t do. There were times when I zoned out during lectures or participated minimally during discussions and that is why I couldn’t talk about these things at the drop of a term. Call it a curse of online learning, but you don’t actually have to know what anyone is talking about when you can just Google the term to remind yourself before responding. However, had I understood the requirements of the portfolio, I’d have brushed up. I’d have known the term and realized that when I was asked how my searching techniques now differ from when I began the program, they weren’t talking about my ability to use the word “and” in the search box. They wanted to know what I’d learned in my Knowledge Management course.

At this point, I’m pretty much just proud that I didn’t beg them to pass me or burst into tears about how “I do, too, know what a Reference Collection is! I promise! IT’S BOOKS! IT’S ALL BOOKS!” and then run out of the room crying. I kept my big girl panties on and I asked questions while three people told me how much I sucked. I made arrangements with my advisor for the 2 hour Directed Reading course that will help me focus on my revision and re-presentation of my portfolio in March. I walked to my car and called my Gramma and assured her that I was not joking, I had actually failed. I called my dad and told him that I was the slow child and I was sorry I’d disappointed him. He told me I was being ridiculous. I went out with Gail and I wallowed and made jokes about how they kicked me out of college and made me ride the short bus home. I talked about how if I fail again and I don’t get my masters degree, I’m going to have to build a rich life in the World of Warcraft, because my life here is over. She laughed and told me that at least I’m still funny. I went home and I cried. I canceled work for today (substitute teaching, which can actually be canceled the night before and no one cares) and slept restlessly. My prayers last night were along these lines.

“Thank you Lord for all you’ve given me and please help me to move forward. [tearfully] Please, please let me pass next time and give me the motivation to work for it. I’m so sorry. Please forgive me for my sins. Thank you. Amen.”

In the night, my pain eased. As I tossed and turned, I’d wake up with a little less heartache, the pit in my stomach a little softer. I woke at 7:00 and knew that I could still accept a sub job, but decided I’d rather pout. Thirty minutes later, I got out of bed and grabbed my textbook for my current class. I began to read from page one, highlighting for notes. I ordered the textbook from the last class I breezed through as well. I messaged my advisor telling her the times we could meet and that I was rereading my old texts. I went grocery shopping and bought note cards and pretty pens for color-coding because I’m insane. I called my manager and secured every Wednesday off for the next semester. I explained I had two more hours I had to take, knowing full well that she’s a librarian and knew I had my presentation yesterday and failed. I put the embarrassment aside, because that is one of the worst parts. I hide behind a different persona at work to a psychologically unhealthy extent anyway (another entry for another time). Why should this be any different? I went to lunch with my dad and he reassured me I’ll pass.

I love my dad, but he doesn’t know me all that well. Gail is the person who knows me best in the world and she didn’t know if she should leave me alone last night, because she thought I might hurt myself. I’m not saying it was rational, but yes, that was a valid fear. My dad, however, felt he should begin sentences with “… and if you don’t pass…”

NO! Shut the fuck up! I WILL pass. That’s the only thing I want to hear. I’m not saying I’ll pass by fate or magic. I’ll pass because I spent the whole day reading and ordering textbooks. I’ll pass because I have six months to learn the theories of information services inside out. I’ll pass because I WILL read a minimum of two hours a day on information theories and articles about current trends in the library world. I may still be the worst driver on the planet, but I will learn this stuff to the point that I have no fucking social life beyond this blog and text messages to Gail if that is what it takes. I will not get used to failure and develop better coping mechanisms than eating an entire Old Chicago, because I won’t fail.

And in the meantime, I will slip behind my work persona, Winifred, and tell everyone I have one more class to take, consoling myself with the fact that it is not a lie. They just assume… and eventually write the blog entitled “Winifred.”