Wednesday, August 13, 2014

A College Education?

A College Education?

The difficulty of a College education has been one of the more impactful events on my life in general. The after effect has been lasting. I think the majority of people will agree that those with a college degree will earn more than those without one. Obtaining a college education was something important to me, and without the support of family I found that it becomes incredibly difficult goal to reach.

When I was a junior in high school I received a scholarship and invitation to spend the summer studying at the Savannah School of Art in Georgia. I can remember how astounded I was when one of my art teachers handed me the school packet and check. The sum would cover summer tuition at the school I was told, however it did not cover the cost of room/board… that would be a cost that I would have to cover if I wanted to attend.   I will never forget how my adoptive mother reacted to this offer I received.  Now a ‘normal’ mother might be proud, happy, or excited…right? Well not my adoptive mother. Her response was this….”If you want to go to college, you are on your own… we’re not giving you one dime of our money… and don’t ask us to fill anything out either…we’re not helping you at all…. It’s a waste of time and money” She made it clear that this statement went for any college, not just art school.  So I took my packet and check from the art school and put it in a box with my other important papers, it was just a keepsake… a memento….not an opportunity or future. So as my high school education started coming to an end, my classmates would ask me what I planned to do after graduation. With college now not an option, I said that I was planning to take a year off and work. It was hard having everyone else I knew making plans for school with supportive parents helping them… and me on my own.  I didn’t even have a driver’s license or a car when I graduated high school. I had my part time job at the local library, but that was it.  

Money and the Struggle

I had written before about how I had been forced to sign over my savings bonds to help

pay for my adoptive brothers first car. However, when it came to me I had been told I was “on my own” and I had to pay for my own car, and I would not be getting any help, or as my adoptive mother put it “not one dime”. So I’ve graduated, and if I even want to think about going to the local community college I needed a vehicle. So that summer I start working full time in this horrible small office as a receptionist. I still had my part-time job at the Library. I can recall when I had to go shopping so I could have a wardrobe for the receptionist job. I hated withdrawing money from my savings account to buy the clothing… this job only paid five dollars an hour.  It was a horrible office, and the office manager didn’t like me. She set out to make my life as difficult as possible. It was a very small office with just four people in the office. I worked there for about 5 months before they decided they didn’t need a receptionist anymore. While I worked there, I finally got my driver’s license, but had to rely on my adoptive parents to pick me up and drop me off every day. Three days a week I went straight from one job to another, often with no dinner. I was still suffering from bulimia at this time, and not eating was normal.  After I lost the receptionist job, I had a hard time finding another. I only had a high school education, with only five months of full time work on my resume. I struggled. My adoptive mother was upset that I didn’t have a full time job yet, and I would often be targeted by her because of it. My two friends were away at school, and I was alone. After several months of looking for another job, I was able to get a job at an answering service for five dollars an hour again.  Because I had kept my part-time job at the library, I finally had enough money to buy a used car. My adoptive father picked out a ‘84 Ford Escort that I would buy. It turned out to be a bad car that at 5 years old, broke down all the time. I paid for the car in full out of my checking account, and paid for the registration and tax. My adoptive parents paid for the license plates because I had just spent every penny I had.  They had gone to great lengths to help my adoptive brother buy his first car, and the help they gave me was minor in comparison. Had they wanted to, they could have made the situation easier on me… but they chose not to.

Community College

My higher education aspirations were modest in nature, I enrolled at the local Community College. When I had my meeting with the financial aid office, I found out that without my adoptive parent’s cooperation to help fill out financial aid paperwork, I could not apply for any kind of financial aid.  I was told that I might qualify for a Pell Grant which was free from the government, but I would need my parents cooperation. I knew not to ask, I had already been told that “you are on your own, and don't ask us to fill anything out” and “it’s a waste of time and money”. So with modest funds and expectations, I enrolled in classes. When you only make five dollars and hour, and are paying for your own car insurance, repairs, gasoline, and clothing, coming up with money for tuition and books is incredibly difficult.  Shortly after I had enrolled and started classes, my adoptive mother approached me one day. She was angry at me and I didn’t understand why.  She said to me in her nastiness tone possible “Your father seems to think we should help pay for your books if you are paying for your classes”. I hadn’t asked for any help, I knew better. But this offer took be aback, of course I could use some help but I didn’t understand why she was telling me this in her nastiness tone possible. It’s one thing to have someone treat you like shit when you ask for help, another thing entirely to have someone treat you like shit offering a helping hand. While I could have desperately used the help, any help…. I was sick of my adoptive mother treating me like a piece of shit.  I got angry and I said to her “I’m quite alright on my own, I don’t need your help” when in reality I needed all the help I could get. She had a surprised look on her face when I said this, I mirrored her shitty tone right back at her.  I wasn’t her doorstep to walk on, and I wanted her to know it.
I was only able to make it three semesters before I just wasn’t able to financially afford school and a car.  I had to find another job that paid more, the used car I had purchased broke down all the time and the bills were increasingly larger. I cried for weeks when I had to quit school, it was one of the saddest times in my life.

Asking for help

Adoptees in general are self-sufficient, at an early age we realize that we have to take care
of ourselves. For me asking for any kind of help is difficult, I will go down every avenue to solve a problem on my own before asking for any kind of help.  Only twice in my life have I ever asked someone to help me financially. Both times I asked my adoptive parents to loan me $50 and then $40 dollars so I could cover a car repair bill when I was between paychecks. I said that I would pay them back when I was paid the next week.  Both times I was told a resounding “NO”. I can honestly say that my adoptive parents never load me as much as a dollar for even a day.  Imagine now needing your car to make it to work and school, but you have to pay the $300 dollar repair bill to get the car out of the repair shop and you are $40 short.  You get up enough courage to finally for once in your life ask for financial help, a modest loan… and you hear “NO”, not because they didn’t have the money… but rather because they didn’t want to help. Now, if I had been the kind of child who was always asking for money or loans I could understand being told no. But this was the first time I had EVER in my life asked for a loan or financial help of any kind from them. In the end I wrote a check for more than I had in my checking account, knowing that I’d have to pay an overdraft fee. Just a few months later the car broke down again, and I was confronted with an even larger car repair bill, this time was $50 dollars short. I asked one more time for a loan just until I got paid. My adoptive mother actually laughed at me said “NO” and turned her back to me and walked away. I started crying to her turned back as she walked away from me. I really didn’t know what I was going to do this time. The overdraft fees had cost me a lot the last time, and I needed to figure out some other option. When I didn’t have a car, I would ask to borrow hers. She started to resent this and would tell me to “take the bus you cannot have my car” which is easier said than done. I can recall that it took me three hours by bus to make it to school and work one day. By car it was 30 minutes round trip. I ended up leaving my car at the repair shop for a few days until I got my paycheck and could cover the bill, taking the bus to school and work a few times and being “allowed” to borrow my adoptive mothers car after I explained that I’d have to walk 4 miles at 11pm at night to make it home after I was done working 2nd shift at the answering service since the busses would not be running at that time of night. 

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