Advice, Dating, Random Thoughts, Rants, Shameless Self Promotion, Writing

Music and Mental (in)Stability

Haven’t written on here in so long I barely even know how this whole blogging thing works anymore.

[taps mic] This thing on?

Anyways…

Hello Internet. How are you?

That’s cool.

Me?

I’m doing alright actually, which is interesting considering the circumstances.

However, though I’m doing alright at the moment, I’m doing that kind of alright that’s made me realize just how not alright I’ve been for most of my life.

To put that statement in metaphorical terms (I am a writer, and English teacher, so please…indulge my neurosis for a moment): imagine a giant storage unit, with a metal sliding door and multiple locks and security codes and the whole shebang. There’s rust around the edges too, because this thing is old. Three and a half decades old, to be exact. And full. It’s so full it’s damn near bursting at the seams.

You see it? Good.

Now imagine this storage unit has been sitting in the back of my head since I was a kid, just gaining more rust and dust and strain.

And the unit’s contents? Shit, it’s got everything.

This old-ass storage unit sitting in the back of my head is filled with all sorts of life-changing crap: the ability to understand and empathize with others; the ability to accept, acknowledge, and change personal shortcomings and bad behavior; the ability to communicate effectively; loads of epiphanies and…

A storage unit filled to the brim with perspective, to be succinct.

Broad perspectives, but more specifically the various perspectives of the many people who have come in and out of my life throughout the years.

If you can, really imagine this packed storage unit (I’m imagining that moment in Breaking Bad when Walt opens a similar storage unit to reveal mountains of drug cash). The unit’s door is warped from the pressure of everything inside. Yet it’s managed to stay stubbornly closed anyways, for over 34 years.

Can you see it?

I’ll take that as a yes.

Now, imagine that–recently–Life itself stormed in through the entrance of that mind. Like a SWAT team, just rammed through the gate and barreled straight to the back, found that storage unit, and promptly stomped a giant boot against that strained door, bursting through the locks and security features and hinges, cracking through the rusted metal. Tore the whole thing apart, sending all of those loads and loads of perspective flying in every direction (I’m imagining “Life” in this metaphor as a huge manic soldier, high on uppers and red-eyed from being in the trenches forever).

To say it was a mess up there would be overstating the obvious.

Anyways, metaphors aside.

It should come as no surprise that it was the slow death of a romantic relationship that started the ball rolling on all this (I tell my students to avoid cliches in their stories, even as our lives are filled with them). More specifically, the many moments and circumstances leading up to and following this break-up led to me having so many successive realizations that I’ve got the equivalent of mental whiplash–just epiphany after epiphany, like a never-ending line of dominoes falling one by one, moment by moment, day by day, for weeks now.

A bit overwhelming. But seems to be par the course when it comes to break-ups.

In an effort to avoid the melodramatic though, I’ll point out that the break-up was just one of many factors that contributed to this mentality shift. Seems this was just my year for personal change.

Blah blah blah, what’s your point, right?

The point of this (and stick with me, I promise there is one) is that I’ve been recently forced by Life to take a long, hard look at myself, who I am, who I’ve been, and–most importantly for the purposes of this post–who I want to be.

And one difficult admission that I’ve had to make is that I’ve spent the vast majority of my years being the worst type of emotionally unstable person: the type of emotionally unstable person whose been good at faking emotional stability.

A younger me would spend the next few paragraphs detailing all the stuff other people have done to make me this way (and by younger me I mean any version of me that existed before the past couple of months). And I’d be wrong in giving voice to any of that criticism.

Because the other thing I’ve recently realized about myself is that that’s who I’ve been for most of my life too: the person who always assigns blame, never accepts it.

The person who unapologetically drops his unhappiness on other people’s shoulders, then gets pissed when they throw it back at him.

The person who expects others to make him happy.

A boy in a man’s body, really, lacking the ability to take responsibility for his life and his actions.

I know, I know. Not a good look. Kind of makes me wonder how I’ve made it this far, to be honest.

Suffice to say that these personal admissions have spurred along a strong internal desire to work on those aspects of my personality that have led to so many destructive habits and conflicts with loved ones.

And in nearly all recovery scenarios, the first step is admission.

So here goes nothing:

For most of my life–all of it, really when I think about it, because I can’t really remember a time when this wasn’t the case–I’ve suffered from deep depression.

To elaborate, I spent the vast majority of my adolescent and teenage years and all of my twenties fighting against the constant feeling of sinking into my own mind.

Returning to the clarity of metaphors: imagine a cloud of darkness constantly following you around, so that every time you catch a glimpse of sunlight, the view is immediately drowned out by lightning and thunder.

No matter who I’ve been with, what I’ve been doing, where I’ve been going, who I’ve been going there with–the cloud has remained, oppressive.

It’s a pretty shitty way to live. And because of it, I spent nearly two decades afraid of…everything.

More specifically: everybody.

I see now that it’s the initial reason why I became a writer. For most of my adult years, writing has been the only thing I could do to successfully combat the emotional issues I had that I had no other way of dealing with. But it also was something I could do by myself, alone, away from the anxiety of social interaction, which had almost just as much appeal.

As I’ve said many times before, writing literally saved my life by helping me–on numerous occasions–push suicidal thoughts away. But that’s about all its done in that regard. Because–as has become apparent to me most recently–the solitude of a writer’s lifestyle has done more harm than good for my mental evolution.

And as if depression ain’t enough of a bitch to deal with, there’s also been the near-constant issue of self-doubt.

Imagine that beautiful combo: crippling social anxiety sprinkled with a complete lack of confidence sitting next to the aforementioned dark cloud of depression, both riding shotgun in my head like some demented hitchhikers.

Crazy, right?

I can see you rolling your eyes. And dammit, hey, I get it.

I used to think all of this was unique to me. I guess that’s common for depression: the feeling that nobody understands. Fact is though, I know a lot of people can relate to what I’m saying here, because mental health has proven time and again to be a major problem in this country. In this world, actually.

Which is part of why I’m writing this.

My issue is the same issue that countless psychological experts have been discussing forever, and have been discussing even more vehemently in the current social climate:

The tendency for men to suppress/hide their true emotions and desires.

The tendency for men to push aside any talk of their emotional well-being.

The idea that–to many people in this society–I’m less of a man for even writing all of this.

I grew up in a very strict Christian Jamaican household, and was therefore never really allowed to assert myself. Not placing blame, just stating a well-known fact: Caribbean households, on the whole, tend to be about as authoritarian as they come. And to be fair, I grew up around and befriended a number of other Caribbean boys who were raised under similar (or flat-out bad) circumstances who’ve never displayed the sort of unstable traits that I have.

Yet still. I’m an introvert, and overall conflict-avoidant. Which is really the starting point of all this. The world is a bit cruel to people who aren’t naturally assertive.

The world is a bit cruel, period. But that’s another topic.

As I grew older, this lack of social development turned into destructive behavior; towards myself, mostly, when I was young. Eventually though, I turned it on the people I’ve loved and been close to.

My cycle’s followed a blueprint throughout the years too: 1) emotional state goes out of whack, 2) can’t figure out how to express it constructively, 3) turn to that ever-reliable pool of instant confidence: Anger.

As you can imagine, this has ruined many friendships and romantic relationships. And up until recently, I was pretty clueless that I was doing any of this.

Looking back now, I can say that living like this–cycling between anger and depression–is one of the loneliest ways to exist that I can think of. I can also say that not knowing myself enough to be able to identify this, to be able to tell others what I’ve wanted and not wanted–liked and not liked, tolerated and not tolerated, felt and not felt–has sucked a lot of the potential out of my years, leaving many of my fondest memories as dry and unfulfilling as a desert mirage.

But you get it at this point now though, right?

I’m just beating a dead horse?

To summarize: I’ve been fucked in the head for a while, and the collateral damage has been extensive.

Alright, enough with the drama.

Here’s the real reason I’m writing today:

Over the past three years, I’ve become obsessed with making music. Playing guitar, singing, writing songs, and  performing on stage. Listening to music has always been one of my favorite pastimes, but to have found an outlet where I can actually express my emotions in an active and acceptable manner has been something of a wonder.

A mental miracle, to toss in some alliteration.

In my pursuit of music, I’ve found a route through life that actually provides both shelter and a foundation for my own confidence, conditions that I didn’t even know were possible.

Go out in public, alone, without sweaty palms and an inability to look people in the eyes?

Yeah, right.

Talk to strangers without stuttering or nervously laughing or–sometimes literally–running from the conversation?

You’re talking about somebody else, not me.

Climb on a stage?

With people watching me?

And play?

And sing?!

You must have lost your goddamn mind.

Yet, three years since picking up the old, dusty Epiphone guitar I bought in college but rarely used, I find all of the above to now be true.

The Musical Mental Miracle.

Bringing all of this full circle: with the confidence in myself and my abilities that music has instilled, I have been able to look back and properly assess my own behavior over the years–without anger or defensiveness–for the first time in my life. And through that newfound opening, I’ve been able to realize that my number one responsibility moving forward is to take responsibility for my own emotional well-being.

Concurrently, I also have to acknowledge how irresponsible I’ve been with many other people’s emotions and livelihoods in my past.

And for that, I am eternally sorry.

To the people I’ve sold out in their moments of need, I’m sorry.

To the people I’ve lashed out at unfairly (or lashed out at for any reason), I’m sorry.

To the people I’ve abandoned, I’m sorry.

To the people I’ve saddled with my burdens, I’m sorry.

I promise you all: I aim to do better.

So right here, on this lonely blog entry–my first in like two years, my apologies for the heaviness/wordiness, I’m shaking some of the cobwebs off still–I’m sending a proclamation out into the nether-regions of this technological landscape:

I will actively seek to improve my overall mental and emotional health.

Additionally, I will actively seek to help the people around me–and anybody who needs it, even if you’re not around me–with their own mental and emotional health as well.

If you (yes, you, reading this right now) are currently going through something–if you recognize that cloud I described earlier because you’ve got your own demented hitchhikers riding bitch, if you’ve recently had your storage unit full of perspective explode all over your psyche, or if you just need to talk to somebody about the things going on in your head that are keeping you from reaching your full potential–you’ve got a sympathetic ear in me.

As for me?

For better or worse, I’m going to dive headfirst into this music endeavor (warning: it’ll probably lean towards “worse” for a while).

If you want to follow me on that journey, click the social media pages below:

Patrick’s Facebook Music Page

Patrick’s Instagram Music Page

Patrick’s Twitter Music Profile

And if you just want to talk, shoot me an email.

I might not have the best advice, but I promise I won’t judge.

Sometimes that’s all we really need.

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Random Thoughts, Rants, Uncategorized, Writing

Why All Good Teachers are Psychopaths

english_teachers_comic

I hated English (the class, not the language) for most of my academic life, up until I was about 16/17 years old. And when I say hate, I don’t mean in the way kids “hate” having to go to bed, or “hate” the overall idea of studying. I mean, I fucking hated English.

Despite the fact that I’d been consuming novels like they were slices of pizza since the day I learned how to read, I was still a math/computer guy all through Elementary, Middle, and most of high school. Which is to say that I was much happier sitting in a classroom zoned out doing algebra equations than sitting in another classroom discussing the merits of Shakespeare’s use of onomatopoeia (seriously, I don’t give a shit about Shakespeare’s use of onomatopoeia)

Prior to my junior year, I associated English class with boring texts, the over-analysis of those boring texts, tedious grammar lessons and an English teaching population that generally and openly hated us illiterate ingrates.

That is until fall semester of 11th grade, when I stepped into Mrs. Davis’s classroom.

Mrs. Davis was a small energetic Jewish woman, around her late 40’s/early 50’s (I’m thinking female Larry David with a full head of hair). By time I arrived in her class Mrs. Davis already had a multitude of local nicknames, all playing off some variation of the words crazyspaz, or psychopath. Add a few expletives before and after and you get the point.

And while I admit that I did my fair share of laughing at these juvenile comments, I also admit that I was always fascinated by Mrs. Davis and her brazen ability to express her love for English to us day in and day out.

Through this energetic approach, Mrs. Davis singlehandedly changed my opinion of English academics, specifically the craft of writing. Something I never could’ve admitted back then (every teenager has a reputation to uphold, even if it’s just their reputation with themselves) but which I’ve happily admitted since.

I’ve said all of this before, even nominated Mrs. Davis as my mentor twice–once when I won a dean’s award my second year in college, and again after winning a creative writing award during my fourth year–citing her as my biggest influence within the English major. But I never really knew what exactly it was that kept her in the forefront of my thoughts throughout the years, that consistently brings me back to mentioning her name every time somebody asks me that inevitable question: “when did you realize you wanted to be a writer?”

The basic answer to that question doesn’t involve Mrs. Davis, of course. My writing career’s a result of a series of events that opened my eyes to the reality of living a life without a single passion, events that forced me to decide between a future with or without a purpose.

But at the core of every motivation is always a single person who sparked the personal revelation. And Mrs. Davis is that person for me, not so much because of what she taught, but primarily because of her (admittedly eccentric) teaching methods.

I remember sitting in Mrs. Davis’s classroom that year, day after day, watching my classmates fall asleep or snicker at her animated behavior. Hands flailing, eyes bugged, mouth open wide as she exclaimed everything, spit flying across the room with every hand clap and table smack and emphatic finger stab at the board, chalk dust floating like a shroud of smoke around her head.

Rye_catcherTalking about Catcher in the Rye, you’d think Mrs. Davis knew Holden Caulfield personally. Reading lines of Adventures of Huckleberry Finn out loud, you could almost believe she was a direct descendant of Mark Twain, that she was promoting her family legacy right there in her classroom at Miami Killian Senior High.

Talking about grammar, she broke it down from the complicated explanations in the book to its most simplistic core, and looked happy as shit doing it.

In all actuality, I’m pretty sure Mrs. Davis was a little crazy. I remember one day in particular when the side-talking and delinquent antics of my classmates reached a fever pitch and Mrs. Davis broke down, straight up went off on us; a tirade that left the entire room dead silent, everybody sitting straight up in their seats like we’d been transplanted to a 1950’s classroom and promptly been smacked in the face with a meter stick.You could tell then that she took all of this–all of us–personally (you could also tell the dozen or so times she went off on us after that…kinda was her thing). That our lack of attentiveness wasn’t just an affront to the literary legends we were dismissing nonchalantly, but a direct sign of disrespect towards her, the woman tasked with making us understand.

Which is why she’s being mentioned right here, right now.

Catcher in the Rye is, to this day, one of my favorite novels ever. I’ve read it several times throughout my life, and it’s had a different effect on me every single time (high school: “Holden totally gets it!”; College: “This dude whines a lot.”; Post-college: “Holy crap this kid is irresponsible as shit.”) and is still one of the novels I cite most often as the most influential for me as a writer.

But I also truly believe that Holden Caulfield and his adventures through New York City wouldn’t have had nearly the effect they had on me if it hadn’t been for the overzealous nature of the woman teaching me how to read between the lines.

Which brings me to my point: I am a man driven by enthusiasm. Mrs. Davis’s enthusiasm, her genuine love for literature and the English language, came through in everything she did and said. And she saw something in me that year, pushed me to do more than I ever had in an English course up until that point.

If I didn’t turn in an assignment, she made sure to ask me why, and gave me a chance to make it up (for half credit) if I just showed some effort, showed her that I cared.

If I said something in class that was particularly on point–underlined a specific literary device, or made a remark on the effectiveness of some author’s writing structure–she praised me, encouraged me, motivated me.

If I approached her to ask about an interesting section in a book, she would be almost disappointed when she had to cut the conversation short because her next class was coming in.

It’s this mentality I remember most when I walk into my own classrooms these days, that enthusiasm for the material. I understand because I feel it too, that unrestricted passion for writing and literature that I hope seeps through into my lectures, no matter how much I try to hide it behind the layer of leftover high school cynicism I’ve been steadily chipping away at for the past fourteen years.

Junot_wao_coverI’m a book worm, and so was Mrs. Davis. Book worms love to talk about all things literary. At times, I almost feel a bit funny that I call what I do my job, since acting on and discussing all things literary is something I like to do in my personal time anyways, for free (though I do like to assess the situation first; not gonna walk into a night club with my boys and start talking  about the literary and cultural merits of Junot Diaz‘s The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, while everybody else is yelling “Shots!” every two minutes and downing pickle backs until they pass out).

That need for enthusiasm pervades every aspect of my life, not just my career. Every day I wake up looking for the people, places and events that will touch that special chord in my brain, the part of my psyche that runs off raw emotion and which society forces us (especially men) to keep tempered 99% of the time.

I wake up wanting that and seeking that, and it’s honestly what keeps me waking up each morning: that hope that today I will find something that makes me feel.

Writing and literature do that for me, among other things. It obviously did for Mrs. Davis too. I’m pretty sure she’s retired right now, though I don’t know for sure. I was too strong-headed during my teenage years to admit that an adult other than my parents had impacted me significantly, so I never kept in touch. But I like to believe regardless that Mrs. Davis knew exactly what she was doing for me and so many other students in her classes. Either way, I’d like to thank her again, right here, for opening my eyes.

Everybody should find the thing that makes them spaz, that makes them act psychotic, that brings out the crazy in them.

Find that thing, then embrace it. It may be the only thing that reveals who you truly are.

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College Life, Random Thoughts, Rants, Uncategorized

To Go or Not To Go: The College Gamble

postgradstress

When I look back on the progression of myself as a writer and academic, I can honestly say I didn’t choose any of this, which makes it a lot easier to justify the semester after semester of courses and the years of nomadic moving tendencies and the student loans and the general career hang-ups and–IT WASN’T MY FAULT I DIDN’T HAVE A CHOICE I SWEAR!

By that I mean that I didn’t choose to be a writer. I didn’t choose to dedicate myself to the art and education of the craft.

Writing chose me.

I’d be nothing without it. My daily confidence and ambition are deeply rooted in the written word and the academically-centered life choices that it sparked in me.

Which is what makes it so difficult for me to talk to people (primarily: my students) about their own decisions regarding potential careers and college majors and whether or not college is even worth the effort.

When I look back at my time in college, the emotions that come to mind are excitement and fear. I was excited my first semester at Miami Dade, to finally be doing something that I felt passionate about; but I was also scared shitless because I’d already tried this college thing once at FIU (Florida International University for the uninitiated) and failed miserably at it, both literally and figuratively (of the twelve classes I took my freshman year at FIU, I passed one–Calculus II–with a C, and only because our professor told us whatever we got on the final exam would be our grade for the semester…best believe I made it to that test, though I obviously forgot the whole studying part).

I didn’t know if I was going to make it during my second run. I didn’t even really know–if I did make it–what I was going to make it in. That first year I couldn’t make up my mind whether I wanted to be a journalist, an author, a magazine editor, a researcher, a pamphlet organizer, or whatever; I just knew I loved writing, the very general term.

Yet I jumped into the entire thing because what I had been doing with my life up to that point (i.e.  nothing) was really not something I could choose over…well, anything.

I also jumped in, though, because I felt something different sitting in my first college English course in the Fall of 2004. A sense of rightness, a shift in my overall mentality that quickly transferred from the classroom to the rest of my life.

I cleaned up, got my shit together, and embarked on the tumultuous journey of a literary academic.

And sure, it was fun, and effective, and totally worth getting six phone calls a day right now from various student loan companies.

But would I recommend it to anybody? This is where we start getting into murky territory, as I am still a college professor, and probably shouldn’t make recommendations against the interests of my employer.

To  answer that question though, let me just throw out a little anecdote coupled with some statistics, which should effectively keep me from shooting myself in the foot/career…hopefully.

Anecdote:

Meet Bob.

CollegeStudent-1024x1019

Sup, Bob.

Bob is a recent high school grad, a man-boy who’s been told his whole life that he needs to get a university degree if he wants to be successful.

So now, Bob’s a college student (yay!)

Bob decided to save a little money by going to community college (an option that’s about half the price–on average–of university costs) for two years, getting his AA then transferring to a public university.

Bob has his shit together.

Bob’s on point, at the registration office early before the rush of sleepy-eyed and pissed-off masses come in to demand answers as to why their schedules are all screwed up. Bob has a job, so he’s paying for his classes out of pocket this first semester, and Bob has a general idea of what he wants to do with his professional life (let’s say…accounting. Bob fucking loves numbers.)

Bob has a girlfriend. Bob has his own car. Bob visits his grandmother weekly and pays his parents’ electric bill without them asking, every month. Bob is not your stereotypical slacker teen.

Bob goes into that first semester loving life. Takes his general education courses and does well in them all, though he notices that his professors (who are all part-time adjunct faculty) seem a little distracted throughout the semester; a little tired, a little under-prepared, a little flustered overall. No worries though, he studies the material, aces his tests, and gets his first four straight A’s.

Bob does the same thing again the next semester, and the semester after that (even takes summer classes), working and paying for his tuition, studying his ass off and ignoring the instinct that tells him both the administrators and his professors are not totally on the same page and/or operating at optimal levels. Bob just supplements his classroom education with his own personal research into each topic discussed in lecture.

After his first year, Bob is looking like an academic king with a 3.9 GPA, and he’s ready to start jumping into a few of his major courses.

These courses, however, are a little bit more difficult than your basic freshman composition or college algebra gen ed b.s. These courses are taught by actual full-time professors (who are all vying for tenure and therefore actually give a shit about the material).

Two weeks in, Bob’s job’s starting to get in the way of his studying time, and since this new batch of professors are exponentially more heavy in their teaching tactics than his previous instructors, he’s got to spend much more time hitting the books at home. So he cuts back on his hours at [insert job, most likely in the hospitality industry], and within another couple of weeks he’s having trouble paying his bills.

Bob scrapes through the semester, ends up with two A’s and two B’s, which is not bad but is not at the performance level he expects of himself (Bob has set the bar high). So he decides to cut back on his hours at work even more during this last semester at community college, maybe even quits his job entirely (I mean, he’s leaving to university in the next six months anyways and he’ll have to leave the job then, so what’s a few months early?)

Problem now though is that Bob doesn’t have enough money to pay for his tuition in this final semester of his AA. So Bob takes out a loan–a government loan, low interest, just enough to pay his tuition and supplement his decreased (or nonexistent) hours at work.

No biggie. It’s one loan, less than two grand. Bob’s expecting to be making more than that a month out of college, so he’ll be on top of it.

Main point: Bob has time to study now, so he does. He studies his ass off, gets straight A’s, and within five months he’s walking onto that stage in his cap and gown and shaking the hand of a smiling campus president.

Bob is now officially a college degree recipient, though there’s not very much he can do with this AA aside from move on to the next level of schooling.

So he does. He started applying to various universities around the state in his second-to-last semester of community college, and Bob’s got a stellar resume so he got accepted to every single one. He’s got the pick of the litter, and he decides to go to the greatest school in Florida: Florida State University (had to throw that one in there…Go Noles).

So now, after returning his cap and gown and receiving his AA in the mail, Bob gets to the task of moving. He doesn’t have very much money saved since he quit his job, but he does his research, finds cheap places to live in Tallahassee (he’s no longer a teenager or a freshman anymore at 20–almost 21–so he doesn’t want to live in an overly-expensive and cramped freshman dorm room), finds a couple of random roommates, takes  out another loan (totally justified considering what he’s trying to do, but this one has to pay for a lot more than tuition, so Bob’s looking at a few more grand now) for the move, and embarks on his new journey.

At FSU, Bob signs up for his first semester of classes and realizes fairly quickly that there’s a huge difference between this level of schooling and the one he just came from. Fully in his major now, taking courses that are specific to his accounting discipline and therefore hella technical, Bob realizes he can’t work full time and hope to finish his degree in a timely manner.

So Bob gets a part time job, paying a little above minimum wage, strictly to pay for food and gas and those few drunken nights at the strip. For tuition and rent though, he takes out more loans.

Semester after semester passes, and Bob is having a blast. He’s an A/B student overall, his professors love him, his part-time job loves him, his new girlfriend loves him (left the old one behind; long distance rarely works at that age) and he’s headed for a fruitful life.

Then graduation day hits, and suddenly Bob finds himself holding a BA in Accounting, with his future completely open in front of him.

So Bob moves back home to his parent’s house–a temporary situation, one his parents are happy to oblige in an effort to help out their college grad while he maneuvers his way through this transition period.

And by transition period, I mean the infamous Job Search.

And search Bob does.

But first he goes back to that old job he had when he first started his college career (that one that was probably in the hospitality industry), regaining his position on a part time basis so he can help his parents out and carry his own weight while he figures shit out. Other than that though, Bob’s on the computer on Monster and Indeed and Craigslist and every other relevant website. And when he’s not on the computer, he’s out in public with stacks of resumes, networking like crazy.

One month passes. Then another. Then another. The student loan companies that serviced Bob’s loans start sending him letters to inform him that his deferment period will soon be up and he’ll have to start paying his monthly dues. Bob sees how much these monthly dues will be and figures the number into his calculations regarding a desired salary–a salary that is also meant to cover rent, food, gas, phone, cable, the loans, and any other miscellaneous fees.

The number he comes up with is not unreasonable. It is, however, not something he is finding. Anywhere.

So Bob stays at his current job–the same one he had prior to embarking on this collegiate journey, the one that is simultaneously populated by employees who have never in their life even considered going to college and–in doing so– are currently in a better position than Bob because they don’t have the aforementioned student loans to worry about. 

Or maybe Bob finds a job with a salary less than what he budgeted for. In this adjusted scenario, Bob has a paycheck that is maneuverable but also requires a couple of cut corners. With a check, he has his own place, a studio or one bedroom that he tells himself is temporary; without that check, he’s staying at his parent’s house. Either way, he’s missing a few loan payments, eating ramen noodles a couple more times a week than he’d prefer.

A year after leaving college, Bob isn’t as refreshed as he was the previous year, or any of the years before that. Frankly, he’s struggling to pay rent after that last increase. If he’s still at his parent’s house, dejection is starting to creep into his veins like heroin, a little cynicism infecting his aforementioned hopefulness.

And, of course, Bob will be thinking a lot during this time period. About how he’s in basically the same position he was in before college, albeit with more bills. Bob will be thinking and reading, about a lot of things. Namely the state of higher education and the reasons why his professors back at that community college didn’t seem as involved as they should have and didn’t prepare him for the rigors of university education as thoroughly as he would have hoped.

Another year will pass. Maybe two.

Eventually, Bob will get a sufficient job, something in line with his degree–I mean, come on, Bob’s the shit–but his credit rating (and his parents’) will have taken a hit from the missed loan payments. He will also be playing catch up well into his 30’s.

Eventually, Bob will be okay, and will get to a point where he can look back at his college years with the pleasant nostalgia it deserves, and not the self-doubt it currently conjures in him.

Bob’s going to make it work. Barely.

We salute you, Bob. Keep grindin’.

Statistics:

1. In 1970, if you were a college professor, you were set.  And if you were  a college student, you were pretty much investing in the most secure future you could ask for. Chances are, when you were in the classroom, you were meeting up with somebody who did nothing (career-wise) but teach and research in their discipline. Which spurred you to focus on your studies, graduate on time, get your degree, and get a sick ass job.

Back then, 78% of instructors in a college setting were tenured or tenure-track professors, with the other 22% being part time adjunct faculty.

By 2009, that number had flipped, with 2/3rd’s of instructors being adjunct and the rest being tenured or tenure-track.

The disadvantage? For the college, none, really. Employers don’t have to give part-time employees benefits, which is only one of the ways they save money with the practice.

For the students and part-time faculty though?

Most adjunct faculty members cannot survive off their low-end salaries, and therefore have to get 2nd jobs to make ends meet. Which wouldn’t be a problem if having a 2nd job (and dealing with the life of a dual-job holder overall) wasn’t an added distraction to their time in the classrooms, leading to professors not being as focused on teaching, a mentality which inevitably trickles down to the student.

This directly affects retention and graduation rates of students which, despite high enrollment, are still extremely low.

It’s hard for an instructor to motivate a student to be enthusiastic about their college career when they are so overworked and under-appreciated that they feel no motivation themselves.

Basically the equivalent of paying for a meal in a restaurant where the cook is also the manager and server on a busy night, and receiving minimum wage for all their effort.

See how fast your food comes out (if at all).

And the quality?

Straight. Shitty.

2. More stats:

– Since 1978, the cost of college tuition in the United States has gone up by over 900 percent.

– In 2010, the average college graduate had accumulated approximately $25,000 in student loan debt by graduation day.

– Approximately two-thirds of all college students graduate with student loans.

– Americans have accumulated well over $900 billion in student loan debt. That figure is higher than the total amount of credit card debt in the United States.

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This research was conducted in 2010. The situation has undoubtedly gotten worse. And couple that with the fact that 53% of recent college graduates are unemployed or working in a job that has nothing to do with their degree, and you can see how this could become an epidemic (if it’s not already in that category).

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The combination of these statistics is the overall reason for my current thought processes regarding college education. The longer you’re in college–specifically at the university level–the more money you will inevitably end up owing, without a guarantee of the professional benefits to go along with it (not to mention the whole “overqualified” dilemma, but that’s a whole other story).

Let me be clear: I loved my college life and love my current life as an instructor within the collegiate system, and I don’t regret going to college on any level. But that’s mostly because I went in knowing what I wanted, knowing what I was going to get, and knowing that it would be a difficult process in the aftermath.

My only reason for writing this is as a precaution to people embarking on that journey now: think long and hard before you make that leap.

Because in 2014, enrolling as “Undecided” can be one of the most expensive decisions you make in your entire life.

And now time for a relevant video:

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