Ten Years Wandering

High school ended exactly ten years ago, as of June 4th, 2014. I can’t recall what I imagined for myself ten years ahead as I sported my red graduation gown back in 2004. All I knew was that I was leaving for college that following September with the intention to major in music, and that anything could happen.

I decided to change my major early on. To what, I wasn’t sure, although I eventually arrived at Communication paired with a Business Administration minor. I remember the indecisiveness, flipping through the course catalog numerous times, bookmarking several majors that caught my attention. I also remember considering transferring, but that passed after several weeks (and how different things would be if I had).

The last ten years have been full of crossroads. I’ve made choices and decisions, turns on this journey that keeps unfolding. Some have been impulsive and sharp; others were carefully analyzed, processed, and then finally acted upon.

Here I am, 28-years-old, employed full-time at a research university, living in a city I grew fond of, lifting weights, writing things, being single and happy but also harboring a mad crush at the same time, trying to figure it all out. I certainly have more debt than I expected; that part is stupid. But that debt defines me no more than my status as a single woman. It is a current part of my situation, and I am working on it. Most of it is student debt, and really–it’s manageable. It is in-line with the field I’ve gone into, for the degrees I obtained. It could have been less, but there were two defining quarters and several big events that changed things.

I only worry because I’m impatient, I want to travel, and I also want to be able to pursue doctoral work while being able to continue training in an athletic capacity that has captured my attention like very little else ever has before. I want to see my dollar sign net worth in the positives.

But that net worth isn’t the essence of Ardith, I remind myself. I’m a young woman who is constantly becoming.

I have had my heart broken what seems like a hundred times, but I have come out of it stronger, wiser, and ultimately learned to love who I am (debt and bad skin and crappy double-unders and all).

I traveled abroad and would never trade those times for anything. (And if I could travel more often, I would be the happiest girl alive, I think.)

I kept writing through it all, refining a skill I seemingly always had, turning it into a form of release, sharing it with the world and baring my turmoils and triumphs to an audience I often forget includes my friends, my family, and also complete strangers. (Hello to all of you.)

I have made poor decisions in other avenues, and I learned from those mistakes. I moved forward anyway, equipped with new perspective.

This is all priceless.

Graduation from high school was the catalyst for so much good. Even though nothing is perfect in my life, it is a life I wouldn’t trade. Yes, it can be stressful and sad at times, but I have seen some of the best slowly come out of those seemingly hopeless times. The valleys and peaks are endless, and I always keep trekking through, ready to see where the path takes me next.

Where am I going in the next ten years? Who knows. I’ve never really known. It will, at least, be somewhere that is the result of opportunities taken and decisions made.

Besides, when asked that question at college graduation in 2008, I replied, “I’m not sure, but wherever I am, I hope I own a hot tub.”

Let’s go see how this all unfolds.

In Which She Reminds Herself Why She’s Here

Another mental block. Another dry spell. I haven’t felt like decompressing via my usual online sources like normal. Maybe it’s partially because I’m still bothered about a particular friend/colleague/role model/trusted confidant who ditched me on all forms of networks without so much as a, “I apologize, but you’ve gotten to be too much,” and I feel like I’ve been let down or deceived and like maybe I’m just really not that awesome at the field I chose. I’m hurt by it, but I suppose that’s life, and sometimes that’s what you get when you tell someone, “Hey! It’s been awhile. Let’s catch up!” Of course I have trust issues. No surprise there.

Or maybe it’s just because the shininess of student affairs has worn off or because I’m moving into intermediate ground in CrossFit and the wonder has turned to frustration at stupid skills I still can’t master, as well as celebration for new, more complex skills. Or maybe it’s just a lack of time in my day.

I’m realizing that things I thought I cared the most about in grad school aren’t what I truly, deep-down want I to pursue. I’m realizing that all those times in the working world that I felt energized and inspired were those times when I was involved with athletics and fitness and being active and well. Spirituality, transition, holistic education, experiential learning, identity development, communication, and health and wellness–all off-shoots of the idea of cultivating wellness and developing that idea of purpose by really honing in on what makes an individual move towards a more satisfying state of being.

I want to learn more about what makes our hearts race, what makes our minds clear up, what makes our eyes recapture that gleam they lost at one point or another. When I start talking about exploring how sport can create community, or how coaches’ training and curriculum is possibly missing elements we so respect in student affairs, or how life is not a linear, two-dimensional path but one punctuated by chaos and the unknown–that’s where I come alive.

I obsess over my writing and my skills in the gym. I feel alive when new thoughts about these topics “click” in my head, or when I call out, “Time!” and know my body has accomplished something my mind once called impossible. These things remind me that I am far behind mediocre. I am not average.

And I will push past those barricades, whether they be a careless end to a friendship, a heavy weight, a stupid much-hated skill I cannot for the life of me understand (double-unders can die), or my own self-doubt.

This is the evolution. I love it, and I don’t care.

The Calling and the Purpose

A lot has changed in the past few years since starting to pay more attention to this concept of “purpose.” I switched career tracks, switched industries, and signed up for a lifetime of being over-worked, underpaid, and under-appreciated (or so the “common knowledge” says), all in the name of having some sort of impact on this crazy world.

Since identifying higher education as my ideal setting, I’ve been working to further refine that idea. What do I want to be able to do as I progress through this career? “Helping students” is so generic and broad, but I’m starting to get an idea of what it is I want to do.

The two-year college is an environment that I’ve always been drawn to. I was lucky enough to land a job in my first-choice realm*. Now that I’m in, I’ve been realizing that it’s open access that drives a lot of those admirable traits I see in the two-year college.

It’s not a perfect world, though. There are still many policies and procedures throughout this kind of setting that create barriers. There are specific populations who are more affected by these barriers, and I have an inkling that my eventual role will be to analyze and create policy that betters these experiences.

For now, I need to keep brushing up on my technical skills and my soft skills. I need to look further into what I want to know more about, what drives my curiosity.

How about you? Is working a means to an end? Or is work something that takes your interests and talents and churns out something bigger than you imagined?

*In case you’ve been wondering, my top choices for work environment go, in-order: 1. two-year public; 2. four-year public; 3. four-year private Jesuit; 4. four-year private Catholic

The “Better” Shun the Best

This is one of those Monday nights where I thought I had lots of great things to say and share, but then it turns out, I’m just kind of a big happy mess from a week straight of working out/training and getting all hugely re-inspired about what I do for a living.

However, here’s one thing I’ve been pondering all day, but forgive me if this ends up being convoluted–my glasses are in the other room, and it’s just too much of a chore to go get them right now, and I’m a bit tired and rambling.

My good friend over at This is Not Real Life shared her thoughts on this New York Times article. I read her post, and then immediately flooded her poor dashboard with several full-length comments, all in support of her ideas and, naturally, in support of my beloved public institutions.

As a new student affairs professional, I’m still all alight about the role that I have in affecting students’ lives. But I’m not going to analyze what it is that these “elite” institutions need to do to attract the high-achieving poor (I’ll save that for another day). Instead, I’m going to share my story and my ponderings, too, because–as you should know–storytelling is an important aspect in the ongoing development of one’s identity.

There’s no doubt that my parents weren’t rich growing up. We were secure, that’s for sure, but we didn’t live a lavish lifestyle. I got dance lessons and music lessons, and I don’t remember applying for financial assistance for field trips or lunches, but I do remember that my dad questioned me one time as to why I absolutely needed to spend $60 or so on track team sweats.

I also remember that my parents told me not to go to my audition at Cornish, that it would be too expensive if I went there, and I shouldn’t consider it a college choice. While I’m certain a lot of this had to do with the fact that my parents just knew I would change my mind away from music, I’m also fairly certain this also had to do with finances.

Cornish was the only private institution I really considered. It was because, at the time, I wanted to study music; of course, I didn’t even think about the fact that it was a private institution. I just knew it was a music conservatory, and the other schools I was looking at were “just” universities.

The other “real” private institutions had long been ruled out. So had the out-of-state schools. I don’t specifically remember any conversations my parents and I had, but I think I remember saying something about a California school, and Dad briefly scolding me about the expenses involved–something along the lines of, “No way. That’s too expensive; you’re looking in-state.” The only private institution I was encouraged to think about was Gonzaga, although for the life of me, I really don’t know why. (Any insight, Mom? You know, Seattle University is a Jesuit university, too!)

So, long, long ago, I knew that I was going to go to a public institution without even consciously thinking about it. I wasn’t the most in-tune with my identity as a mixed-race female coming from a middle-class family. We were more towards the “not high end” of the middle-class spectrum, although Mom and Dad had so much in order that I never really considered our socioeconomic status. All I knew was we didn’t make enough money to send me to Stanford or Harvard, even though I was one of the smartest and brightest kids on the block.

I wasn’t going to go to an Ivy League school. End of question. My dad knew how financial aid worked. Maybe he was just trying to save me the disappointment of applying to those “highly selective” private institutions and finding out we’d be several thousand short despite PLUS loans and scholarships. (And I had a heck of a time securing scholarships my senior year, partially because I was lazy in writing the essays, and partially because I couldn’t sell my skills and talents and dreams without coming up short against the tri-sport athletes and virtuosos in my hometown.)

Like my friend (whom I eventually met in college), I chose Western. I chose Western Washington University because it was a good university, and because I was accepted into the music program there, and because my parents approved the price tag. I also got a scholarship! Whee! Granted, I was awarded a lot more free aid at Central Washington University, but I was keen on going west, out of eastern Washington and into the big (rainy) unknown. I never regret that choice because WWU became a driving force in my transformation into a much more conscious participant in society and a much more self-aware person.

After reflecting on all this, though, I still wonder about a few things. What if… I had been given the go-ahead to apply to one or two private institutions? Which institutions would I have chosen? My inclination is that I would have applied to Stanford, Harvard, maybe Notre Dame–those are the names that got people recognized, after all. Would I have worked harder to apply for more scholarships? How would I have reacted in finding out that the price tag on those “dream schools” was too much–or worse yet, still too much? Would I have then felt as if I was giving something up in choosing a public institution? Or would I have fought tooth and claw for the chance to go, no matter the cost?

I’m not sure about any of that. I mean, in my town, getting into University of Washington was a huge deal, and I turned that school down after acceptance.

I also wonder if–had the stars aligned in some strange way–would I have felt welcome at an elite institution? Would I have gone through my experience as “the girl here on scholarship?” What would that have been like for a young woman who had never before questioned her SES and was suddenly thrust into not just college culture, but a culture of social elitists and the privileged? I know that we ask those same questions in student affairs programs, but I wonder what’s being done to really help students that do make it to that final step of sending in their acceptance letter, despite all the barriers to their success.

In the end, it wasn’t a lack of awareness that kept me from the highly selective private institutions*. I was not a first-generation college student; my parents had plenty of experience with higher education. It was the reality that, even with a school’s help, there would be a steep price to pay. And as my friend brings up–am I losing out on opportunities because I couldn’t afford to brand my resume with words like “Harvard” or “Stanford?”

I’m capable of good work. I highly doubt that wealthier students my age were any smarter than me; it wasn’t purely brains that got them that Harvard education. The thing that kept this brilliant mind and many others out of those ivied walls were these ideas–no, realities–that an “elite” education has to mean absurd sacrifice for those of us not living lives of incredible economic privilege, and maybe–just maybe–an idea in the back of my head that, in the end, I just didn’t belong there.

I graduated from public school. Take THAT!

I graduated from public school. Take THAT!

*Also, just because something is “highly selective” doesn’t mean it’s the best. “The best” is going to factor in a lot of things, including cultivating meaningful members of society, providing opportunities for critical thinking and learning, etc. I know that if I have college-bound children, they’re going to be spending a lot of time articulating to me why they’re applying to certain schools and why it speaks to them.

Thoughts on “What Teachers Want to Tell Parents”

For all my friends who are having children and sending little ones off to school, here’s something to think about. Those who can and care teach: What Teachers Want to Tell Parents.

When I went to school, my parents held me responsible for my mistakes and my accomplishments. They took each and every parent-teacher conference seriously. They trusted that these professionals would do their best to help me learn, and sometimes, that meant that my teachers had to tell me the work I didn’t wasn’t my best.

Remember, sometimes our greatest learning opportunities came out of failure. Those of us that tried again even after failure became resilient, and I would sure as daylight love to be resilient as opposed to breezing through life because others fought needless battles for me.

Not every teacher is going to be the brightest shining star out there, but not every professional in every single job is going to be that shining star, either. Be intentional and thoughtful and articulate in the conversations you have with your children’s teachers; education isn’t simply an exchange of goods or services. It’s much more than that. It’s an opportunity to grow–and that doesn’t mean just for the children.

Super Bowl Funday

I was going to write about the state of things, but I’m in the kitchen and both of my roommates are cooking things I can’t eat. It’s delicious and distracting (D&D?).

This whole nearly-paleo thing is working out pretty well for me. Avoiding refined sugars and grains hasn’t been too bad. Somewhere, a purist is angry that I still eat yogurt and milk and cheese. Somewhere, another purist can’t believe I still have caffeine. Regardless, I’m wondering how to continue this “cleaner” eating lifestyle because I feel good and honestly, I look better than I have in a long time.

I am also clicking along in this student affairs first-year professional role. There are challenges that come with working in the two-year setting, and I am happy to face those. I am leaving for Georgia on Wednesday morning for a NACADA institute; excited for this work-related journey.

And with that, I’m going to go make some nearly-paleo hot wings.

 

A Heavyweight Heart

After a full day of work advising students from all walks of life alongside my amazing colleagues, I (and a few of those said colleagues) volunteered at a holiday party for the Boys and Girls Club. My job for the night hinged on helping kids make miniature gift boxes, which, at first, seemed really confusing; I worried that I would be spending a lot of my time apologizing for not knowing how to make the craft. However, I got it on the first try, and I spent the remainder of the night teaching kids how to fold and cut cards to make the little boxes. I may have made six or so for myself, just like some of the more enthusiastic kids did.

One of the greatest lessons I learned as a young adult was to never lose that sense of wonder (thank you, Don Johnson). I try to practice that, and I suppose it’s part of the reason that: a. I don’t want kids of my own at this point in time (because I basically still feel like a child myself); and b. Why kids and I actually get along (even though I’m not a “kid person.” It’s contradictory, truly.). Kids tend to like me a lot.

Today, though, a gunman wiped out the potential to wonder and marvel at the world for twenty children and several adults, including his own mother. As a non-parent, my feelings pale in comparison to those belonging to the families of the young victims. As someone who has worked and continues to work in visible roles, especially in education, I am upset.

I read that the principal died today. I read that she had been an administrator for twelve years and that her enthusiasm for education and the schoolchildren was unbelievable. I read her Twitter account, and from it, I could tell that she was invested in the future of those children.

And in that I see an investment that is familiar in my life. When both your parents come from education backgrounds, you understand that educators make sacrifices. Usually, those sacrifices are things like long hours, or staying up late to review a lesson plan, or volunteering at a school event, or being used as a verbal punching bag. The rewards are great, however, seeing the way students light up when they remember how you helped, and–from what I hear–when you run into them years later and hear about the things they have accomplished. Many of those attained goals would not be possible without losing the ability to imagine, to look forward, to wonder. And we are there to encourage them, to learn alongside, to grow and wonder just the same.

And we will be there, despite any outliers’ selfish motives to take out their revenge on the innocent. I would be lying if I said part of my training and education didn’t involve addressing the reality that someone could pull a weapon on me for making a mistake or saying something related to their education that they didn’t like.

“My job is to be a cheerleader for other people’s children,” as Dr. Larry Roper would say. You have my word on this, even though we know that school is not a sanctuary.

We should not, however, live in fear that our schools, our public spaces, our means of transportation are targets. We must shift the cultural paradigm somehow–and I don’t have the answers on how to do that–so that the fear those children and all the victims experienced is never replicated.

Don’t cultivate fear; don’t let it win. Cultivate wonder. Cultivate change by giving back to your community. Tell someone you love them. Ask someone if everything is okay.

And please, whatever you do, pray or meditate or do what it is you do to keep the victims of violence–of this act and beyond–and their families in your hearts.

 

Grey Friday

I’m still in my pajamas, and the only shopping I did today was from the comfort of my own couch. I bought a LivingSocial deal for two pairs of yoga pants. $29 for $119 worth of athletic gear? Okay. I needed long stretchy pants that I can wear to my workouts anyway.

It’s raining outside, but I’m okay with that for now.

I’ve been doing some preliminary research into doctoral programs, even though I don’t imagine I’ll have the resources and/or the need to pursue a PhD or EdD within the next decade. New Zealand’s University of Auckland is a front-runner, given their pricing model and flexibility in studies, but University of Newcastle has my ultimate reach program, the Integrated PhD in Education and Communication. Of course, there are also several California schools and some other institutions in far-off corners of the world that I’ve identified (in the meantime). I know what it means is trying my hardest to attend and present at conferences, identifying burning questions to drive research and innovation, and staying on top of developing my connections and being aware of trends in higher education.

Part of the trouble as a new professional, though, is maintaining mentoring relationships and moving forward with a different support system, now that I’m out of graduate school. It kind of feels like I’m a big sister that is currently being overshadowed by the arrival of my new, cuddly student affairs siblings (a.k.a., the new SA grads). My needs are still attended too, but there’s an expectation of independence and proficiency that I haven’t yet developed.

Here’s what I specifically need help with:

– maintaining my involvement in professional organizations. I can’t afford my membership fees for NASPA or ACPA right now because my school isn’t affiliated with either, and $240+ for a $100 discount on the “maybe one conference” I can attend isn’t going to work.
– finding conference presentation opportunities. My other SA pals seems to be getting their foots into the doors as far as regional and national conferences go; why am I missing a lot of that same information? I’ve asked several times for resources on SA and related conferences, but have found exactly one database.
– solidifying mentors in the field outside of my immediate work environment. Most of my support personnel have new cohorts filled with shining stars to help out and I don’t want to appear needy, but… I am needy. I still need my hand held in some ways, and I don’t want to tax my colleagues’ patience in my new workplace. (Granted, I have great support at work! I’d just like to keep a strong, diversified network, you know?)
– lending my support to other new professionals and graduate students. I feel a bit disconnected, so what can I do to give back to a “new generation,” so to speak?
– getting started in research when I’m outside an academic program. This goes with solidifying mentors, I think. What should I do after I identify those fields of inquiry? Invade a school library silently? Lurk on the internet?

Any insight will be much appreciated. These questions and needs have been formed over the past five or so months, and I don’t want to lose my momentum now that I’ve made it into the student affairs field.

And in other news–I hope you all had a lovely holiday. 🙂 Now it’s time to reunite with some grad school friends, funny enough.

In This Case, Average is Good

When I graduate in June, I will have roughly $40k in student debt. That seems like a lot, especially for someone who had an assistantship with a tuition waiver and housing and for someone who is going into the field of education. But looking at the chart, as a student qualified for financial aid, I’m just about average for a Master’s student and an education major.

I have a decent amount of credit card debt, but it’s manageable and will “go bye-bye” fairly soon. It’s nowhere near (and has never been near) the absurd amounts of debt radio ads promise they can make disappear.

The thing is, too, there were several factors that resulted in this number of loans. For one, I chose to attend an undergraduate institution that offered me some grant and scholarship money, but not a ton of it. I didn’t get that many scholarships my first year, and my last year at WWU, I shouldered what was my parents’ PLUS loan. We were a middle-class family with little debt, but I qualified for assistance, and I worked part-time to make sure I had some “fun money.”

When I worked for two years full-time, I had several more factors working against my saving capacity. I lived alone my first year, commuted 60+ miles round-trip each day the next. Then, I went to Europe on my savings for two months–and it was worth it. I came back to the States, worked part-time, then coughed up a lot of money to move for graduate school–and then got my employee paperwork misplaced by HR. Which meant I ended up paying for books and other initial expenses without assistance and very little to my name. I’m still paying that off, but the bottom line is I’m on-time with my payments.

In graduate school, I knew where my values were. They were in travel, and I paid my own way to multiple conferences and an international internship. I saved like crazy and supplemented where I needed with loans. To get home during the holidays, I have to cross mountain passes at peak times, and that means usually shelling out money for train or plane tickets–at holiday rates. I had a small dental procedure scheduled–during exactly the time that I was uninsured for a month. And then, I landed my dream job a quarter early–which meant my tuition waiver was null. And as an out-of-state graduate student no longer affiliated with an OUS institution as an employer, I had to take out several thousand dollars to cover my last five credits.

I’m not complaining, though.

This is exactly the level that other students find themselves in. I have had the best experiences and opportunities for growth possible during my time as a student.

My borrowing works out to roughly $6500 a year for six years. What’s the price tag I would put on volunteering in Madrid for a month? For interning in Trinidad and Tobago for a month? For being able to be at friends’ weddings, my dad’s last few days, every Christmas in freezing-cold Wenatchee (and one special Mom/Daughter trip to Hawaii)?

So maybe it means I request an Income-Based Repayment Plan. Maybe it means looking for a condo to buy in a price range that’s $40k less than my current job could allow me to buy. Maybe it’s packing my own lunch every day and making my own coffee in the morning.

I don’t have a car loan. I don’t have a mortgage. I don’t have any children. It’s just me and my dreams and the world.

And heck, when I look at the map and the pictures and the friends I’ve made, $40k is a steal.

Here’s to young adulthood and young professionalism. Here’s to growing up slowly. Here’s to being average at the cost of living an above-average life.

Keeping Occupied

In light of Occupy Wall Street and GOP politicking, I feel like maybe I should say something. I type too quickly to warrant wasting a piece of paper and some ink to make one of those cool little signs, so here I go.

I am a 25-year-old college graduate. I am currently working on my Master’s degree in Student Affairs. When I graduate, my student debt will be roughly equivalent to one year’s salary at the entry-level in my field of choice. According to Dr. Rick Settersten, that’s good. My borrowing is in line with what I hope to do.

I have two credit cards, one that still carries a fairly high balance because of some paycheck problems and moving costs from last year, but it’s not out of control. I like to travel because it helps me stay well-balanced and psychologically happy. My debt here is not out of line with my personal well-being. I blame no one but myself and my dreams.

When I graduate from my Master’s program, I intend to downsize my material possessions as much as possible. The old clothes I hang on to can better benefit others–and they’re pretty stylish, too, if I must say so myself. I hate moving because I inherited complete sets of dishes and pots and pans and kitchen utensils from my mother. The boxes are heavy, but I know I won’t have to replace those sets. I dream of someday registering for newer sets if and when I ever find someone willing to marry me, but on my own, I get by.

Someday, I will probably inherit my family’s house in East Wenatchee. I recognize this is sheer luck because I grew up an only child. This house will surely help me either pursue my dream of owning a cabin on a lake somewhere or a vacation home or even just help with the down payment on the perfect house wherever and whenever I decided to stop renting. Not everyone has a failsafe like this, though.

I have health insurance, for now. I have health insurance because I work a .49FTE position at my school. My job pays for my tuition and my housing, too. I still took out loans because I know myself. I am fairly healthy now, but I have a small handful of prescriptions that without insurance would be hard to come by. I am afraid to shop for an individual plan because the last time I did, the ones I could afford made me choose between preventative care (including annual screenings for cervical cancer, breast cancer, etc.) and prescription coverage. I don’t want to think about what would happen if I became very sick, and the possibility is there because I was a formula-fed baby. My immune system isn’t as good as my peers’. This was actually my own fault, too, because as a baby, I refused to breast feed. (Wrap your head around that, new moms.)

I have bills to pay, and my smartphone keeps me up-to-date at work on the fly. It keeps me connected with those I love, and it is worth the extra dollars every month to me. I blame no one but myself for that.

I know when I move out of my residence hall, I will want an animal to keep me company. Her bills will also be paid for by me. People will judge me if I get an animal, though, because I’m choosing to talk about my finances. (I doubt the same people would judge me if I got married and had a baby in the same time frame. Why is that?)

I am already looking for a full-time job in my field. If I can’t find one because the market is over-saturated with outstanding student affairs graduates and seasoned professionals, I will look for a customer service job or something similar. I am not above positions like that, and I know I am qualified for what I’m looking at as an alternative plan. However, if I don’t have insurance and I’m paying through the nose to cover prescriptions and doctor’s visits and other preventative services, don’t expect me to keep quiet about it.

I don’t have a partner to support me. My mother isn’t rich. I’m doing this on my own, but it would be nice to know that others who have succeeded want me to do well, as well. I want to know that our priorities are in providing good public education at all levels. Voters in my home state failed to approve school levies–while approving the privatization of liquor sales. It’s good to know we would rather have cheap booze than smart teachers, innovative programs, and smart students who can contribute back to their community </sarcasm>.

And on that note, moving student loans to the states? States can’t even agree to keep subsidizing their public colleges and universities.

Also, I know you’re thinking it. “But they say I need to go to college to get a job.”

Not true. We need to invest more time in programs that allow people to pursue relevant interests, develop the right skills, and get into the workforce. Ideas? Career counseling courses at the high school level need to be bolstered. Gap years and service years need to become staple–give prospective students time to contemplate where they will fit into society. How many times does a college student change his or her major? Vocational and technical schools, too–those exist for a very good reason.

I don’t know what percentage I fall into. I know one thing: I’m not wealthy. But if I was, I would spend all my time advocating for better public educational systems and better career services for all and finding ways to make us healthier and and and… I would do what it takes to pay it forward so the next dreamers don’t end up bitter and jaded.

My name is Ardith, and I am 0.000000319838% of the American population. (According to the US Census website.)

Even so, I have the power to be great and to do something great because of the people who have supported me. Not everyone is that lucky. Shouldn’t we all be?

 

I’m not sure there was a very clear point in that, but I needed to write.