Once Upon A Time

It was a slightly overcast day, but with enough sun to count as sunny. I woke up, smiled a bit, and headed to school and my then job as a tutor for the school. It was the end of April, and I was looking forward to the end of the semester. Ben, working in the same department, saw me as I walked in. I asked him what was on his mind, and we began to talk about the same topic that we’d been casually mentioning for ages: marriage. I thought we could just do a courthouse run when we went to get our marriage certificate, but the courthouse hadn’t offered them, and so we were still looking for a solution. I pulled the number up for the courthouse of the municipal we were in for classes (which was the next district over, and therefore a possibility). The judge DID perform marriages-by appointment only!

When would we like to be married?

I wanted May Day-a religious holiday about fertility and thusly good luck.

They only did Friday’s.

May second? Booked.

May ninth?

That was fine. We were scheduled for 9AM. Perfect.


The date was two weeks away, with plenty of time to break the news to our families that we were being completely serious (they’d known we would for about a year, but until we had something concrete it was always just up in the air.) We’d tried a December wedding, but it hadn’t panned out.

Fast forward to the Friday before our wedding-Friday, May 2 at 4:56PM. The Judge had been overbooked! And he wouldn’t even able to do our wedding!! No appointments available before our marriage certificate expired. Thank you.

It was the end of the business week before we were finished with our conversation. I could call no official until Monday, and that might be too late. So I began to try every minister, high priest, high priestess, pastor and anyone I had an email address for in the closest three counties. Most, as I had assumed, needed more notice. One had asked if we could drive forty miles to their Sabbat that same night, where they would love to do so, with less than an hour to get there-we passed, but I would have loved to!

Ben had been calling people with the same fervor, and emailing his professors (who are well known to be better connected than college students!) and lo and behold-one of his professors was ordained! Was he free on Friday the 9th? Yes! Would he be willing to do so? Yes! Perfect!

It wasa sunny Friday, the flowers were all blooming in the trees and it seemed like the perfect day for happiness. My parents and siblings, Ben’s dad, Ben’s best friend (and his parents) and a couple lost stragglers came to the classroom. My dad stopped off and bought pizza for everybody before we got there. In walked the professor, complete with a stole and robes, a brief case, and a guitar case. I’d never had Dr. Emens, but he seemed a nice enough fellow, and he was certainly doing us a kindness.

We had a traditional wedding, complete with prayers, vows that were based in a religion I had left, and the exchanging of rings. Then, at the very end, Dr. Evens sat down and asked if he could play a song for us. He chose “Good Riddance (Time of Our Lives)” by Green Day. We paid him, signed the things we needed to and then headed to our honeymoon-weekend (where we watched three seasons of Game of Thrones and the owner of the place we stayed picked wild flowers-which I dried (because they were my wedding bouquet).

It may not have been traditional, it may not have been the big and fancy wedding that everyone always thinks about, but it was unique, it was prophetic and it was the start of a wonderful marriage. And it was all completed at 4:30PM Friday, May 9, 2014.

Now, two years later, it is rainy (which I love!) and I’m sitting at the kitchen table with my huge cup of coffee, thinking about that day. I remember that I sat there thinking that I wasn’t nervous at all, that I knew I was making the decision that I’d made in my head a long time before.

There are some things you didn’t get with that version of the story.

I was 21 (and had been so for 5 months exactly). Ben was 20 (and had been so for a week under 5 months). I was asked within five minutes of getting married if I was going to have kids/when I was going to have kids/if I was already pregnant. 

Ben told my dad (and I later adopted the same reasoning for the people who asked why we got married so young:

I didn’t want to start our lives separately and have to make room for the other person. I want to start from absolutely nothing more than love and build a life together. I want to start out together poor and watch as our riches grow.

I’d always told people that when you know you love someone, you shouldn’t feel like age should stop you from spending your life together.

I chose to hyphenate my name because at the time I thought I wanted to go into academics and that way, if I published any papers, you’d know without a doubt it was me. I may not be directly going into academia, but I don’t regret splitting my name. Because it gives me an identity all my own. I use either name as I please, both for formal occasions and I am content.

So happy anniversary, my love. It’s been an interesting, epic, bizarrely perfect two years and I look forward to collecting more with you.

A Day in the Life of…

So normally I try to write about something very near and dear to me, something that isn’t overly political, but is something that I am pretty passionate about. A little while ago, I posted about how I thought it was incredibly wrong to force people to go to college. And today, I want to present the other side. A personal narrative of what it’s like going to college in today’s world. And hopefully, to dispell some college myths. I’ve screen-shotted my proof for numbers, although they are easily available on Google.

I don’t know how many people relate, but it really grinds my gears when I hear “Why can’t you just save up money?” Or “Working through college isn’t that hard.” Or “Back in my day, you could rent an apartment and go to college on a part time job.” These sentences may have been true at one point, and that question may be well-intended, but I believe that they are incredibly un-applicable (inapplicable?) to today’s college generation. This will be, as always, just my experience, mi cuenta. 

Classes began yesterday. And if you live north, so did the snow. I woke up around 620, took the dog out, fixed lunch and made sure my husband was up. While he was finishing getting ready, I ran out to get the car scraped. He locked up and we left for class. The roads were slick, the cars were thick and it added some time to our drive. Rush hour in Ohio always does. We made it to school, and work in my case, and began classes. We got back to home about 12 hours later. The wind blew, but I walked over 2 miles yesterday, and will do so all semester, regardless of weather. And my husband’s walk is almost 4 miles a day. Just to get between classes. We’re both taking upper division classes (stuff meant for graduate students-not undergrad) and we’re trudging along.

Ohio State’s tuition is dependent on where you call home. For me, it has always been Ohio, so I get in-state tuition, as does my husband. For just one of us, it costs $20,144 USD just to attend for one year. That doesn’t include gas, rent, food or supplies. So, living in a big city is pretty expensive. If you say $200 in groceries for 1 person per month, plus $700 per person for rent/utilities per month, plus $100 a month for supplies/gas, that’s $1000 a month PER PERSON on living expenses. **NOTE: I am using the second set of numbers as my reference, because I live off campus in an apartment, so I’m filling in my numbers instead. And that supplies number isn’t adequate, so I’ve included the personal amount to fix it.**

So, in total, it is $20,144 + ($1000 x 12) = $32,144 per person just to go to classes for one full year.

  Two we people’s total is $32,144 x 2 = $64,288 for one year of college. And this is a public, state school. I shudder to imagine a private university. And this number doesn’t include emergencies like a broken down car, hospital trips, doctor visits or any other emergency things. If it did, it would look more like $70,000 USD.

So let’s look at the job markets and such. We’ll take a minimum wage job, because mostly the college population has one of those.  I have included my google search for current, factual information.

 
So, we have $8.10 USD as the minimum wage. So let’s discuss hours. The minimum amount of class time you can have at OSU is 12 credit hours. That, from my understanding means that you will have 12 hours of class per week, or around 3 per class. You can go up to 18 credit hours. So one week has an entire 7 x 24 hours = 168 hours. Suppose you’Re taking the upper limit of credit hours. That is 168-18 right off the bat. So 150 hours of the week is left.

Ohio State recommends that for every 1 hour of class, 3 hours are spent in homework to achieve a passing grade (taken to mean “C”). The picture I have is from the U of Michigan website.

  
(Notice how if you take 18 Credit Hours, it is recommended that you work less than 20 hours.) So to catch us up, we have 150 hours in a week after classes. Now,  18 x 3 = 54 hours. So, 150-54 is 96 hours in a week left. Let’s say that you sleep 8 hours a night. 8 x 7 =56. So you are down to 40 hours a week left. But what about drive time?

It takes us anywhere from 30 minutes to 1 hour to get to campus, even from where we live, depending on when we leave. So, if we were to leave every day during rush hour (because Ohio is famous for it), it would take an hour both ways. That is 5 x 2 = 10. So if you take that away from the 40 hours you had, you are now down to 30 hours left in the week. Take another 10 from that for dinner/eating each day and you are at 20 hours left for the week.

Suppose you were a scary person and you didn’t ever have any fun what-so-ever and you worked the rest of the 20 hours. You’d have to include the fact that you have to drive there (assuming you don’t get a job on campus while you’re already there. So take an additional 5 hours off of that number for driving to work. You are left with 15 hours to work.

Remember that minimum wage from above? Bring it down here.

$8.10 USD x 15 hours = $121.50 USD before taxes. In my best effort to predict my checks, I use 86% as the amount of the paycheck I will actually get post-taxes. So, if you’re using that too, $121.50 x .86 = $104.49 USD. For the month? That total is $417.96

So. Let’s wrap this up, shall we?

“Why can’t you save money?” Because making $417.96 per month (or $5015.52 a year!) compared to spending $32,144 doesn’t really put much of a dent in my student loans, and to be fair, I use the money I supplement with working a part time job to pay for the emergency stuff (and to apply to grad schools, law schools and register for the entrance exams-which cost $200 a piece).

“Working through college isn’t hard.” Well, as I hope I have illustrated for you, it IS possible to work during college, and I do so. However, I’m not sure I would ever call it easy. I mean, I like being able to work out, grab coffee with my friends and spend time with my husband, but those things take time and make life meaningful so I sacrifice work for them.

“Back in my day, you could rent an apartment and go to college on a part time job.” I’m very happy for you. But with today’s numbers, a part time job barely covers food for my husband and I for the month. (And let me remind you that these numbers did not include birthday presents, Christmas presents, lab fees, parking passes ($800 USD a year), fast food, or any “luxuries” that a person may want.) 

This blog post was not meant to be a “Michelle Complains About College Again!” Rant. That was NEVER my intention.

What I want you to see, maybe even empathize with or understand better is that going to college is a big commitment and what may have been true for older generations during their time, their 20s, is no longer true today. And we should stop using antiquated information to make generalizations about today’s 20-somethings.

And to round us out, here are some memes about college which I find funny and insightful.

   
   

Hindsight

When I was in high school, there happened an event that has stuck with me ever since.

I was the field commander of the high school marching band. It was the best thing that could have happened to me, honestly. I took my job very seriously, regarding each of the band members and color guard as members of my own family, who I would defend to the death (I was very theatrical back then). Anyway, part of my duties was to ensure safe transport of persons and equipment post game. Our instruments were hundreds, if not thousands of dollars. So I would holler out “Band coming through!” And other things, like “Watch out!” And “Excuse us!”

 

(This is basically my podium/ladder-basically huge)

 The event happened one home game my first year commanding (I was commander for 2 years-the first in school history, I believe). I was VERY passionate about my job, but also very polite and I was trying to get all the band and guard members into the school without damaging anything or anyone. Carrying my “ladder” (it was a platform I conducted from which was more than twice my size and a workout all its own), I was announcing our departure when a group of our school’s football players came up from behind me and yelled “No one gives a shit about you band faggots.” And I do not think there has been a single moment in the history of who I am that I contemplated murder more seriously. I think I could have wafted my ladder at him (and yes, I know exactly who he was) and it would havebeen a blood bath. Thankfully my director saw and heard what had happened and talked me down. If I recall, I had to stay after the game because he was telling me about how some football player wasn’t worth my future. I fumed about it for days.  And when the football player came down to the band room to apologize to the director (but not the rest of us), I saw red once more. If it had been a band member, we would have been crucified! How dare he just get off with some shitty apology! Make him pay, dammit!

  

But this story doesn’t end there. Fast forward to the last day of the year 2015 (so today-6 years later), that same football player and one of his cohorts is playing Call of Duty with my husband. They know who he is, but none of them know who I am, other than his wife. So my husband (who was in the band as well) asked if they remembered that incident, as well as a couple others. And they did. I held no hopes that they might have changed, fully expecting them to make more slurs and laugh about it. My opinion was so low, even after over half a decade of separation that I expected them to be the same low-life people they had been before. And after six years of holding that grudge, I got my apology. 

  

So, there was enough time in 2015 to see to it that I learned one more lesson. I spent a good chunk of time today thinking about the implications of the entire event. How is it that I try so hard to hide the mistakes I made in high school from the me I am now, so that people judge me (and you know they will) based on the person they see before them and not the one from before-but would not extend the same courtesy to someone I barely knew? Why did I expect him and his friends to not change what-so-ever, but to have seen nothing short of a revolution in myself? What did that say about me?

And as I look at the clock, watching time pass by, I have a smile on my face. I cannot condone his actions, but my own are no different. I had originally started this post as a declaration of how we are all pressured into being unique but also conforming. And what I learned was that those are the struggles which have defined my past. I’m going into 2016 with a keen awareness that maybe I need to do more to be a kinder person, to keep less stereotypes, to open my heart to forgiveness and the pursuit of happiness. Because one of the only things that is more liberating than”I love” is “I forgive”.

  

Time may change me, but I can’t change time.