Many Grains of Salt

I am more anxious than I expected to get back to school. Of course, I’ll eat those words when I really start, but it feels so strange to have so much free time. My hours at work have been heavily cut and without school, I haven’t had so much free time since I first began working. It’s hard to find much to do that feels fulfilling with the time I have and all that’s been on my mind is returning to school.

Yesterday, I spent much of the day reading reviews for the school I’ve chosen. For the sake of some privacy, I won’t reveal its name, but it is a school with a lot of negative reviews on a certain website called Grad Report. I am all for doing research on any school of interest. However, I noticed while some poor reviews had legitimate complaints, most were faulting the school for what was the student’s fault, either accidentally or intentionally. I understand many people throw legible spelling, grammar, and sentence structure out of the window when it comes to the internet, but many of the low reviews were typed so badly, I had trouble understanding what exactly the problem was beyond the reviewer simply screaming, “This school sucks! Don’t go here!” I am by no means suggesting any school is perfect or it’s always a student’s fault if they’re dissatisfied, but internet or not, I cannot take a review seriously when it reads like it was written by a hormonal middle-schooler. Some students did not even give the correct rating. They had nothing good to say about the school, but awarded it four stars. I truly hope that’s an odd glitch on the website.

Some complaints of a few reviews that particularly stuck out to me were:

  • The cost of the program(s). This seemed to be the most common complaint. The total cost of every program is listed on the school’s website, so if this was unknown beforehand, I cannot understand how this, while maybe a genuine unintentional oversight, isn’t 100% on the student.
  • A former student complaining she failed her chosen program for frequent tardiness and one day of absence while other students who missed multiple days were excused because they had notes. In most schools, including below higher education, too many unexcused absences and late arrivals result in the student failing the semester or the whole year, regardless of their academic performance.
  • Being expelled from the program for getting into a fight. In this example, the reviewer stated he was the victim. As a victim of bullying for all of my school years prior to high school graduation, I can find this believable on its own, but I’m skeptical because of its source.
  • One student had the entire cost of her schooling covered by FASFA, but complained she still had to work full-time to cover her unrelated expenses. I understand having to work and attend school sucks, but I found this complaint particularly egregious for two reasons: 1) The school has zero control over how much FASFA covers, so she is pointing the finger at the wrong people. 2) During what time was aid awarded by FASFA ever intended to cover outside expenses?
  • Being expected to provide their own lunch. When I attended community college after high school, if you didn’t have your own food and you were hungry, you used the vending machines. In other words, I highly doubt this is an uncommon expectation of colleges and trade schools. Even if it is uncommon, it’s hardly unreasonable. Heck, this was an expectation after elementary school! If you don’t want to pay for lunch, you bring your own.
  • Their degree or certificate (varies by location) being withheld due to being in debt with the school. This is stated within a handbook given to students, and I’ve found this to also be a common rule among colleges. There was one instance of a mother reporting the school to the BBB because this issue occurred with her son. To put it simply, she lost the case.
  • One student was unable to take a test for a license because she had no transportation to get there, and the school only covers the cost of the test for a year. Again, a situation that sucks, but is not the fault nor the responsibility of the school.
  • A complaint about being expected to wear uniform and abide by a strict dress code. This is another rule stated within the handbook and enrollment is entirely optional, of course. The dress code, while strict, is not exactly religious. I was permitted to wear flower-shaped earrings.
  • Another complaint about the uniform was only two are provided for free. It’s possible to purchase more uniforms, and to my knowledge, there is a popular chore called “laundry”.
  • One student complained there was no hands-on lab work. For a trade school, this would be a reasonable complaint. The problem? The student not only mixed up the name of the school with a university’s, but majored in liberal studies. How can a program for politics have any hands-on learning, short of an internship in a political office? I despise politics and am not on any side, but even I have to laugh at that one.
  • A student complaining he wasn’t told he needed a license to be a mechanic. Even if this one is true, I find it ridiculous. Why would you not research the requirements for the type of job you want?
  • A student who took night classes complaining no one has time to do book work, study, or prepare for tests because they have a day job. Again, I very much understand going to school and having a job at the same time sucks, but if you truly do not have time, why would you enroll in school to begin with?
  • A student who complained he still owed a balance, despite not having a job when he tried to enroll. When in history has lack of employment ever negated your bills? Note this student didn’t lose his job. He never had one to begin with. His complaint was his lack of employment wasn’t netting him a free ride if he enrolled.
  • In my opinion, the worst was from a mother. Her complaint was her daughter claimed she could take the test for GED and this turned out to be a falsehood. It seems neither she nor her daughter verified this. Why would a trade school, of all places, offer a test for GED?

The low reviews with valid complaints were outnumbered by reviews with complaints like the above and more. It’s one thing to be dissatisfied with the school and realize it’s not suited for you. That is absolutely okay and what happened with me in community college. It’s why I sought out trade school. However, blaming the school for your own mistakes and shortsightedness is a whole other matter. While I don’t believe all positive reviews and testimonials at face value either, they are more believable than someone who’s angry they still have to take responsibility for their life outside of school. There’s a reason for the old expression about leading a horse to water, but being unable to make the horse drink it. There’s only so much even the most helpful campus can do.

These negative reviews have not swayed my mind at all, though they were a surprising source of amusement for a full day. I look forward to returning and hope I get the best out of the program I’ve chosen. The campus has already proven themselves to go out of their way, so I have little doubt about their commitment, but time will tell where I stand.

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Why Do You Go To School?

This was not a question someone asked me. However, I had to temporarily withdraw from school because my 24th birthday has not yet passed and I cannot return until May, after my birthday and when the program restarts. The reason for this is my father and I share the same household, so his tax information was needed and he refused to provide it. In fairness, that wasn’t a surprise nor is it something fair to fault him for. However, my mother mentioned he told her he doesn’t know why I’m going to school.

I wish I could say the truth.

There are the obvious reasons, like not wanting to be in retail for the rest of my life (especially with the nightmare I’m dealing with now), and my previous post shared very personal reasons. but there is one reason I didn’t say, mostly because I feel it’s a grim, perhaps even arrogant, reason.

I do not want to be like my family.

Allow me to say right now I am well aware school is no guarantee of anything. I also know there are several ways to succeed that do not require college, though none I’ve found myself to be adept at. Contrary to what some of my bosses think, I’m not an idiot. I am attending school with hopes, not expectations.

I’ve run this blog long enough for anyone who’s followed for a long time to know my family is not admirable. While I do love them, none of them have footsteps I want to follow in. My dad is one of those people. Life hasn’t been kind to some of my family members, but he’s not one of those people whose situation is due to unforeseen circumstances. He’s in the position he’s in because he wants to be. That position is living at home, being mostly financially supported by his father, while his bills are only those that are convenient to him. He is entirely capable of supporting himself fully, but he chooses not to. He also didn’t graduate high school, but he still turned out to be financially well-off, which I assume is part of why he believes my choice to attend school is a waste of time. Unfortunately, I had to add factory work to my list of things I am not suited for. A friend of mine who made more money than me at a factory told me he does not miss it after he moved to a different state to be with his girlfriend.

How my father chooses to live is not my business, but I personally can’t fathom choosing to be financially dependent. Before getting the pitchforks, note I am not talking about becoming financially dependent for feasible reasons. For example, couples where only one works while another looks after their home and kids, if they have the latter. I’m solely referring to choosing to rely on others’ financial support for no reason beyond you can.

I don’t want to become such a person. I ache for independence, and while I understand not everyone does, it’s my idea of a road block. I want to be capable of completely supporting myself. I want to have more options than taking something unpleasant (in my opinion) to survive. For almost two decades, I was vocal about how much I loathed school, yet I genuinely enjoyed attending this trade school. I hated needing to wake up early, but I looked forward to going. That’s how I want to feel about my job. I’m not suggesting my father hates his job, but he and much of my family have a personal opposition to jobs like retail, fast food, and even office work, so if he loses his job, his options are more limited than they naturally are. I am trying to open my options to find the door to a job that’s more than “tolerable” and “getting by”.

Yesterday, one of my co-workers generously took me home after we closed for the night because I couldn’t be picked up. While we were talking, I mentioned the situation with my school and how I was disappointed. Something she said struck me: “But it’s good you have dreams and you are not giving up.” While I never considered the career I’m aiming for a dream, her words hit me because my boyfriend referred to my goals with the same term: dream. Considering I’m trying again after a disaster with college right after high school, perhaps “dream” is an accurate word. Although, the real dream is a lucrative, enjoyable at-home career, whether through self-employment or a company.

So, let me answer this question. Why do I go to school?

  • I go to school because I want to have more options.
  • I go to school because I want to graduate college.
  • I go to school because I want to have a job I enjoy and lets me fully support myself.
  • I go to school because I hate the limited options I do have.
  • I go to school because I want to avoid the position much of my relatives are in (barring unforeseen circumstances; tragedy is no one’s fault).
  • I go to school because I don’t want to rely on my family forever.
  • I go to school because I want to prove my family wrong.
  • I go to school because I don’t want to give up.

That’s why I’m going to school.

Motivations

Many people say you should want to improve your life for, above everyone else, yourself. And I have always agreed with that.

However, I believe I can understand how and why it sometimes takes others to really motivate someone to move forward. I liken the concept to how it’s easier to forgive others than ourselves, or how we often see our own faults against everyone else’s spotlight. It’s a wildly different perspective.

Something I often hear about parenting is children tend to motivate them their parents to work toward a better future, either financially, physically, or emotionally. While I have no children, I’ve found I do have a powerful outside motivator: my boyfriend.

At one time, my boyfriend told me he was doing poorly in school until we met. After we did, he began doing very well, to the point he was passing his assignments and tests with flying colors. This would be romantic… if not for the fact we hadn’t met in person yet, let alone become a couple! Answer? He’s a hopeless romantic.

I’ve always (playfully) laughed at him for that story, but it seems the tides have turned, and while he’s not my only motivation, he’s definitely the biggest part of it. Yes, there are things I want for myself in life, like my own apartment and car, but I want him most of all to be a part of any future I have. My answer to the question of where I see myself in five years has changed from “I don’t know” to “With him”. Maybe it’s not a good answer on its own, but it’s what I have and what I feel most confident in. Even when I try to think about myself, he tends to come into it.

“I want to a car… to travel around with him.”

“I want my own apartment… for us to live under the same roof.”

“I want school to work out… so I can get a job in this field and have enough money for both of us in case he loses his job.”

There are other reasons I could give that would make these statements about me. For example, I also want trade school to work out for the sake of getting myself far away from retail, a career path I’ve come to consider to be taken intentionally only by masochists. Yet, I feel stronger about the reasons that boil down to us being physically closer than the ones that boil down to my own independence. And yes, I’d be fine with financially supporting him temporarily if I had to while he looked for other work. He’s better than me at doing domestic chores anyway, so he claims.

This doesn’t mean I wouldn’t try to better myself if I didn’t have my boyfriend, but I may have less drive to do so. The future frightens me. Having someone to go through it with makes it a little less scary. For a reason I’ve yet to grasp, he often has confidence in me I envy because I can’t find it in myself. Perhaps that’s what makes it easier to fight for someone else: they believe in you, even when you don’t believe in yourself. It’s a different situation than parenting in that his survival doesn’t depend on me, but it is similar in that children usually have unshakable confidence in their parents. Whatever makes him have the confidence in me he does is something I may not understand, but I am ultimately grateful for. Of all the reasons I have, he’s one of the few positive motivations that drive me. I don’t want to be motivated only by getting away or acquiring things, even for the convenience the latter would bring me. Much like I’d only marry for love (if getting married were an active desire of mine), I’d rather be motivated by friendship and love than the ability to run away. I don’t want to feel like I need to run away to improve my life. There’s not much to life if you can only run away. I can only speak for myself, but I don’t want to be alone. It’s not so much that it’s romantic love as it is I have him in my life as someone who does love me and vice versa.

Perfectionism?

I enrolled into a trade school, into a 9-month program, that trains students to become network technicians. The programs treats students as if they’ve never used a computer, so the first class covers the basics of using a computer and the programs of Microsoft Office. So far, I have 28 grades: 22 for ordinary assignments, 2 for midterms, 3 for projects, and 1 for professionalism, which I admittedly don’t really care about because I see it as the equivalent of being awarded for showing up.

26 out of those 28 grades are 100%, which I am embarrassingly proud of, despite the class teaching basics. That’s not to say I’m not learning anything. Just that I don’t think passing basics is a big achievements. It’s basics and I’ve used Microsoft Office for much of my life since I started using a computer at age 5. There’s little reason not to pass.

So, I’m unhappy two of those grades—the midterms, to be specific—are not 100%. Instead, they are each 96%.

I know that is still a good score, but I’m unhappy because I screwed up something I really should not have. The assignments are done with a simulator and it’s very sensitive. Even if the outcome is still correct, each step must be done in order and exact, or it will be marked as “incorrect”. This is what caused the mistake on the first midterm. I accidentally did a step out of order and the simulator forced me to the next question without allowing me to finish, marking the previous as “incorrect”.

The mistake on the second midterm was a result of my own error. It was a question I was unsure of, so I had to take a 50/50 chance and I chose wrongly. I am less upset about that one since I genuinely did not know which answer was correct, but it’s still an error on what was really a simple question. And I do mean simple: I had to click only one button to be moved on, and I clicked the wrong one.

Because of the two 96% scores, my grade average is 99% instead of 100%. Again, I recognize this is still a good score, but it bothers me because it’s not as good as it should be. It should be 100%, but because of two clumsy errors, it’s not. My boyfriend thinks I am a perfectionist. I disagree, but even if he’s right, I am paying for this school and to even my surprise, I like being here, so I take the work seriously. On top of that, I’m doing this in the hopes I’ll gain the skills to be employable to a job besides retail. No, nothing is wrong with retail, and I know people who have worked in retail for over a decade and are happy. While I respect and admire them (because as far as I’m concerned, retail sucks and customer service can kiss my behind), retail is not the career I want for the rest of my life.

I don’t expect sympathy from this post. I’m completely aware I sound ridiculous and probably like a spoiled brat. Note I do not think I’m entitled to a 100% average. No. I want to work for it and that’s why I’m upset. That my work is not up to par, that I’m not doing as well as I should be, and that my clumsiness/ditziness cost me what could’ve been. Never would I think I’m entitled to or I “deserve” a passing grade. I didn’t enroll in this school with the expectation of good grades being handed to me because I got out of bed.

Speaking of getting out of bed, I overslept today and woke up an hour late, so I had to take Lyft to arrive at school on time. Compare that to when I intentionally clocked in fifteen minutes late for work to finish breakfast when I had arrived at work long before I was supposed to clock in for no other reason than I was aggravated I had to be there so early. Granted, it’s easier to be less aggravated when your schedule is consistent, which my school one is.