“What Do You Want To Be When You Grow Up?”

At seven years old: A veterinarian! (Yes, I could really pronounce that as a small kid.)

At sixteen years old: An artist.

At nineteen years old: An animator.

At twenty years old: A paid blogger?

At twenty-one years old: A livestream gamer?

At twenty-six years old: I have no idea.

My 27th birthday arrives this year. Is it too late?

Bad Lessons From My Family

“Stranger danger”

This one is bad for so many reasons, namely that most people are not out to kill you. I mentioned this once to a parent, and she (admittedly, to my surprise) agreed. Yes, kids should know not everyone is a kind person and some people will hurt them, but there must be a better way than teaching them to assume everybody outside of their family and schoolhouse is a murderer in waiting. For me, this got so bad, I feared walking down the street alone (not that I was allowed to begin with). In truth, most strangers couldn’t care less, and statistically, a child is in more danger with their own family than from a stranger. Abduction by strangers are the least common. Most kidnappers have a familial relationship with the child, or knows the child via friendship with the parents or other family. In other words, in most cases, the kidnapper isn’t a stranger to the kid.

“If you don’t behave, the police will arrest you.”

Bad police officers will do this (aka police brutality or profiling), and I know there are cases of children being arrested for temper tantrums and given charges. I won’t pretend there aren’t bullies out there in blue with a badge (I also believe if you work with kids and your solution to a tantrum is calling police, you need an immediate career change; on a different note, all of those cases happened in the south and every child was black, so I think that says enough). If you live in a community where the police are notorious for profiling, maybe this is a legitimate worry, but I didn’t grow up in any such area, so this was nothing more than a scare tactic. It failed spectacularly when I found the police to be a lot more helpful than my family. I know some officers went so far as to ask parents to stop doing this because if a child is in legitimate trouble, especially life-threatening trouble, the police will probably be the people you want involved. In fact, when I was growing up, one bit of advice I read is if you think someone is chasing you, run into a police station. A kid who’s scared of the police would probably assume they’ll be in more trouble if they do that.

In same vein, “that [lady/man] will kick you out if you don’t behave” when it comes to store workers. As I said several times in my posts, I work in retail. No, I will not kick your kid out. I can’t kick actual bad customers out. If I had the authority to kick anyone out, your kid would be very low on the list because as annoying as their screaming is, this person at my counter having a fit her receipt is invalid is much more annoying.

That everyone cares how you look

Just like most people aren’t out to kill me, I learned most people couldn’t care less what I look like either. In fact, the only people who did care were my family and the bullies at school. The passersby on the street have their own lives and problems, and a stranger’s appearance does not make the list. I confess I am self-conscious about how I look, but that insecurity came entirely from my family. Even my job, the people who pay me, don’t care how I look as long as it’s within their dress code. One of my jobs has a rule about hair: tie it up. Surprise, surprise. It’s a safety rule, not an “avoid being ugly” rule. And if any stranger is taking a huge issue with how I look, that’s on them. Interestingly, constantly belittling others and needing constant praise are signs of narcissism.

Similarly, “you don’t like to look pretty”. There’s totally nothing wrong with teaching girls they’re ugly if they’re not in a dress and jewelry, right? Yes, that’s sarcasm.

“You shouldn’t do what everyone else does” at the same time as “Don’t you want to be like the other girls?”

In case it’s not obvious, contradiction. Many times in my teens, my family told me not to do what other teenagers do until it came to attire and hobbies. Suddenly, I was questioned about why I wasn’t like the other teenagers. Normal teenagers spend every Saturday at the mall with their friends, going shopping, and dressing like fictional high school characters. Recall I said above my family was paranoid of letting me do so much as walk down the street, and they certainly weren’t willing to be my weekend ride or give me money for these supposed mall trips (before you ask why I didn’t get a job, this nonsense started when I was 12; 12-year-olds cannot legally be employed and I wasn’t interested in the mall anyway, nor were my friends). Ironically, nowadays, I shop a lot and go out frequently, and my family wants me to stop because I’m almost never home. Can’t win. Perhaps it’s not surprising I got into certain hobbies and likes when I stopped being told I should like those things.

Pressure about college

I understand this came from a place of good intentions, as this often does, but it turns out going to college for the sake of going to college is a really bad idea. To my family, specifically, it mostly had to do with bragging rights. The majority of them do not know anything about college besides it’s simply “the next step”. This was more annoying from my mom, however, because she went to college and nothing came of it. How the heck can you pressure someone to go to college to have a better future when the outcome was the very opposite for you?

I did eventually go to college – trade school – and I wish I didn’t because the jobs I got didn’t require college. They were jobs I could’ve succeeded at in high school. On top of that, the job I currently commit myself to pays higher than both jobs and involves more than sitting at a desk for the majority of a shift with nothing to do. I’m not against desk jobs. I would love to have one again. Just give me something to do besides talk endlessly until the phone rings. Getting paid to do nothing sounds fun until you realize it means almost literally nothing. Not fun at all.

Finances

Non-existent. My family is the absolute master of bad finances. From my mom spending her last bit of money to ensure I went to the hair stylist that month as a kid to my dad pressuring me to go into further debt to have a car, and considering a bus pass and education a waste of money (fun fact: Dad has never 100% supported himself; he can afford to trade in cars like candy). Unfortunately, this is very hard to learn on your own and spending impulses don’t make it easier, but I’m trying. At the very least, I can say I have more in savings than anyone in my immediate family does and I’m now trying to save at least $100 a month to continue growing it (after it being stagnate for a long time).

Family planning

Why does this seem to go hand-in-hand with the above? To my family’s credit, they never let me believe having a child is easy. The problem is they still went the paranoia route and discussions about sex were closed. I never dated until I was 19 anyway, but it still would’ve been nice to know pregnancy does not randomly happen and isn’t inevitable. I’m not fond of the whole “children will ruin your life” shtick either. First of all, no child deserves that. Second, that probably wouldn’t happen if any thought was given to having kids instead of parenthood being treated as something that happens outside of someone’s control. Speaking personally, yes, parenthood would destroy my life because I absolutely do not want to be a parent and I have no support (financially and emotionally) for that child. But if I wanted kids, the latter alone would stop me from having them until that situation changed. A common retort to this is “you make it work” or “you figure it out”. As the product of such, I can tell you my family definitely didn’t figure it out. They still haven’t.

“Don’t trust men.”

This came from women and men in my family. Unsurprisingly, the men it came from aren’t stellar themselves. Projection much? I had my fair share of bad relationships (and I wouldn’t call them even that) with men, but it taught me to be more careful and not to expect my profile to be read. And don’t sleep with anyone I’m prepared to kick out of my life the next day. Sadly, the only long-lasting relationships I grew up with turned out to be toxic, so they weren’t good models at all. This is another difficult thing to learn, and my own relationship is struggling at the moment.

So, what did my family do right? Well:

  • I’m incredibly far from perfect, but they did raise a person who works hard, tries to learn from their mistakes and her own, and is no longer ashamed to be herself (though I don’t think they’re happy about that last one).
  • They taught me to never be fully dependent on anyone, especially if you have kids. Before the stay-at-home parents stab me with their pitchforks, I’m simply talking from a place of practicality. Spouses leave, get sick, die, get fired, and so on. My point is anything could result in me suddenly needing to support myself (and my supposed child), so there must be a back-up plan. TV Tropes calls this “wisdom from the gutter”.
  • They showed me parenthood is not a cakewalk. I don’t like how they did it (making me paranoid of pregnancy, and that parenthood is always a disaster), but parenthood is difficult, even in the best of circumstances. There is so much more to it than cute clothes and photos, and helping someone grow into a functional adult is a huge, demanding job that takes everything you have and more than that.
  • Both of my parents called it quits after I was born. My mom had another child, but my sister’s father supposedly had a vasectomy. Either it failed or he lied, but either way, my mom really was trying to be careful. She’s had no more kids since then, despite she wanted at least one more, so that’s saying something. Neither of my parents pressure me for grandchildren either.
  • They were open-minded when I finally introduced my boyfriend. As much as I disagree with their teaching style (“don’t trust any man”), it still came from a place of concern and not wanting me to end up struggling to raise a child with a man who couldn’t care less. It probably helps I waited three years before letting my boyfriend meet them. Three years isn’t really long (I don’t think…), but it was long enough that it was obvious we weren’t a fling and he wasn’t knocking me up.

In spite of the above, I still think my parents were better off not being parents because it was all too obvious they didn’t want to. My dad was involved from age two, but didn’t care for fatherhood (I was more like a tiny roommate) and while my mom tried her best, it was obvious to me as a child motherhood wasn’t her forte. And I don’t say that as a kid who was a terror because even she says I was an overall good kid. Kids don’t come with a manual, but that doesn’t mean everyone can “get into the swing of it”. Some people never do and merely deal with the cards as they’re tossed.

My parents are not good parents, but they are good people. Close enough.

Three Years Later

I called it.

Happy April Fool’s Day, but this post is not a prank. Counting today, my 25th birthday is in 27 days. That surreal feeling has come back and it is stronger than ever.

Actually, I think about it a lot. How my mother was a parent at my age. My mom’s birthday is in July, so she would still be 24, but at the time, she had a nearly three-year-old child (me) and was about seven months pregnant. I cannot imagine. In that post, I said I couldn’t see where I’d be at 25. I wasn’t sure this blog would still be around. Well, at 25, I’ve finished school and am looking for a job in what I studied while dealing with retail for the time being. I also have student loans and credit card debt.

I don’t know if my mom had any debt, but I know her circumstances at the time weren’t much different than mine. I try to imagine having one child, but I can never figure it out. People say “you’ll figure it out”, but I genuinely can’t. I’m barely keeping myself above water. My retail job barely covers my monthly expenses. At best, I may have an extra $10 or $20 after I cover my bills from week to week, and that’s far from enough to care for a child. Heck, just if I were pregnant, I’d be in hot water. I have health insurance, but I’ve still had to pay out of pocket for some medical expenses. What about things like pre-natal vitamins and maternity clothes? And what if I couldn’t keep working while I was pregnant? I know many women work up until just days before they’re due (I had a manager who went on maternity leave and gave birth a week later!), but not everyone can do that. Pregnancy itself isn’t a cakewalk, but some are worse than others. And it’s not free to give birth! You get a bill for giving birth in a hospital, despite that’s the safest way (statistically speaking; there is sexism around childbirth).

If I’d be in deep mud before the child arrives, I’d metaphorically drown when the kid finally is here. Sure, I don’t have to spend $300 on baby clothes they’d quickly outgrow and constantly throw up on. But a crib? Diapers? Changing pad? Stroller? Bottles (don’t say breastfeed; the kid wouldn’t be in my care 24/7 because I’d have to work)? Bibs? Formula? Daycare? That alone would be nearly an extra $1,000 a month, and that’s cheap. That’s actually more than my monthly expenses. And these would be the expenses for a healthy baby!

But it crosses my mind a lot because of the way I’m currently struggling and knowing my mom did it over 20 years ago. A popular meme I’ve read is about how having your kids young means you’ll be free in your 40s and be able to do everything you missed out on when your kids were young. The problem is that assumes you’ll be well off by the time your kids are grown, and they’ll move out at 18 and not move back in. My mom’s financial situation is no better now than it was when I was an infant, and my sister and I aren’t well off either. It may be worth mentioning my grandparents also weren’t well off. I think this is what’s called generational poverty.

I know this surreal feeling will pass, but I’ll never not be astounded that people do this. For the record, I know how my mom did it. She had government assistance. And no, I don’t think that’s shameful. But to see in twenty years, her situation hasn’t changed – and to know it’s been this way for two generations, three if I count myself and my sister without kids – is depressing, to say the least. I hear “there’s never a good time” and “you’ll never be ready”. Maybe that’s true, but if I wanted kids, I sure wouldn’t willingly have them when I couldn’t pay rent if I needed to. Maybe there really never is a good time, but I’m sure it’s a bad time when daycare alone would take more than your entire monthly income.

For the sake of my curiosity, and my absurd enjoyment of creating lists, I’m going to add up those expenses. Let’s say I get what I can what from the store I work at.

Crib? Cheapest they have is $200.

Baby outfits? Let’s go with a set of four. Those usually cost about $8.

Bottles? We have packs of three that are about $4.

Bibs? One set has four, I think, and that’s another $4.

Stroller? An umbrella one is $20, but those aren’t exactly sturdy and probably not good for a newborn child. The sturdy ones are $50 at cheapest.

Changing pad? I can’t remember how much in-store, but according to their website, their cheapest is $15.

That’s all the necessities I could get from my job. My job is near Wal-Mart, so I could get diapers and formula from there. Lowest is a pack of 20 diapers for $5, but on average, a newborn uses around 10 diapers a day, so that’d only last two days. So, that’s $20 for a week’s worth of diapers. Baby formula, for a box of one quart, is $7, and that would last only a day (a quick Google search tells me newborns drink 2 to 3 ounces per feeding every 2 to 3 hours; a quart is equal to 32 ounces). A week’s worth of that would be $49, and that’s for 7 individual boxes. A pack is more expensive!

So, let’s add all of that up.

$200 (crib)
$8 (set of baby outfits)
$4(x2) (pack of bottles and set of bibs)
$50 (stroller)
$15 (changing pad)

Minus 15% employee discount, and the total is $238.85 before taxes. Add in the diapers ($20) and formula ($49), and the total reaches $307.85 before taxes. So, at minimum, I’m spending $300.

“But you’ll only buy one crib, one stroller, one changing pad…”

Okay, but I’ll need more clothes when my baby gets bigger, and diapers and formula for a month still total $276 (again, before taxes). Also, I need to work, so again, daycare. Using a local one here I searched, that’s over $900 a month. Round up, and baby’s expenses are about $1,200 a month, on top of my own and not including new clothes for the baby. If my retail job barely covers my expenses, where am I getting an extra $1,200 a month? Once again, this is assuming the baby is healthy and born with zero health issues.

Exactly. I have no clue and I’m not curious enough to find out. The whole idea makes my head spin. And yes, I know there are people my age and younger who are supporting kids on minimum wage jobs. I have a supervisor who does it. Let me put it this way: just because it’s doable doesn’t mean I want to find out how. And just because one person can do it doesn’t mean someone else can. Assistance doesn’t cover absolutely everything.

I’m sure this surreal feeling will pop up every so often. Maybe near every birthday. I don’t know.

I wish those who are financially struggling, with kids and without, the very best. As for myself, right now, I only wish to find a better-paying job in my field.

Life Is Hard… Isn’t It?

Yes, it is, but for the sake of this question, let’s say it’s more in the middle. It’s not easy or hard. It’s just average.

When I was a pre-teen and starting to drift into adolescence, there was a time I feared becoming an adult. After spending every year of my life from the time I could speak complete sentences spouting how much I can’t wait to be grown up, that desire turned into one of fear. It seems when you’re a teenager, people love to pound into your head being an adult spells the end of any amount of fun in your life. That’s not an exaggeration in the slightest. I lost count of how many adults told me as a teenager, and a very impressionable one at that, how 18 essentially marked the end of any fun, pleasure, and joy. Telling me I had no choice in the matter, despite it already being a fact, did not help either. That only served to make me paranoid and further push me into a depression I was already struggling with.

I view it similar to how some people may speak about parenthood. Similar to the above, I heard countless times that having a child meant your life was over. Yet, the same people who said this either already had a child or asked why someone else didn’t want any. Gee, why wouldn’t I want any kids after hearing for 5+ years they spell the end of my life before I could even feel like I lived it? Yes, I know why people say this to teenagers, but the memory of those words don’t exactly vanish after age 18.

My frustration here is it’s apparently mature to make your life as hard and joyless as possible and I want to know why. Why do some adults push children and teenagers into believing adulthood means you never have fun again? Why is 18 treated as a magic age where you’ll suddenly know all the answers and you’ll do a 180 into an all-knowing, always serious person with no joy or empathy? I heard so many times during my adolescence that nobody cares about your hardships as an adult, yet I find more people care now than when I was a child! More people listen to me now! Not everyone, but more.

More so, what’s wrong with not wanting your life to be hard? Many people see someone who doesn’t want a certain responsibility – parenthood, the top of a career, etc – as lazy, lacking ambition, and a perpetual child. Why? Would it be better if they did those things and screwed it up? Why is a relatively lax life seen as a bad thing? If life is not supposed to be a competition, why the need to one-up someone else with who has it harder? If everyone is doing what they need to do, making their way, and managing in life, who cares who’s more tired than who? Everybody’s tired at some point. Go to bed.

Now, I’m not saying people shouldn’t be acknowledged and appreciated. If someone has worked 72 hours in a row, I’ll have more sympathy for their exhaustion than someone whose only exercise was getting out of bed once a day for the last week (assuming said person is mentally and physically healthy). I’m saying if life is hard, why make it harder if you don’t want to? Where’s the maturity in pushing yourself to the brink of exhaustion everyday because someone sees you as a child if you don’t? Most of all, where did this “adults don’t have fun” concept come from to begin with? If adults don’t have fun, why do R-rated movies and TV-MA rated shows exist? Why do bars and wineries exist? Why do nightclubs exist? I hope no kid is plastered on the dance floor at 2 AM!

The reverse is true as well. Adults also make Disney, toys, and video games. What I described above is not my favorable scene, so I stick to PG-rated fun. My bedroom looks like a child’s paradise and society can have my stuffed animals when they pry them from my cold, dead arms!

Unless your goals in life amount to being an axe murderer, or something similarly heinous, whatever you want to do with your life is fine. Aiming to travel to all the continents in the world? Good luck! I hope you get to them all safely! Comfortable in your hometown and like spending your days off at home? Cool! Me too! It feels great to kick your feet back, doesn’t it?

Unless you have the luck and privilege of being born into a very wealthy family, life is going to be hard in some way. Unless you want to, don’t make it harder than it has to be. Really, it’s not necessary.

At That Age

In 27 days, counting this one since it’s only barely after midnight, I will be 22 years old. For me, that realization is rather surreal.

My birthday is before my mother’s, but had it not been, she would’ve been 22 when she had me. I was not a planned child either and, like me, she had no intentions of becoming a parent. She only did it because she believed abortion was wrong and adoption wasn’t something she could handle (although neither was parenting; go figure).

This is something I continuously think about as my twenty-second birthday draws near, but I’m really not sure why. I knew I wasn’t going to have children at this age. Really, even if I wanted to be a parent, I wouldn’t have tried to become one by 22 because I’m in no position for it. It’s not something that’s bothering me. Just something continuously on my mind for one reason or another.

The best guess I have as to why I’ve been thinking about this so much is knowing this is the age where my mother’s life changed irreversibly. Becoming a parent doesn’t change everybody – heck, it makes them worse in some cases – but I’m certain no one can argue becoming a parent isn’t something you can take back. You can’t put them back up there. Okay, you probably could, but it’d be extremely painful and you certainly can’t reverse the nine months of pregnancy back into non-existence.

Occasionally, I do try to imagine myself in my mom’s shoes when she was 21 or 22, and it’s not an easy visual. I like children in general, so I can imagine the cute stuff like watching a baby sleep, but trying to picture the hard stuff tends to only make my head hurt. I can never picture myself waking up three times or more a night to a piercing wail, going days without sleep, or not having enough time to do so much as take a 5-minute shower. One of the most common things I hear about parenting is “your life is over” and that is more often than not from people who are parents instead of people who aren’t. My life over at 22? I’d have only been an adult for four years!

Yes, I’m aware babyhood is temporary. Eventually, they sleep through the night, gain a little more independence, and stop crying so much. Well, maybe not that last one since the temper tantrums start, but they hopefully won’t be waking you up five times a night until they’re in kindergarten. However, on its own, a year is still a lot of time and frankly, I’ve no desire to spend a year getting sleep three days at a time. I nearly collapsed after one day (a full 24 hours) without sleep, not to mention that can’t in any way be good for your body.

Sure, my mother did it, but she didn’t have a choice. She decided to keep me and have another child, so she had to endure the sleeplessness and all the stress that caring for a tiny, helpless person brings. Failure to do that would’ve resulted in either our deaths or her loss of custody before we became old enough to know she’s our mother.

Speaking of another child, I imagine this feeling will come back twice as strong when I turn 25. At 25, my mother had a three-year-old and a 1-week-old. Admittedly, I can’t see myself at 25 right now. It’s difficult to see myself any more than a year older than my age. I want this blog to be around for a few more years, so if it lasts until 2019, I feel like a certain shock will hit me if I go into my archives that year and find this post.