That College Scandal

When I applied to college, I didn’t really understand it was a matter of them choosing me. I thought I chose them. I remember being in awe of my friends who paid the exorbitant $25 application fee to several schools. I decided UNC-CH would be my “winner”, filled in my application…..by hand, got a check for $25 from my parents for UNC Admissions, sent it in and waited for my acceptance. Not anxiously…..because like I said….I had no clue they could turn me down.

And I did receive that acceptance…..pretty quickly. Before some friends who had applied “early decision.” Once again, I hadn’t. It seemed really binding and as this was really my decision, it was as though they were unnecessarily forcing me into a marriage. Because what if I changed my mind? (Not that I planned to pay another application fee.) Remember I don’t like people telling me what to do.

I remember I received the acceptance before the early decision friends because at least one got mad at me because I was accepted before they were. I didn’t understand their problem. Why did it matter when you got the letter? We were all getting in.

And then some friends did not get in, and my innocence waned. Soon I was on pins and needles for my friends, and I understood why people applied to multiple colleges. I understood why they went early decision when they knew that was where they wanted to go. And I finally understood how fortunate I was……Carolina certainly does turn people down. A lot of them.

I remember very little about the application. It was long. I filled it out myself. In ink. My parents didn’t help, and I don’t think they even read it before I sent it in. I’m sure the thought was that I was applying, and therefore it needed to be my work. And I probably didn’t want to hear that I should have been more careful with my handwriting.

But as tough as I now know it was for students to get in college then, it has gotten far crazier since then. I helped both my niece and my goddaughter with their applications to UNC (and incidentally both got in, though my goddaughter chose another school.) The application process is easier in many ways than it was when I was applying…..the common app helps so much when applying to multiple schools. But then there are the many extra questions, which varied by school, and out of control. Wish I could remember them now. One of Maggie’s was “Who is your most favorite and least favorite superhero and why?” From my memory, my two or three questions were all related to why I wanted to go to Carolina and why I was qualified to be a student there. I’m sure the superhero question got a far better quality of student. Progress. (Yes, I am being sarcastic.)

Note that while I did help my niece and goddaughter (and a few others) with college applications. I will say it was grueling for them and I made them come up with their own answers. But I was like Chuck Barris and kept pulling out the gong when their answers didn’t cut it. I kept saying “No, no, no!”, “The people reviewing these are probably going to be people my age”, and “Read what they say they are looking for and tell me how that answer will sway them.” They hated me for a time during the process….this I know. But it was a necessary time of torture. I suspect some parents are outright writing their kids applications for them…..but Aunt Kim felt like it needed to be their work. With a bit of coaching.

It’s a competitive world out there for college these days. When I took the SAF, I did not study for it beforehand. It didn’t occur to me you could. Taking it even once was horrendous for someone like me who has a short attention span. And it was a Saturday morning! The first hour I was good. The second my attention was sketchy. By the third hour I was making designs down the answer sheet and not reading most of the questions. Somehow my scores were still enough and sufficient to get me in a good school. But now there are SAT prep classes and students are taking it many times. It blows my mind. And the number of schools they apply to. Phenomenal. And the application fee is more than $25. Mind blowing the money that goes into that process.

More and more students feel the need to attend colleges be successful. And a 4-year degree is not enough. Most believe they need graduate school for most careers. And yet it still doesn’t seem enough. Many still struggle to find good jobs and once they begin, the jobs take over their lives. I loved my 20s. I made some of my best friends then. We worked, but nights and weekends were ours for fun. A lot of “kids” today are working 12 hours a day. And weekends. Companies reward this. I find it insane.

But then we have my young heroes. Those who eschew convention and decide they can’t be locked up in an office. They are the vagabonds. They travel the world on a shoestring. They work to live an adventurous lifestyle. As much fun as my life has been, I have never been able to toss away convention to the degree they do. But they tempt me. I try to live vicariously through them. I closely follow the son of friends of a friend of a Facebook friend of mine. Yep, you got it. Makes me laugh too. But in a random conversation my friend started he came up with regard to my comment in this discussion. So yes….,I stalk him. (He does a vlog. He doesn’t mind.) It’s a weird world.

But a few young folks are realizing another secret we had somehow forgotten. They don’t need college. There are many, many occupations for which they just need skills and they are working towards building those. Some with parental support, some defying everything their parents wanted for them. But they are earning a good living. Not spending money on college tuition. And strategizing as to how they can build it better. They may take a class if it will teach them a new skill. But a degree? To them it is a piece of paper that doesn’t translate into cash. They aren’t wrong

So back to my original subject. These Hollywood parents. I have some sympathy for them. They have lots of things excess money can buy, and kids that are probably normal rebellious high school students who have never had to work too hard or make their own goals. I suspect these parents were desperate. Embarrassed that their kids would not do what they felt needed to be done to be a success, as they were. So they do what they can….crazy things to those of us looking in….to hopefully get them to the next step. But it blew up in their faces. As it should have. But how many other students have passed through college already in the same way? We’ll never know.I know those types were in school way back when with me.

But yet….I am glad I got into college on my own. I would have liked a guidance counselor who helped me a bit more and shown me how to apply for scholarships. I had no clue and we did not have that then. My parents sacrificed financially to send me to UNC. I still am amazed they did it. I only had one student loan for my time there, my senior year. Which took forever to pay off and taught me a great lesson. Renting money is expensive. There were no semesters abroad, no spring break trips. I worked my summers and any other time I could (though not during school my first three years.) But I was so fortunate with what I had. I always knew that. And I wanted to be there. Very much.

Did college make me a better employee? No, I don’t think so. A strong work ethic and co-workers at my first job who were great trainers did that. I already had decent basic readings writing, and math skills, which also have helped. But college did make me a better human being. I learned how to live with others….some different culturally and economically, some just brats and prima donnas. But many superstar human beings.

The world opened up to me….I was able to see history being made up close and personal and hear lectures by some of the finest and most provocative speakers around. I had professors who were celebrities in themselves….Walter Cronkite’s head writer, the former head of UNESCO, a couple of famous authors, experts in subjects far and wide. Interesting and compelling human beings. I debated issues of importance…..really debated, in real life situations and challenging and being challenged on ideas I thought to be incontestable. They weren’t. That confused and delighted me. I learned. Just not always in the classroom. These were my selfish years…..and I am so grateful.

Don’t force your children into college if they don’t want to go. There are many paths to a happy and successful life. Don’t try to make them live your dreams. Encourage them to live their passions. At the end of life, doesn’t happy and purposeful trump everything? And remind them they can always change directions. Remind you of that, too. It’s not too late. We forget that sometimes.

Yeah, I’m not a fan of lying and cheating and throwing around large sums of money to get your way. I have major issues with the entitled. Parents on a mission for the flesh of their flesh can become monsters….but I suspect they’re really caught up in a warped idea of what will make for a good life for them and feel it is their responsibility to give that to them. Misplaced love.

Love your child enough to give them wings. Teach them how to be humble and happy…,and chart their own course. Yes, they could have heartbreak ahead. But maybe God’s plan for their purpose is something glorious you never considered. Be there when they need you….but push them out of the nest and wait for them to fly. That’s the purpose for which they were designed.

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The Life Sentence or the Death Penalty

I have spent far more time on a jury than the average person. One time it was three weeks straight. Several other times around a week. Several other times I was just sitting in the jury pool waiting to see if they would need me (that was back when you went for a week, and were only released early if they knew no other jury would be needed.)

I’m always amazed at how many people do their best not to serve on a jury. We seem to love to judge each other from our armchairs. You would think people would love the opportunity to do it “for real”. Yes, I know there are times when the lack of income would be devastating (I believe payment was about a $12 a day last time I served), but most just seem like it would be a bother. And in some ways it is, but personally if I were ever on trial I would like someone like me on the jury. I will always try to serve when called. Though the three weeks in one swoop was a bit much (though it was incredibly dramatic and as the judge said to us afterward “Show me a movie, book, or TV show where you had more drama than what you have seen in the past few weeks.” He was right. We only missed the soundtrack.)

But people screw up. We’re not perfect. There are days when we are insensitive. There are days we see overly sensitive. There are days when we are quick to be angry. There are days when we are passive-aggressive. There are days when we are self-centered. There are days we don’t notice you or we fail to include you. There are days when we are unkind. There are days when we do stupid and inconsiderate things. There are days when we are demeaning. There are days when we do not rise to your defense when others spread gossip about you. There are days we are disrespectful.

People get on my nerves. I suspect some days someone may get on yours, too. When they do, I tend to pass judgment of them in my mind. But what kind of internal judge resides in there? Am I kind and merciful, or do I effectively give them a life sentence or the death penalty? Because for one silly thing, we can despise that person forever and ever, amen. (We usually do it with a certain amount of self-righteousness.)

When I look at my options for conviction, there are many. Why is it that I still often find I have given them a life sentence or the death penalty?

I’m certainly no Pollyanna. I do go through periods of time when I dislike people. I learned to ask myself the life sentence/death penalty question when I noticed other people holding long grudges towards people for reasons I found….well, silly. It made me start to examine how often I unintentionally did the same.

When I did Leadership Statesville years ago through the Statesville Chamber of Commerce we used to make a trip to Central Prison. I went there when I went through the program and then a couple of extra times when I served on the board (I found it fascinating). The first time I was floored to find the death row prisoners were not kept away from us….we mingled with them with no bars between us. Most seemed so young, yet they had committed heinous crimes. I will admit I struggle with the death penalty when I ask myself the question “Could I administer the lethal injection?” I feel I should be able to say yes if I believe in it that much.

But to never speak to someone again because they were rude to me? Because they threw a temper tantrum that seemed over the top and unnecessary? Because they failed to invite me to a party or snubbed me when they saw me out? My logical self doesn’t believe those acts should require such a harsh sentencing. Yet how come sometimes that is effectively how I respond?

This is not to say that there are some people I choose not to have in my life on a regular basis or spend time with. If you are rude to wait staff in a restaurant, I probably won’t choose to go out to meals with you again. If you have anger issues, I’m not going to hang around to give your anger an audience (unless I feel the need to stand close to make sure you are not abusive to another person or animal.) If you constantly rant on politics or religion or any issue for which you have closed the door on learning a new point of view, I’ll probably find you to be a bore quickly and will make my escape. Life is too short to listen to your diatribes. Even if I agree with you overall.

Of all of the wrongs done to me in my life, none have been death penalty crimes. Some particularly heinous things did seem like it for a season. But it’s much easier to live in a world where our mind is not the killer court. Just maybe if we give people a chance at parole we will find that while they may have faults, they may also be delightful and able to teach us something. That’s been my experience. And I am so glad I backed off of my original sentence for them. The death penalty or life sentence just costs me too much….and I prefer a world of merciful judges.

Thoughts on Life and Living

Featured

I agree with RLS….though with a twist…..

“The (wo)man is a success who has lived well, laughed often, and loved much; who has gained the respect of intelligent (wo)men and the love of children; who has filled (her/)his niche and accomplished (her/)his task; who leaves the world better than (s)he found it, whether by an improved poppy, a perfect poem, or a rescued soul; who never lacked appreciation of earth’s beauty or failed to express it; who looked for the best in others and gave the best (s)he had.”

Robert Louis Stevenson

This Fragile Life

We’re doing it wrong. This I know.

The public suicides have depression in the news lately. It stuns us….then we forget. That’s how most of us deal with pain. Which is OK and normal sometimes….but not in this case.
We’ve been putting a Bandaid on a open chest cavity.
Life brings stress. Good things happen, bad things happen. Nothing is happening at all. All can cause anxiety. 
Life can be good. Life can be bad. Life can be “fine”. Depression can happen with all three.
People have more money than they can spend in a lifetime. People are drowning in debt. People are living paycheck to paycheck. People are financially secure. All can cause a mind to be in turmoil.
You can have a lot of people who love you. You can have a close circle of friends. You can have no one. You can be surrounded by others all the time, or be a loner. You can be the life of the party…or the person sitting at home in front of a TV set or a computer.  You can feel as though no one cares and that no one really knows you.
We ask people how they’re doing, but never hear anything but fine. We aren’t asking to learn the true answer. We ask because it is polite. Often if they would tell the truth we would cringe and change the subject. Or over-react and scare them. Often they tell us what they think we want to hear, because they have been taught fine is the only appropriate way to be….and that no one really cares about their answer.
If you have any interaction with people, you know someone suffering from anxiety or depression. It may be that thing in yourself that you haven’t wanted to label, but the reason you do some of the things you do.
Our choice of treatment in America has been to medicate people. Sometimes that is a right and appropriate thing to do, but it should not be the only thing.
Those who don’t feel they can express what is going on with themselves, and there are oh-so-many of these people, self-medicate. That’s the real reason for the problems we have with alcoholism and other chemical dependency. That’s the real reason we have problems with obesity. That’s the reason so many people self-isolate and why others find themselves in inappropriate and wrong relationships. Maybe it is why you avoid the unpleasant and live a life you don’t love.

We need to be honest. We need to talk about depression, anxiety, and other mental illnesses. Yes, some people don’t understand. Some people can’t understand. Some people refuse to understand. But we need to talk anyway. If people see the faces, and hear the stories of your heart, a new face will be put on a condition that is biological in nature. That is actually quite natural. That is universal. We all have a certain body chemistry that to some extent controls us. It does not always tell us the truth. Sometimes you need help to find a healthy way to keep it from disturbing your joy in life. Yes, medication is sometimes necessary. Self medication is seldom the answer. Get the help of someone who will walk though it with you. A medical professional you trust is a good place to start….but if they simply give you medication and send you on your way and believe that in itself is enough, know they may not understand it all themselves. There are other healthy ways you can learn to cope, with medication or not.

I lost two family members to suicide within six months. I have lost friends and acquaintances who I thought were coping with life well, and others who I knew were fragile. You leave behind people who hurt unbelievably for the rest of their lives.

You matter. This world needs you. Fight against the lies your body may be telling you, but don’t fight alone. Form an army. Yes, it may take a while to find the right soldiers, but look for those who will have your back. I promise you they are out there.

I chose the picture at the top, the dandelion in its most fragile state, because I feel like that is us. All of us. At times we are fragile. We don’t need a strong wind or someone blowing on us. We need someone who appreciates our beauty, just as we are.

If you feel you must be anonymous now, call a suicide prevention hotline (tel:1-800-273-8255). Tell your doctor, make an appointment with a counselor. (Many employers offer something called an EAP where you can get a certain number of free visits with a counselor. See if this is available to you.) Or call someone like me. I’ll only judge you with pride for reaching out for help. I’ll hold your hand. You’re going to be alright….and live a life that may be bumpy, but can be very, very good. I promise.

We’re doing it wrong. We’re forgetting to teach healthy ways to deal with anxiety and depression, which we all will encounter in different measures. We’re forgetting to look out for each other. We’re forgetting that some of the outward behaviors and screw-ups of those around us happen because people are inappropriately trying to cope. We can get better at helping each other. I know it.

The Best Friend

Carole – senior year yearbook

“One thing I’ve learned is when you find a best friend in this life, you better hang on.” – Jim Nabors

We were nine years old when we met. Fourth grade. Mrs. Summer’s class at Wayside School. I was the “new girl”, having just moved to a new neighborhood that summer. We lived around the block from each other, so we were on the same bus routes always. We were one bus stop apart. That meant we spent a lot of time sitting together, and talking our heads off.

We became best friends. We did everything together. We would be together all day at school (well, except those years they evilly separated us), ride the bus home, and then get home and call each other to talk about our day.

We were among the first students at East Iredell, in 5th grade, and would talk to each other under the cabinets. (It was a ‘progressive” school….no walls. Let’s just say there are walls now. Experiment unsuccessful.)

We’d ride bikes and go on long walks. We went to Vacation Bible School at each other’s churches. 

We played Barbies. I won’t tell you what age we were when we stopped doing this. We swore we would never tell anyone. I will keep that promise. 

The first slumber party I attended was at her house. We’d sleep on the sun porch, but “I dare you to…”  would have us sneaking into the house in the middle of the night. We did this well into high school. Now I know her parents probably heard the giggling and knew exactly what we were up to. 

Me – also senior year

Our parents dropped us off at the Playhouse Theater on Saturdays for the kiddie matinees. This was awesome fun and probably our first real taste of freedom. We’d see things like old Elvis Presley and Gidget movies. (These now seem a bit weird  to me for kiddie matinees. But we loved them.) The bats would fly overhead and our feet would stick to the floor. We laughed….but I still may have a fear of bats attacking my head. 

We could talk about everything forever. We were very different, but yet we always “got” each other. We still do. Even if we have gone years between visits.

We started high school together and the summer before the then-modest me stressed about high school PE. You had to take showers afterward…..that terrified me. Carole wasn’t as scared as me. Of course, I got the female PE teacher who stood over the shower stalls with her clipboard and made sure students got naked. OK, she would say she made sure they practiced good hygiene and took a shower. Carole got the male PE teacher who didn’t know whether they showered or not. We remained friends anyway. (Mass showering still icks me out.)

Most of our high school extra-curriculars were the same. We were in Model UN. Probably because we loved the teacher who started it and the others who were in it. We were in chorus freshman year and the school musical was Oklahoma. We were not cast in parts (didn’t want to be), but loved singing in the chorus and doing our special dance number with four other girls. Yes, standards for dancers were not high. I had a purple covered basket that matched my dotted swiss dress. Carole’s was another color. Maybe green? I don’t remember. But we were spectacular. (So OK….we got through it without tripping and probably sang in tune. The families were not embarrassed.) But it was glorious fun.

We were allowed in a Bible study where we were the youngest members. Some had graduated from college. Carole’s sister Angela invited us to be a part of it, I think. They were a great influence to me….and I suspect Carole. But even then we were confident in our beliefs and would join  the discussion as an equal. I believe that was one of the things that grounded us and showed us that we could have our own opinions and beliefs.

We had a great group of best friends in high school….our little crowd had half of us from East Itedell and half from Union Grove. We went to football games and cheered our hearts out. Maybe we lost a lot of games, but we thought we were great. We’d go to dinner at Darryl’s in Winston or El Tio’s for Mexican. We once almost drove into the pond at the Fiddler’s Convention property. Yes, we were trespassing….but we had decided we would go to Union Grove so our friends didn’t have to come to Statesville that night. You had to do something. Carole was driving. I was in the front seat. We were on an incline and saw nothing. The people in the back seat screamed and prevented us from going into the pond. Just barely. We laughed and laughed. 

We double dated to the junior prom. I refused to go my senior year…..and was solid in my stance until my friends came by McDonalds (where I was working) in their finery. I might have regretted not going then.

We went to a certain teacher’s home in the middle of the night and put her Volkswagon in the front yard. I will never tell which teacher. She probably would be shocked to know. 😊😊😊

I got thrown out of study hall my senior year (for “corrupting freshman”….still rolling my eyes at Mr. Gainey.) I didn’t want to take a study hall anyway…but had been forced to. I left as directed, and Carole and a few other friends got up and walked out with me. Greatest move ever for all of us. Some of our best memories from high school were made hiding from teachers for the rest of the year so we wouldn’t be forced back to class. Mr. Gainey was overjoyed we were never caught and stayed out of his hair. The freshmen, though they stayed in class, remained corrupt. (Mom….I told you about this, didn’t I? Oops!)

I remember after going to our ten year class reunion, which Carole was not able to attend, that I called her and said “Did you have fun in high school?” She said “Yes! We had so much fun! Why are you asking?” I said to her “Evidently we were the only ones.” We laughed. I had talked to a lot of people at the reunion about “the good ole days” and found out that most of them hated high school. I had loved every minute and was totally oblivious to any angst with anyone else. Well, maybe I didn’t love every minute….I was a teenager….but most of them. Carole and I still don’t totally understand why others weren’t having as much fun as we were. But even as adults make fun a priority in our lives. We are both easily amused. And I think we were probably a bit naive to “normal” teen pressures.

We don’t always do a great job keeping in touch as adults. Carole found out that my dad had died the day before his memorial service. She’s not on Facebook, and that was the only way I told anyone. Her mom saw his obituary in the newspaper and called to tell her. Though she had just started a new job, she asked off  of work so she could be there for me and my family.  It meant so much. But as she said “I just had to be there.” I understand. I would do the same for her.

I have a great fortune in my best friend group (you know who you are, I hope)….amazing people collected from different parts and times of my life, who love me well, despite any faults or differences. I know people who say they only have one or two true friends. I have been blessed with more than that. Another from high school, several from college, some from those early 20s years, and those from my current Statesville and balllooning life. I don’t take friendship lightly….and I hang on rather tightly. Or maybe loosely and just accept it as it comes.

Carole and I had lunch together yesterday. We hadn’t had a good conversation in years. We sat for three hours over lunch, catching up and sharing where we were now in our life journeys and marveling at how similar our thoughts are, even though our paths have been so different. She told me that at some point she and her husband plan to move back to this area. It seems right. We’ll pick up where we left off.

We forgot to take a picture, so I can’t include one here. But in our eyes we are still those girls from high school, so I plucked those pictures from our high school year book. That’s the thing about the best of friends….we see souls. In the eyes of a best friend, you don’t change. You are a jewel. Your value only rises.

“A friend is one who overlooks your fence and admires the flowers in your garden.” – Unknown






The List – Number One -Things I Dislike

There are those times that you have to make a list. Just to get your thoughts together. To clarify things  in your mind. Sometimes it is to remind youself what you believe, so you keep yourself more purely you. What we believe….we don’t always do. Reminding ourselves of it…it’s a good thing.

I’m feeling like it’s one of those times for me. So here it is…..10 things I dislike. You are welcome to add your own. And yes…I have mentioned some of these before and will again. I am really a simple girl with a simple mind of only so much depth. Truly, though, I don’t really dislike that about myself.

  1. People who tell untruths. I could just say lies….and they are…but you know. I am talking about what some see as grey areas. Specifically those who compliment people about something and they don’t mean it. They just want to bond and be thought of as nice. Of all the wonderful things they could say truthful, they pick something false. Because they are too lazy to say anything other than what is expected. Don’t give false compliments. Find something true…and kind …and say it.
  2. People who throw trash out of car windows. Especially cigarette butts. Yep…this can cause road rage in me. I find myself speeding up to “catch” them….then realize I have no idea why. Perhaps a citizen’s arrest. I watched too much Andy Griffith as a child and feel I have that right. Yeah….I quickly get smart again and slow down. But I’m glaring at you, horrible person.
  3. Icebreakers. Yeah…I hate having to participate in them. Not many great words begin with K. And it falls in line with my introvert hatred of small talk.Let me have a real conversation and I will bond. But I hate “social on demand.” 
  4. People who do good works for their own self-interest. Let’s take all the rewards out of it, and see who shows up. 
  5. Dictators. You know….people who think leadership means they get to decide it all. Annoying. And yes, I have done it. I was wrong. Though my excuse was no one would make a decision. I probably should have worked a bit harder at that.
  6. Not leaving things better than you found them. Places, jobs, relationships, life – don’t walk away until you leave something good.
  7. People who stay at home from a public event because “they weren’t invited.” Yes, most of us have done it. Hey you….you have the ability to invite others. And if one says no, keep going. Refuse to take it personally. Who wouldn’t want to hang out with you? 
  8. People who think “the good ole days” were perfect. Nope….imperfect people lived then, too. As Ecclesiastes says “There’s nothing new under the sun.”  We may recycle dumb things, and put a new spin on it, but don’t act like these things were the first downfall of man. That happened a long time ago.
  9. People who will not commit. I’ll call my family out on this one as an example, (Because most don’t read my blog.) Someome sends you a text to see if you are attending an event. The appropriate response is to reply. Yes, no, or maybe with an expiration date. I love you…but you make me crazy when you don’t.
  10. People who say we should never talk money, politics, or religion. Yeah, go ahead and live in your fantasy world…,but some of us think these are the most important topics in life. We care people live under crazy debt. We care that our political system divides us instead of unites us. And some of us think where you are spiritually is the heart of who you are. So not talk about these things? It may keep a few arguments at bay, but becoming Stepford people (for those confused, Google Stepford Wives) doesn’t leave the world in a better world than they found it. They are not real people, Have the conversations…but with respect. And while there are times it is fine to make others uncomfortable with what we say, know when you’re doing it to provoke instead to lovingly change minds.
Ten things are easy. It would easy to list more. But time to stop….for now.