I can across an interesting article that coincides with what I’ve been thinking hard about these past few days. It’s about black people and wealth disparities. You can read it here . As the product of two generations of a middle class family (grandparents and parents), I don’t have anything to show for all their hard work. No property, no trust fund, no assets. Just a crippling amount of student loan debt. And I know that I’m not the only one in this predicament. Growing up, my father worked and my mother stayed home to care for us. She decided that she wanted to raise her children and homeschool us so she did. As a result, we lived in a single income household. A phenomenon that I’m experiencing now with my household of one. There are so many things that I want to do now but I won’t be able to because of my financial obligations. Transitioning to teaching or a post-doctoral position would require a pay cut of about 20k to 40k per year and I can’t afford that. This year one of my goals is to become more financially literate and I’m working on it. However, I wish that I didn’t have to start from the bottom and if I ever make enough money to afford kids I want them to have a different experience. It’s like I’m starting off at a disadvantage and don’t have the opportunity to at least start at baseline. Definitely tough.
I admit that I struggle with the general idea that one has to “qualify” in order to get married. There’s this list of things that single women are given and expected to accomplish before they are ready to get married. We tell our girls that boys will always be there and to get their education first. You’re expected to work on yourself, do fun things, finish school, pay off debt, and get a decent job among other things before you qualify for marriage. Now granted, my story is different in that while I’ve always wanted to get married, I had a feeling that I would be on the road less traveled for a long time. I just didn’t anticipate how long it would be. I was hoping for 25 but now I’m pushing 30 without any actual potential mate on the horizon. I find it frustrating when I’m told that there’s something that I’m doing wrong or just haven’t done yet that makes me unqualified to be married. I see people all day, I’m a good listener, I can hold an emotionally safe place and challenge the perspectives of others in a way that is non-threatening and supportive. I’m the sole provider of my household of one and while I’m not rich, bills do get paid and I travel once in a while. I recently completed the highest educational level one can achieve (PhD) and yet the Universe still apparently sees me as unqualified for a mate. I’m all about doing the work but shit, being alone gets old after a while. I’ve learned how to self soothe and what to do to calm myself down but there are times that I’d sell my soul for a hug and the knowledge that someone has my back. Yes, I’m approached by guys but so far they aren’t ready for anything serious or want me to finance their lives and take care of them. Neither is an option I want to live with. It sounds corny but I want to matter to someone. Really matter. I haven’t found that yet and the older I get the less optimistic I am. It’s just exhausting and tiring doing it alone all the time and while I’ll always do what I have to do, I wish things were different.
The past few weeks have gone by extremely fast but at this point I’m at the end of my doctoral journey. It’s been a long six years and I can’t believe that I have been in school consistently since 2008. That’s an entire decade of my life that I can’t get back. I haven’t even decided to real if it’s been worth it. However, I think that so far it has. I’ve had the opportunity to work full time and live in multiple places while working on my education. But now it’s time to make new goals as the ink on the new initials after my name continue to dry. I need to find something meaningful and while traditionally I’ve found that in education, I’m open for a change. If I’m being honest, I’d love to spend some dedicated time addressing my rotted carcass of a love life but that could be problematic and it isn’t a guaranteed win. It’s a hope. Needless to say, I have to fill my time with other things than school at this point. It’s going to be weird not having a paper due or assignments to complete. Right now my focus is on my job search and figuring out where I’ll be living next. I want to enjoy the feeling of completing the highest degree that one can earn but it just feels somewhat hollow at this point. It’s not a letdown but it’s just weird. I want to start writing more on a creative basis and I’ve been doing better so far this year with making in-person connections with people. I’ve had the opportunity to reconnect and have already traveled to Europe once this year. I would love to do more traveling but most of all I think I also want a real “home base” for once. Like an actual home/apartment where I live permanently. I want my life post-PhD to involve getting settled down at some point and moving to a different chapter that could possibly include marriage and kids. However, it’s going to take a huge shift in focus and being deliberate in creating the life that I want. I’m determined but I need to plan so that I know the next thing I’m working towards. I have to fill this empty space of time.
A few days ago I shared an article on social media about the ways the social work is failing. While it was very thought provoking, the author also talked about ways to remedy the problem. As someone who has worked in the field for almost 7 years, the looks on people’s faces when I tell them that I’m a social worker can be quite comical. Unfortunately there’s still a prevalent belief that all social workers do is take kids away from their parents. Social work is one of the only professions I know where you can have a masters degree, two years of supervised experience, a clinical license AND make $17 an hour. That number isn’t arbitrary. It’s actually what I made when I first relocated to my original state of residence. The fact is that we are often overworked and not fairly compensated for our services. Burnout rates are at an all time high because we can’t even afford to take time off and it’s sometimes a struggle to pay bills and make student loan payments out of the pittance we’re given. Don’t get me wrong, you can make a decent living as a social worker but it will probably entail working more than one job, working in an administrative capacity, or being an entrepreneur of sorts. With mental illness continuing to be a growing concern, I wish that the growing demand for mental health providers like social workers translated into an increase in compensation—like it has for nurses. Something definitely needs to change and maybe the change that is needed is that of a union. While I don’t have all the answers, I believe that this topic deserves more discussion and also subsequent advocacy.
I remember sitting in a chair in my therapist’s office in college. As a part of my academic program we were required to go to a mandated number of sessions. I remember telling her that I wanted my future husband to be able to sing and that it would be a deal breaker for me if he couldn’t. Today I think of that day and chuckle to myself. While I absolutely believe that music talent is wonderful, there are so many more important qualities that need to be present. Having all his teeth would be nice for starters. Qualities like faithfulness, respect, ambition, attractiveness, honesty, and compassion. Life has definitely changed in the almost decade since then. I’ll have to admit that my dating experience up to this point hasn’t been successful; But I guess it’s been successful in the regard that I’m not stuck in a relationship with someone who isn’t suited for me. I still love music but it’s harder to find a guy that will call me than a guy that can sing. While there are a lot of fish in the sea, a lot of them are hiding behind the coral reef. Apparently.
I had what one might call a pretty rigorous religious upbringing. The mandatory family worships every morning and evening and attending church services weekly. My family was at church even when other people weren’t and we did hundreds of hours of volunteer services for the good of the church. Church was never a suggestion, it was a requirement. My parents (bless their hearts) kinda sabotaged my spiritual life, I wasn’t allowed to choose what day I could be baptized on and what my religious beliefs would be. It was already chosen for me. My beliefs followed me through high school and college due to the extensive foundation. After graduation from college, I moved 1000 miles away from home and continued to attend church regularly as I had been taught. I found a church and I was very involved. However, as I was going to my graduate school classes and working I realized that I really hadn’t taken the time to develop my own set of beliefs. I learned so much from all my classes and realized that my religious background was ill-equipped to address the questions that arose. I became a bit of a religious wanderer and joined a huge church with 7,000 members and immediately became very involved. I was there at least 4 days out of the week assisting various ministries. But I eventually decided that it wasn’t for me. Needless to say, my upbringing has made me think about how I would like to raise my future children and I have to say it will be much different.
One thing in life that is always inevitable is change. I remember imagining what I wanted to be when I grew up. I always imagined myself with stethoscope around my neck shouting orders in some emergency room as a trauma physician. Instead I ended up in mental health calming down psychotic people, explaining to parents why I was taking their child, and attempting to reason with psychiatrists. I worked in the mental health equivalent of the ER and found that I did enjoy it. It’s always been interesting to me how our life experiences can shape our perspectives and general outlook on life. If I had seen myself 5 years ago I would not have believed it. For me, the change happened once I was outside of the protective bubble of my family and the group of people who thought like me. It was eye opening to work with people who had a totally different set of beliefs and values than what I had been used to. There’s a lot of people who don’t agree with the traditional education system but it helped me to build my critical thinking skills. My post-graduate competency based program taught me how to conceptualize and justify every intervention that I did while doing therapy with clients. I think that it’s so important to be open minded. While I’m not saying that every varying perspective needs to be agreed with, I think that seeing something from another point of view is important.