Discover more from Earthbound Misfit
Smart woman. Dumb choices.
Or, some of how I got into this mess
So, today I helped a Facebook friend rewrite an email she needed for an important situation she’s navigating. This is not a thing I usually do, but it is also not a thing I am usually asked to do. In fact, I have never been asked to do this thing before. The closest I’ve gotten was someone I barely knew asking me to proofread a book he was writing. And I’ve never seen that one in print so I don’t think he really got anywhere with it. Hopefully, that wasn’t my fault.
At any rate, Facebook Friend was pleased with the rewrite, and wanted to know why I am living in a car and not working as a lawyer (this was relevant to the situation) and making buckets of money.
“Long story,” I said. And then thought, Oh, hey! Topic fodder for my Substack!
There’s actually SO MUCH to the story, but I’ll just cover the brain-related stuff. The what? Hang on. It’ll make sense in a minute.
To this day, my former stepmother will not tell me what I scored on my IQ test at some young age I don’t even recall now. I took another intelligence test in my teens that was supposed to correlate to an IQ test, and that one might have placed me at 140 if I remember the math right, but I don’t know for sure. Given some of the stupid shit I’ve gotten myself into since, I’d be more inclined to guess 90.
Be that as it may. I wound up in gifted class in I think third and fifth grade, possibly fourth, though I can’t remember now. Apparently I also made more or less straight A’s until my middle-school years, or so my then-stepmother used to hold over my head later on, anyway, in order to berate me for not doing as well.
If I go into great detail, this will become a novel, not an essay. Suffice to say a lot was going on in my life in my teen years and most of it wasn’t good, and by the time I got through high school (not repeating any grades, at least, though I came close), I had a 2.0 grade point average, equivalent to a C.
The adults all expected me to go to college and informed me that either I needed straight A’s to get a scholarship or I needed to go into the military to get the money. This was the early 1990s (I graduated in 1992) and Pell grants existed, but no one seemed to know anything about them. Except the guidance counselors, who wanted nothing to do with you if you weren’t National Honor Society, pretty, and popular. We also had junior college available, which is called community college these days, and they probably would have taken me. But I didn’t know that at the time. The military it was. The United States Army, to be specific.
I should probably mention here, before proceeding, that I didn’t even know what I wanted to be when I grew up. I had some vague idea I might like to be a photographer, but that was all.
Anyway. Army. So, I didn’t want to be in the Army. I joined only because things were going to absolute shit at home and I had another vague idea — I spent a lot of time being vague, in those days — that I wasn’t going to be welcome in my own house for much longer after graduation, and so I had better have an escape plan in place. I also knew I needed some sort of job training. My joining the military was more about flinging myself at the nearest lifeboat from my sinking ship than about wanting to serve my country or any noble bullshit like that.
(Before you judge me: Very few of us were there to “serve our country.” You should probably spend more time getting to know people and a lot less time making up bullshit propaganda stories about them.)
And of course, I had come from a very authoritarian household which I absolutely hated, and I wasn’t under a lot of illusions about the Army being any freer for me, but I thought maybe I could handle it, because teenagers and young adults think like that. Nah. Authoritarianism coming from strangers wasn’t any easier to bear than it was from my family. There were other things going on for me that I didn’t enjoy either, but this essay is already too long.
So I found myself slacking off on my physical training on purpose, as I was in a work situation that made that easy, with the intention of flunking out on the Army Physical Fitness Test so that the Army would kick me out. That I was too early to get my G.I. Bill did not faze me. I felt the Army had wasted its money on me in the first place and I still didn’t know what I wanted to be when I grew up. I just wanted my freedom.
Anyway, by the time this was all a done deal, I was married, so I had another escape hatch.
That was 1995. Fast-forward to 2002, my late twenties, after my life had been summarily destroyed the first time. I had come to live in Ohio and was trying to figure out how to better my situation so that I could actually support myself and buy a car like a normal American adult can do. At that point I discovered that as a low-income adult with no parents supporting me, I could get a Pell grant to go to community college. Even my high-school C average was no barrier; it was the minimum standard! I couldn’t believe it. I figured I could just throw myself into things and worry about my major later. I would even be able to transfer to Ohio State or some other four-year school if I did well.
Except I applied too early, was still considered an out-of-state student, and therefore was required to pay out-of-state tuition. Which meant I needed to take out student loans too.
And then I had a setback with my son, who was being raised by his grandmother who was hostile to me, and I got extremely depressed and dropped out of classes.
And then my boyfriend got me pregnant, after I had gotten back into school, and one day I realized I had no one to watch my baby except him and his mentally ill sex-addict friends, who had to a person all demonstrated they thought less than well of me and so why would I trust my child with them? So I dropped out again. Someone had to take responsibility for my child, and I wasn’t going to lose another child. Might as well be me.
Nineteen years later, here I am, having put everything aside to help my daughter grow up. Still got two quarters’ worth (equivalent to one semester) of student-loan debt hanging over my head, though one of the few good things I know of that Joe Biden’s done since taking office was suspend my debt for a while. I have a decently-paying job coming up starting in May, and I might be able to set up a repayment plan at that point if Biden can’t wipe out the debt entirely. But I have no degree. I barely even have any college credit, though I made dean’s list the one quarter I completed. (It’s nothing to brag about, just English Comp 101 and pre-algebra.)
And I STILL don’t know what I want to be when I grow up.
So that’s why I’m not a hotshot lawyer today.
Also, I’m an introvert, do not speak well off-the-cuff, and am really impatient with bullshit. Those things probably wouldn’t have helped.