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?
  • 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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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.

“The Grass Is Always Greener On The Other Side”

Or, alternatively: “Is true happiness really possible?”

Today’s post topic, and existential crisis, is brought to you by ponies! Specifically, the princesses of the day and night.

Yes, I am completely serious. The idea for this post was sparked by a discussion about pretty cartoon horses. I’m unsure of what to think of that too.

I recently ordered a book titled The Journal of the Two Sisters, which gives some much needed background to my favorite ponies of the show. The very first entry states the two sisters dreamed of being princesses since they were fillies/children, so becoming princesses in their adulthood was like a dream come true to them (for anyone unfamiliar with the series, “princess” is an earned title, not one attained through birthright). However, their present lives as princesses, to put it bluntly, sucks.

Of course, that’s not made blatant because at the end of the day, this is a series intended for girls below the age of 7. But both princesses, at worst, have some heavy mental struggles, one more so than the other. At best, they only need a really good therapist. The older sister is hinted to have depression, but fake happiness for the sake of her subjects. She will do things that may result in heavy consequences for the sake of being genuinely happy temporarily. In other words, she’d rather be happy now and deal with the consequences later. The younger sister, partially due to a millennium of solitary confinement, has mental trauma so badly, she resorted to psychologically tormenting herself and attempted to ruin a surprise celebration being planned in her honor because she believed she was unworthy of being celebrated. She’s only able to see her downfalls in herself and the mistakes she’s made. The younger sister’s problems are more evident, but I am able to relate to both of them because I do and feel the same.

As ordinary children, they wanted to be princesses. As princesses, they long for a normal life. And there’s no aspect of life I know of that doesn’t cause a similar internal crisis.

As children, many of us want to be adults. As adults, many of us long to return to childhood. The only reason I don’t want to return to childhood is mine was an awful one overall. But even then, I can list things I miss and long to have back. Yet, if I did return to childhood, even a more pleasant one, I’d likely long for adulthood all over again.

When I worked as a cashier, I wanted to work on the floor because the frequent interaction with people was, to be blunt for a moment, soul-sucking, and I got very easily agitated and hyper from being forced to remain in one place for too long. While I’d still prefer floor work overall, I can’t lie and say I don’t have some complaints. In addition to that I failed my probation (and being truthful to myself, I should never have tried in the first place), I spend almost every day panicking over the work that isn’t finished and how I can’t do six things at once. I don’t know how to fix everything I’m supposed to fix, and being someone who enjoys organizing, I’m extremely frustrated when I can’t organize. In short, the work of the floor is endless, and yet, there are times I cannot figure out what to do, how to do it, or if I even did it correctly. And in eight hours, I can’t do it all. To say it feels crushing is an understatement, and I’ve brought my own self-judgment and self-awareness into heavy question because I thought I was getting better, only to learn I wasn’t. It’s not the first time I’ve made that mistake, and I can’t stop wondering if I’m kind of egomaniac who has yet to realize it, or I’m just a sucker for not learning my lesson about being naive and getting in over my head. The only thing I’ve really learned is to never try anything new, or you’re going down. It’s a lesson I’ve learned more than once, but I plan on letting it stick this time. I can’t imagine it’ll be forgettable.

And yet, if (or when) I return to my original position as a cashier, I’ll be longing to put up with all that frustration again in place of my problems with being a cashier. To be good at what you hate and bad at what you like is truly one of life’s cruel ironies.

And there are many more I can name, from both experience and observation, but this post would get longer than I’d prefer it to. The message here overall is, as my title states, “the grass is always greener on the other side”. But if that’s the case, it leaves me wondering if being happy in life is really possible. Yes, I know everything has its downsides, but if the “inside” is always worse than the “outside” – if we’ll always long for the opposite, only to see we should’ve been content where we are, despite we won’t be content if we return – how is real happiness possible? We’re always going to want something else that seems better, only to discover we were dreadfully wrong, but it’s no better, or may even be worse, than what we had before. I almost question if a life of happiness itself is fictional, like the characters who sparked this topic. Of course, it’s not a new idea I had. I’ve felt this way for a long time. The fictional setting merely brought it out tonight. Perhaps that’s why “happily ever after” is so famous as a story closer in fairytales.

Of course, it’s easy to say I’m overthinking, but why shouldn’t I think about this? I’ve yet to discover anything good come from “letting life happen”, as it’s said, and while I know not everything can be planned, I’ll never be comfortable with the idea life entirely is uncontrollable. After all, we wouldn’t have free will if that were the case. If true happiness is fake, I can stop pursuing a goal that’s non-existent. And if it is real, I suppose I can keep trying. In the case of the latter, trying to achieve it will either end in joy or end in sorrow at the end of my life, whenever that shall be. I’ll know when that times comes, not that I want it to any time soon (or ever, but death is inevitable).

United In Struggle

A common question kids are asked is what they want to be when they grow up. As teens, that question becomes, “What do you want to do after high school?” (usually, the expected answer is college and little more than that). As an adult, the question is, “Where do you see yourself in five years?” Or any number of years, but I’ve mostly heard five.

For me, the answer is: I don’t know.

While I’m not one to think life just happens with zero control over its events, I don’t think in the other extreme of having absolute control over everything. My life certainly has not gone as planned, and I do not mean solely my adulthood. My life has been going unplanned since my childhood days. While I’m not entirely ungrateful, it’s only because the end result is I lived through it to reach what I’m happy to have now. And even that can be counted on one hand.

Something I have noticed with my co-workers is almost everyone either attends college or has a second job. The former is obvious, but in the case of the latter, it’s simply because it’s that hard to manage for them. And of the jobs I know, their first ones aren’t what’s usually considered low-paying. On one occasion, I also had a customer mention he works three jobs. Why? To pay his mortgage. Even my former clinician, who is well-established in her career of 10+ years as a psychologist by now, has told me she and her husband resides in his family’s home because they struggle financially otherwise.

That is truly terrifying to me, even more so than having nothing planned to begin with. I understand what they do is out of necessity, but merely one job for me creates feelings my life is slowly descending into a meaningless existence of work and sleep. To need to hold two or three to survive? I question if passing life in a coma would be preferable. I suppose those examples emphasize everyone has it hard in some way, but that’s little comfort to me. I do not want to have the same struggles at 33 I’m having at 23.

If someone were to ask where I see myself in five years, I truly couldn’t answer. Any position I’ve gotten myself in, especially my job, has been unexpected. If someone asked me in 2015 where I saw myself in 2016, the answer would not have been anything close to working. The truth is I cannot see myself in any position I’m not currently in or haven’t been in previously. Until it happens, I subconsciously believe it can’t happen.

Perhaps this is another discovery of adulthood taking me by surprise and I’m slow at keeping up. At 23, I feel as if I haven’t aged a day past childhood, despite my life as it stands resembles nothing of my childhood (and I’d have killed myself by now if it did). In the end, many things feel very confusing and I’m uncertain if they’re supposed to feel any other way. The one thing I’m certain of is no matter how much I learn, how much better I supposedly become, I still feel like I know absolutely nothing. That makes no sense, and as far as I can tell, neither does much else.