Better To Deal With The Devil You Know?21.01.2009
I know I left things sounding pretty dire the last time I spoke about my home refinance situation. I’ve been meaning to make note of the resolution here for a while but then I also didn’t want to jinx anything.
I made a deal with the devil parents. I know it’s not an option everyone has and to be honest I really tried to exhaust every other option first. Let me tell you a story or two…
When I went to college, my middle class parents made too much money for me to qualify for any financial scholarships and even though I was an Honors Student in high school with an excellent GPA and a semester of college Freshmen English completed during my final semester, it wasn’t enough to overcome the advantage of having parents who were well-salaried even if I wasn’t and didn’t want to be associated with their dimes.
I had no choice but to accept the charity of my parents. For four years, my parents paid for my college education as well as my room and board and any other expenses outside of the pitiful money I made at the handful of underpaid part-time jobs I attempted to work while acquiring a 5-year degree in 4 years, which required attending 4 semesters a year (2 in the summer) plus 1 extra 5 week semester one May where I had to read almost a novel a day. For 4 years, my parents wanted to know how I was spending not just my money but my time as well. You know, they wanted to make sure that their investment was paying off. And don’t think they didn’t have a say in what classes I took or what major I had.
During those same 4 years, my parents were also financing a scholarship for another student at another college. This young man whose name I’ve never known — let’s call him Joe for the sake of this story – was actually from a family who could not afford to send him to college and knowing my parents he probably also had an excellent GPA in high school. I’m told that they never met him but that he was from a minority ethnic background. I suppose he had a choice to accept the charity of my parents, but probably the idea of 4 years of tuition at the local university was a good deal, so why pass that up?
So, here’s the facts: Joe and I both technically had scholarship agreements with my parents, but they were vastly different agreements. Joe’s agreement was limited to spending four years keeping up his grades and getting his tuition paid while getting a degree in a Business major. My parents never once called Joe at his home to check on him; they never wanted to know what his study schedule was like; they took no role in making decisions about his class schedule or his extracurricular activities. They did not discuss whether or not he had a t.v. in his bedroom or whether or not he should have to eat breakfast in the cafeteria. In fact, as far as I know, Joe went to college with the goal of becoming what he wanted to be growing up, experienced college the way he wanted, got the degree he wanted, and possibly got the job he wanted afterwards.
I wanted to be a journalist or a writer in my heart of hearts but those jobs didn’t really “make money” according to my parents so I was steered toward the sciences or engineering. My senior year of high school, I was leaning toward physics, aerospace engineering, or mechanical engineering. (I kind of liked finding out how things worked and I was really into science fiction.) My parents were thrilled. I started college as a mechanical engineering major but after fourteen months it was clear to me that neither physics nor engineering were interesting enough to me to keep me awake or keep up my grades for 4 years of college. I had an interest in Accounting, which if some of you recall is what my father is — he’s a CPA — and I still wanted to be a journalist or a writer. However, Business majors apparently were not as successful, money-wise, as science majors or engineers and journalism and writing was still a big no-no. The only degree in Engineering that I had any talent at and promised not bore me to death was Computer Science and thus the agreement was made with my parents –
Don’t get me wrong, I have never said that I didn’t like being a programmer. I enjoy programming; I’m quite egocentric regarding my programming skills, I admit. In fact, I am a self-proclaimed programming diva. I love the challenge of troubleshooting, the art of design and development, the triumph of doing the impressive impossible. There’s simplicity, logic, puzzles, beauty, and drama in the world of programming.
However, at the time, I probably would not have chosen this as my career had I been given the opportunity to pick any career I wanted.
My scholarship agreement involved so much more than Joe’s. And I’d rather not hear from the crowd who just wants to tell me how I should have just walked away from my parent’s money and rules, learned to take care of myself, put myself through college, and be my own person; until you’ve been there, felt the enormous pressure weighing on you, you can’t say anything, know anything. At the time, I sold my soul to the devil my parents to get a college degree because that’s the only way I knew how to get one. The scholarship system really is set up to screw the middle class student who doesn’t want to or can’t depend on his or her parent’s income.
I’ve always said that the price of taking money from my parents always comes with mental anguish interest payments.