A question that begs needs an answer

by Janie Jones

I woke up happy on Saturday, and then something happened that ruined my good mood.  The effect of which led me into much introspection aided and abetted by a question which was probably innocently and jokingly asked.  I have been on the fence ever since about whether or not I should write about it, but this morning something else happened that helped me make up my mind.

So with that cryptic prologue I’m going to write a therapy post.

Saturday I was all excited to have some fun time with my peeps.  First, however, I had to do an assignment for my astronomy class.  Because it’s online, most of my “work” and “class time” is in the form of using this educational software.  Perhaps by week 15 I’ll fully understand the ins and outs of the software, but so far, it’s been completely unpredictable.  A “section” may be worth one point, but consist of a 45-60 minute interactive presentation, with 20 or more questions spread through out.  Or, it could be worth 3 points and contain 2 questions.  There seems to be no rhyme or reason and no warning what you’re in for when you start the assignment.  Saturday’s assignment consisted of 13 sections and took me over 4 hours to complete.  Not realizing that’s what I was going to be up against, I slept in, had a nice brunch with the fam, then at about 12:30 started working with the idea that I probably would be done by 2 ish.  Hahahaha!

Not only was the assignment time consuming in the extreme, but I was having a devil of a time figuring out how to get some of the interactive stuff to work properly and having some technical problems no doubt a result of user ignorance.  I nearly cried at several points.  What was most frustrating was a lot of the time I knew the correct answers, but I couldn’t figure out how to use the program so my results were not showing as accurate.  Then there was the stuff I flat out didn’t understand.

So, Janie had a couple or ten temper tantrums, mini nervous breakdowns and was utterly miserable.  Leif brought in chai and took the spud to the basement to watch tv all afternoon.  The work got done, and miraculously with a respectable grade but…

There’s always a but, isn’t there?

I couldn’t help but hear Tilly Bud in the back of my head the whole time saying, “Cough, cough…I have to ask…is a degree really what you want to be doing? :)

And I just wanted to bawl and sob, “Nooooooooo!  It’s NOT what I want to be doing!  I’d rather be doing almost anything else, but that’s not really true, what I really want I can’t have, and important people are relying on me!  So, I have to do the right thing even if it sucks, because in the long run it’s the best chance for happiness tomorrow.”

If I were my own armchair shrink, I’d say, “So Janie, what do you want?”

All I’ve ever wanted was a modest middle class home, with cool, shady trees in the yard, a neat little garden with flowers and some berries and vegetables.  I want to be June Cleaver or Carol Brady, and keep an immaculately spotless house so if Better Homes and Gardens drops by unannounced they could take pictures I’d be proud to have in an international magazine.  I actually enjoy clipping coupons, hunting down the best price on peanut butter, folding laundry so underwear is neatly stacked in perfectly square rows, towels fit in perfect stacks in the closet and sheets and pillowcases are in bundles neater than new store packaging offers them.  I like to plan meals and monitor the levels of my house hold goods, I like the feel of pride and satisfaction in removing spots from the carpet, having the whitest whites and fabric napkins at every meal.  I love changing season decorations, having plump toss pillows with slipcovers to coordinate with the seasons, and craftily arranged centerpieces on the buffet.  Heck, I don’t even mind paying bills and staying on a budget as long as it doesn’t feel like I have to make two pennies a dime.

Perhaps I ask for too much.  But, for a brief period in time, I thought I had achieved my dream.  I had found a man who had three pieces of paper declaring him well educated and he bought me a house and promised to provide and take care of me and our child.  And, then a combination of fate, my own naivete  and the irresponsibility and carelessness of others took it from me.  I will never have it back, because I can’t rely on others to support me, and I am not independently wealthy.  Therefore, I must go out in the world and make myself suitable for the kind of employment that will pay in a manner to keep me living in a modest middle class way and pay off the remaining debt I am responsible for in the nuclear-esque fallout which ended my marriage.

I have never ever wanted to be a career or academic woman.  I don’t have the drive, the ambition or the curiosity for learning.  Nothing much matters to me outside my home.  Gone though are the days when a woman can rely on a man to support her.  And even if it weren’t so, I don’t think I could ever really trust a man to support me ever again.  I’ve been too deeply hurt by giving my faith only to have my dreams torn from me nearly as literally as having my heart ripped still beating from my chest.  But I also have too much pride to live off the government dole.  In fact, the fact that I have been since getting laid off of work over a year ago really chaffs my hide.  I absolutely hate myself for it.  I also hate having to justify every action I take short of breathing to get the pittance they offer to help pay for school and travel expenses.  And, I hate the idea of what will become of me when they cut me off, because then I’ll be even more screwed. I feel stuck.  I don’t want to take out tens of thousands of dollars in loans and beg the government for financial assistance.  So, what’s a Janie to do?  I don’t really care if I’m a grocery store bagger, but with those kinds of jobs I’ll barely make enough to cover rent, utilities and insurance.  Forget eating.  Forget having clothes that aren’t threadbare where they aren’t patched.  Accept the dreary prospect of working for a thankless employer until I die, because there will be no retirement for me, I won’t likely be ever at a financial state where I can save enough to retire on, missing out on my kid’s life because I’m always at work, working weird schedules and or overtime and never actually having the time to enjoy the one thing in life that, in my opinion, makes life worth living: a home of my own that I clean, I decorate, I can garden in, I relax in, I feel safe, secure and content in.  It won’t exist in this life.

I am precisely where I swore I’d never be.  A single working mother trying to eke out a living, relying on the help of my friend to get through life.  Without Leif’s love and financial assistance I would be up the proverbial shit creek without a paddle.  So once again I’m relying on a man.  What happens if he gets tired of pulling my cranky ass along through school?  What happens if I’m left alone?  I can’t support myself and my daughter with the skills I have now.

So again, we ask, what’s a Janie to do?  Seems logically the best answer is get a real education.  What do I have to look forward to out of this education?  A shit pot of school loan debt, several years of frustration and misery dealing with professors, and shoddy tenured work ethics, having to swallow educational drivel, irritating assignments, partners in group projects young enough to be my children who could care less about being there and how much their education is costing their parents; I’ll stop myself there.  You all get the point.  I don’t like the institutional system they call school.  But I need that freakin’ piece of paper that says I suffered through it because, maybe if I have one I can change the bleak prospects and unpleasant outcome I would otherwise have to anticipate of my working future.  Maybe if I stick it out through school, maybe I might get a good enough job to not have to worry about money quite so much.  Just maybe I might some day get out of debt.  Maybe I could buy a house of my own.  Maybe even start saving for something resembling retirement.  I might never have the June Cleaver or the Carol Brady life, but at least I won’t have to rely on someone else or the government to support me.  I’ll have some respect back.  I’ll have accomplished something I can at least be proud of and hold my head up high with dignity feeling like I wasn’t a total waste of oxygen.

I love Leif, he’s a tremendous source of help and comfort and I’m glad he’s here to help me, and hope he always will.  But I don’t want to have to rely on him.  I want to be able to stand tall on my own two feet.  Logic and past precedent tells me in order to do that in today’s world I need at least a bachelor’s degree.  Do I really want to do this?  No.  Do I really need to do this?  Yes, if I want to have some chance of  financial security in this crazy world of general insecurity I’m pretty sure I do.  I’m not confused or conflicted about that.  But there’s no mistake, this is not being done for a love of learning or education.  Still, if possible I’d like to try to find some enjoyment in it so it’s not totally loathsome.  That’s why I’m taking steps toward switching majors. Hopefully also, in the end I’ll be proud of myself and what I’ve accomplished.

There are a few traits I like to flatter myself that I’m not lacking: determination, responsibility, pride, duty, honor, strength.  If I’m going to do this, I damn well want to do it right.  Of course, I’m going to make mistakes, but I’m going to do it right by committing myself fully and doing the very best work I feel I can.  I may have messed up my life, I may be sitting on the government dole right now, but I’m going to make things better if it kills me.

So, Saturday kinda sucked, and I’m still feeling pretty depressed and disgusted.  And, sometimes the weight of all that pain and misery is to much to bear alone, and too much to share just with Leif.  I sometimes feel so alone and so misunderstood.  I sure could use my own personal squad of Dallas Cheerleaders, only I’d prefer they all were men who looked like Chris Hemsworth in the movie Thor, or Hugh Jackman as Wolverine.  I wasn’t sure if I should say anything about it, my feelings, not the cheer leading squad, but the blog wisdom and blog therapy seems to always know best, and in not being likely to acquire the dream cheer leading team I’m relying on the blogosphere.  I hope Tilly won’t mind being my catalyst to deep thoughts.  As for the events of this morning, in a bizarre sort of way I have another blog friend to thank for giving me the kick in the pants to sit down to my blog and actually type these feelings right off my chest.  I feel like my life has been preempted by an education I don’t really want.  I feel angry and frustrated and I want to cry.  I want to give up.  I want to simply bag groceries at the food store for the rest of my life.  I swear something has to give.  I sometimes think this can’t possibly be worth it, then I remember all the good things I have and how much better my life is today than it was 4 years ago, 3 years ago, and when you weigh the good and bad I’d rather be where I am today than where I was then.  Because even though life is hard, and school sucks, at least now I do know moments of happiness every day and there is more than hope that my dreams, albeit revised ones, may still come true by the power of my choices.   My astronomy professor may be a hideous lecturer and the assignments may be infuriating, but I will stick with it so I can say I survived, and I understand a little more about life, the universe and myself.

I can’t pretend to understand what exactly what The ‘Stones mean, but you gotta love the chorus:

“You can’t always get what you want
But if you try sometimes, well you might find
You get what you need”

So perhaps I’ll stick with it a while longer and see how things play out, I just might find not what I thought I wanted, but what I really needed.  Oh, and Universe, if it does any good to place that order, you can deliver my cheer leading squad any time on Mondays, Wednesdays or Fridays.

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4 Comments to “A question that begs needs an answer”

  1. Well, I believe in the power of prayer, so you get one today, although I really don’t know what it will bring, but if it explains the meaning of the phrase: “If you try sometime, you just mind find, you get what you need.” that’s a plus. There’s an important meaning to those words.

  2. You are an inspiration, Janie Jones.

    (and that TillyBud is a wise woman)

    You just keep on keeping on, and we’ll keep cheering from the across the Atlantic, laughing at the jokes, and understanding the grumps.

    Go Janie! *waves pom poms, kicks leg up, needs a lie down*

  3. I have never had ambition, nor really a lot of “goal-drive.” Throughout the years, I’ve managed to distill my want-out-of-life wishes to just one: I don’t want to be scared anymore.
    This actually works out well, this boil-it-down approach. I’m freed up for lots of other things like teaching Monkey to surf.
    You have my admiration for pursuing your hopes and knowing when to reevaluate things.

  4. We have to stick at things we hate sometimes, because that’s life. But we also have to decide if we can take the risk of change. You have a child; I know there are no easy answers for you.

    We have been on benefits for fifteen years. I HATE it. I took a degree; I loved every moment of it. It has not helped me AT ALL in getting a job. My timing was off, I’ll admit: I graduated at the height of the recession and so I was up against recently redundant with up-to-date skills people. I haven’t had paid employment since I gave up work in 1990 to have my first child. Regular volunteer work hasn’t helped me find a job either.

    My point is not to depress you, but to say that sometimes, it doesn’t matter what we do, life is going to slap us in the face sometimes. So we might as well be happy with what we are doing, if we can.

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