Back to School

epictetus-educated-are-free

I was not raised to value education. My parents were uneducated, my grandparents, etc, way on back. We were taught the basic red-neck family view of education, it’s pretty much useless. Oh, there were times some of them might have said different, but if you don’t know by now that actions speak louder than words…well, you might at least want to go out and get some life experience.

Being a girl in conservative Christianity during the 70s and 80s, the basic belief was that I would grow up and marry and have kids. I’d stay home and take care of my husband (always him first, everything else in conservative Christianity is secondary to the man) and the kids and the house. I would be subservient to my husband. This was, according to most people of that time, what God created women for (seriously, check out John MacArthur among others).

When I reached high school I rebelled against those ideals and tried to find a way out. But without support, more than a bit of verbal, “yeah, whatever you want to do” I didn’t get far. And I didn’t realize why until recently.

In families that are filled with a long line of abusers, there isn’t a lot of thought. Victims, turns out, actually can’t think. Victims are usually just trying to survive.

In my family, there was also a lot of “I know it all” attitude that created further hostility because apparently these people were born with this knowledge (aka common sense) and if you didn’t know then you were a fucking idiot.

When I first left my ex, my therapist told me to consider going back to school. I told her I’d never be able to do that. I was too stupid, I knew that. Hell, El Pollo Loco told me I wasn’t qualified to work for them. I don’t know if you can get more stupid than that.

It wasn’t actually El Pollo Loco that was the problem, it was, again, years of those voices telling me over and over that I wasn’t smart enough, or good enough, or pretty enough, etc. Those were the things holding me back.

But as I educated myself in the tactics of abusers, I began to be able to differentiate between the bullshit my mother and grandfather had dumped on me and I slowly began to come out of the fog that had clouded my mind for all of my life.

It took some time, but when the fog lifted, it all began to fall into place. I couldn’t work that dead-end job forever and expect to find true freedom. There was only one way out. School.

I have to repeat this mantra to myself over and over and over because the task before me is one of the most daunting of my life. I will be 48 next month. I haven’t been to school in nearly 3 decades. I have to find some kind of job while I’m working. And I have five kids who need me.

That last one is the most daunting of all. It’s all well and good to say to myself that I’ll be a great example to my kids by doing this, by when facing the reality of the day to day…Case in point, I am still waiting to learn if Braniac will be able to take the school bus home. If he can’t, I have to drop two classes and go back to working nights.

As I’ve made this step, I have learned that, just like leaving my ex, this is not a step everyone can take. For some the hurdles either seem or really are too great. Most people need to work full time. Most people don’t know that there is a lot of money available to attend school. And most people don’t know how inexpensive junior college is.

One of the hurdles I had originally was listening to the news commentators go on and on and on about student debt. They never mention that the students accrued this debt at private universities, and that public colleges, while not free, are markedly less expensive, if not downright affordable.

I didn’t learn this until I took that first step. But I could have learned it if I’d bothered to educate myself as I have in so many other areas.

It seems foolish now. I mean, it was my self-education that helped me know more about Spock’s birth defect than most doctors I talked with. It was also that self-education that in the end saved his life.

But I didn’t self-educate on this matter of college expenses because my own fears. And that really is what it comes down to.

If we take the time to examine our thoughts, we will find that most of us live in fear. Our culture, in fact almost all cultures, are cultures of fear. Fear is how culture intimidates people into keeping in line. Religious culture does this, authoritarian culture does this. So our life is fear from cradle to grave.

Down here, in the lower classes, we are slaves to fear. We didn’t go to college so we often live from paycheck to paycheck. We end up working two, sometimes three jobs, just to make ends meet. We stay in abusive relationships because, well, money and housing. We are on a short fuse because of all the stress. And, most of all, we cannot think beyond the next day of work.

I used to despise the emphasis on college education. And while I do think a lot of colleges have become nothing more than profiteers, a college education is what gets you somewhere. And, hopefully, it will also open your mind…if you allow it and don’t attend a segregated school. (By segregated I mean the only people you are exposed to are people who think like you, particularly religiously, but also politically.)

I look at how the people I have known who despised education and taught me to despise it ended up, I see now that they were not very smart at all. They ended up slaves to their own thoughts and bad decisions.

Education is really the only way to true freedom.

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