September 04, 2011

Not an Example...But a Horrible Horrible Warning

So this girl asked me...
Where did things go wrong?
And thus a history of banal failure is posted below the fold.

For those uninterested in such matters, here is Kyo-Ani's take on the Sailor Scouts.


Actually it's by someone who goes by the handles of Tom and Attopez

I had one of those horrifying mid-life moments of utter despair Friday. I was at the bookstore on campus picking up a notebook and a frappichino, when the young lady behind the counter asked to see my Faculty ID.
...
I explained that I wasn't faculty.
She asked if I was working on my PHD or my Doctorate, and what was I studying.
...
...
I told her that I was an undergraduate.
...
She glared at me and asked to see my student ID.
I started to dig it out, and as I did so she explained that this was the STUDENT center and that it was for STUDENTS and faculty and not the general public, that the main bookstore across the street could take walk ins. She was giving me the death look...

...and I'm all like...

...but balder..and fatter...
...'cause its dawned on me from her tone and the look of disgust in her face that that she felt I did NOT belong there, because, well, I'm old. (and I presumably give random coeds the creeps by existing)

I produced the ID after some digging and she kind of stared at me and asked..."What happened?"

I said "Misspent youth." to which she responded "Cool!" and laughed.

Now this perplexed me a bit but I suppose she was imagining garage bands and groupies and drugs and jet setting and Frat pranks and double secret suspension and the French Foreign Legion and a life lived on the lam while circumnavigating the world on a sailboat trying to clear my name for a crime I didn't commit and making ends meet as a private eye...but maybe I'm reading too much into it.

A couple of things here...
First, we have LOTS of non-traditional students on campus, so she must be new to be bewildered by an old guy patronizing a college bookstore.
Second I had a similar experience the other day when I was signing up for my locker at the gym, though no one there asked "What happened?" and I've been asked a couple of times to provide my "Faculty card" for some discount but while that always makes me feel old, there was no accusatory tone when I said I was a UG.
Third, I was contacted the other day by a fellow from my misspent youth who is about 7 years my junior...who has just gotten back from teaching English in Japan for nearly a decade and has a perfectly decent job.
Fourth, I'm obviously too old to be on campus without giving random girls the creeps which is making me feel both dirty and old.

So...what DID happen?

Pure fail.

I was a mediocre student in Highschool and just barely graduated with an AP diploma. Unable to get scholarships I went to a local community college to gain transfer credits.

I transferred to ODU, took 18 credits while being a DJ on the campus radio station, Vice president of the International Students Association, president of the Tidewater Anime Group, Event Coordinator for the Japan America Club, a Gamemaster running a Champions campaign holding down 2 part time jobs and taking Aikido.  I gave all of these things equal priority.  (Lesson one kids: triage your time)

Due to an utter failure of time management skills and common sense, I suddenly found myself faced with a 3 year suspension....and of course all my student loans coming due. I got the job at UPS , which turned out to be a rare good call.

4 years later, I was almost on my feet financially and was again attending school,  steadily building up my GPA, when I derailed myself utterly.
My second job had been at a comic book store and one of the proprietors of that shop had been running a comic book convention quite successfully for some years. I had helped him run the show and knew that he had paid his way through college with proceeds from it. When he left the area I jumped at the chance...I had zero experience in sales and marketing but I contacted two friends who had run east coast cons and we reserved convention space the same weekend as the then defunct GalaCon. I focused on the logistics and getting guests, letting them handle the marketing and table sales. The week of the kill date one of them quit. I did not react to this properly...I went on with school, work, and getting guests. Being a effing idiot, I waited until a few weeks before the con to ask about how many tables the other partner had sold. To my vexation and chagrin...the answer was zero.
Pre-registrations? Zero.
I had just mailed out the airline tickets.
The kill date had passed.
My name was on everything.
On the other hand I had gotten the hotel and the guests.
Guest included John and Jason Waltrip, David Mazuchelli, Joe Pruett, Colleen Doran, and Brian Bolland.
There were ultimately 7 attendees.

Radcon 1 had the best, most intimate, meet-the-pros-party EVAH.

Of course...there was a...bill. I had to take a second job, then a third, drop out of school, (which made my student loans come due) and refinance the car (which I ended up living in for a time).

In addition to UPS during this time I worked as a busboy, a landscaper, a retail clerk, and a short order cook. I was at one point offered a job doing pr0n, but I turned it down.

4 years later I was still deep in debt but my cash flow was improved. I had managed a class here and there though I had to drop once due to work conflicts.

So I joined the Army Reserve only to suffer a back injury in basic training that left me unable to work for 3 months....as the injury had happened in basic training I did not have DOD medical coverage.

All this while I was involved in local fandom to varying degrees. Using Lessons Learned from Radcon 1, I contacted an industry figure and we organized Radcon 2. It was a success, but the industry had contracted such that it did not meet a cost benefit analysis. We made enough to take ourselves to dinner over which we decided to never do this again.

That year my cash flow was sufficient to buy a used mobile home. One year after moving into my fine manufactured residence I finally re-enrolled in school full time.

A few weeks later, a brilliant blue September sky was suddenly marred by the funeral pyres of 2,996 Americans. I went around trying to enlist, but no one wanted someone who had been discharged for a back injury. Finally the USCG reserve took me in due to my 8 years of HAZMAT experience....I had to loose quite a bit of weight and even then they granted me waivers for several health issues.

I was on active duty for 18 months during which time I suffered a knee injury and had knee surgery, messed up my elbow and my hip, but I never saw, let alone killed a single jihadi and the closest I came to a rescue was assisting in pulling a St Bernard out of the Chesapeake Bay.

After returning to reserve status, I finally paid off the last of my debt and re-enrolled in school determined to never again take out a student loan. However, the injuries took their toll,  I missed almost 6 months of work at one point due to injuries and 11 months prior to my enlistment being up I was moved into the IRR due to failure to meet physical standards. I will never live down that shame.

Since returning to school,  I've had to drop out of school mid-semester because of:

Severe work schedule changes (5 times)
Being hospitalized/ injured (twice ) (4 times)*
Reserve mobilization (once)
The destruction of my house during midterms (once)
The need to care for sick relatives (thrice) (5 times)*
And subsequently medical bills and Kidney Stones.*

This, of course, is where most readers came in. I also discovered, in 2009,  when I thought I was two semesters from graduation that 36 of my credits were being rejected due to transfers not being honored or time passed, while I recently got 6 of those reinstated, this knocked me back an additional year.

So yes, that is 'what happened'... I screwed up.....monumentally, multiple times. I have pursued a degree with the careful consideration of a rabid pit bull with an Ahab complex. It cannot pass any rational cost benefit analysis. Still I'm far enough in that I'm committed...or ought to be.

Now I am...for the third time...looking to graduate in about a year*. Depending on what is offered in the summer I will graduate in August, or December of 2012*  May or August 2015.


There is little in this tale to emulate, but much to  learn from. Which is why I put the whole sordid thing out there. That and to answer anyone who might ask..."what happened?"

UPDATE: Edited in 2014* to reflect the continuation of the cascading failgasm. 

Posted by: The Brickmuppet at 11:19 PM | Comments (3) | Add Comment
Post contains 1571 words, total size 11 kb.

1
I have pursued a degree with the careful consideration of a rabid pit bull with an Ahab complex. It cannot pass any rational cost benefit analysis. Still I'm far enough in that I'm committed...or ought to be.
I'm a college dropout myself.  I was preparing to go back and finish my degree at one point, when the stock market cratered and I lost my job and my investments at the same time.  Never got back to it, so I really admire your perseverence.

Posted by: Pixy Misa at Tue Sep 6 07:07:27 2011 (PiXy!)

2 Twenty-two years after I ran out of money and persuaded the university to start paying me, I am theoretically one class away from an Associates degree in Japanese. It appears that if I transfer my dusty old credits from OSU and my even-dustier AP test scores, I can get out by taking whatever rocks-for-jocks science class the school offers online.

Amusingly, because I actually gave a damn about the Japanese classes, they sent me a letter asking me to join the honors society. :-)

-j

Posted by: J Greely at Tue Sep 6 15:25:19 2011 (fpXGN)

3

It can be done and I've admired your persistence for a while.  My own story doesn't have quite so many tragedies, but while midway through a degree, my mother's parent loan was denied two weeks before school was supposed to start.  A month after traveling back out to school just to get my stuff in storage shipped home, they decided to cut her the check after all, far too late to do anything.  $50k in debt and no real prospects, I got a small miracle in that somebody decided to take a chance on me.  A couple of years later I was able to start at a different school.  While simultaneously paying off the loans, making for some very... tight years.  8 Years after having to drop out, I had my degree and was debt free within a few months of graduating, would have graduated debt free but my mother passed the summer before my final year and I couldn't, quite, make the cash flow needed.

Nothing unusual with having to go back to school later in life.  You have what you need, the persistence to see it through.  You just need to break the string of bad luck.

StargazerA5

Posted by: StargazerA5 at Sat Sep 10 09:35:52 2011 (lZbWj)

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