Sept 15th marked the start of my 26th year of being alive. I spent the majority of my day in class and at work, a schedule which many who pay their own way through college experience. This sparked a thought process which I have been heavily concerned with over the last 5 or so years. Why am I here?
I don't mean that in the depressed sense of why am I alive, rather in the literal sense of why am I in my current position in life. I'm now 26 years old, I live in my parent's basement, and am still in college. To most people, I would be considered a failure, a bum, or a lazy millennial. This is why I rarely tell my story to other people, and often just keep my mouth shut when it comes to my situation.
Here's the rough breakdown of my college career
I moved from Wisconsin to Indiana and started attending college in the Fall of 2009. I double majored in photography and graphic design for a semester, and decided I wanted to keep those fields as hobbies, and the school wasn't a good fit for me. So I transferred back to a local college and went for marketing. Fall of 2011, I transferred to my current university, UW Eau Claire for Computer Science. I was always good with computers. However, after the first month, I had to leave school to stay at home taking care of my grandfather full time. I did this for around 2 years, after which the VA agreed to pay for him to go to day care, thus freeing up my time to go back to school. I decided to go to UW Stout to try my hand at Computer Engineering. I liked it for a little while, but only stayed there for 3 semesters and then transferred back to UW Eau Claire, for computer science. I've been here ever since, and am graduating in December, 3 short months from now.
The reasoning for my question, why am I here, stems from the fact that all of my friends who started college in 2009, graduated in 2013, or shortly thereafter, at the usual age of 21. They've been working in the real world, with thriving careers, for the better part of the last 5 years. Meanwhile, I'm still chugging along in this limbo path of non-traditional education. Why didn't I start with with computer science? Why didn't refuse to take care of my grandfather? Why didn't I give up on everything and work at mcdonalds for the rest of my life?
The answer to the first question is simple, I was a stupid kid who thought photography was the right choice, and when that fell through marketing would help me propel my photography studio business ahead. Poor choices for sure, but that creative dream is still part of me today.
The answer to the second one is rather complicated. To the outside observer I'm rather secluded from emotion. I don't display my emotions for others to see, or even to myself for that matter. I took care of my grandfather because it was the right thing to do. He was a major contributer in who I am today, and it was the least I could do to pay him back for the wisdom and experiences he provided me throughout my life. He's 94 now, has severe dementia, and is mostly wheelchair bound, so he needs help doing just about everything.
The third question is what really bothered me for a long time. Could I have given up and worked a minimum wage job the reset of my life? Yes, lot's of people do it, but they're called the working poor for a reason. They work full time and are still below the poverty line. I did not want to live a life of poverty, and definitely do not want my kids (if I ever have any - still up in the air on that decision) to grow up as I did, in a rather frugal household.
This internal threat of never retiring, due to not being able to afford to live, kept me going strong and staying in school. I didn't want to end up in a dead end job working forever just to keep the bills paid. I want to splurge every now and then and buy the things I want in addition to the necessities.
Like I said, September 15th was my birthday. While I know my parents and family members can't afford to give gifts anymore, I wanted to celebrate it my way. I bought my own gifts. I indulged my desire for a new watch, and pre-ordered the new Series 3 Apple Watch. This purchase solidified my decision to continue going to school for a degree in which I wont have to worry about money going forward. The demand for software engineers is very high, and will remain high until artificial intelligence can creatively write software on its own.
I'm still in school, but I work a job which earns me enough money to pay for school and for little purchases like this every so often. I'm one of the lucky ones who chose a field which will allow me to pay off my student loans without accumulating thousands extra in interest.
Am I sad it took me 8 or so years to get a college degree? Of course, I could've started my adult life 4-5 years ago. But, I now have knowledge of what the world is like, and was able to gain that under the protection of living at home. When I finally move out early next year, I won't have the same worries most do their first time on their own. I know how to manage my money, how to pay bills, how to cook, and how to do everyday tasks you need to take care of to survive. I can skip the "fall flat on your face" steps most take when on their own for the first time.
I'm not sure any of this makes sense. But hopefully you got something out of these ramblings. Till next time, take 'r easy.