Should the Grad School Bug be Killed or Honored? Grad School After 50

college boundIt’s happening again.  That secret desire to go to grad school is breaking into my thoughts and working its way through my fingertips, interrupting my online work to guide me (against my will) to grad school review sites and scholarship lists.  This annoying little meme creeps up in my brain every few months but I’m always able to drop kick him out of my mind with the stress of being a single parent and the struggle of making enough money to buy organic kibbles and bits and designer sweaters for my 3, four legged children.  Unfortunately, the act of stifling the grad school meme is getting harder and harder lately, and last night I took the step of beginning the application process.  But at 51, I can’t help but wonder, is enrolling in grad school the right thing to do?

I often think of the incredibly stylish woman I met the day I picked up my graduation package from the University of San Francisco.  Her name escapes me, but I vividly recall her stylish personal presentation and how her appearance completely defied her 62 years of life.  This woman had just completed her PhD, something she’d dreamed of doing for many years.  I couldn’t help but ask her why she would bother undertaking such a huge endeavor at this stage of her life; not to mention, she was retired so the degree wouldn’t serve to further her career.  Her response was this – one should never pursue higher education solely for a raise or a promotion. Higher education should be pursued for the sake of knowledge and the expansion of one’s mind.  Her excitement and wisdom was inspiring, but it didn’t completely satisfy my question.

So as I worked on my application last night, I pondered the following questions:  Do I have the right to pursue a graduate degree when I have a son who is just 2 years away from college?  I’m a single mom with a child who has a dead beat dad – meaning I was married to a man for many years who was able to erase from his memory the fact that he has a child.  We haven’t seen or heard from my ex-husband in more than10 years – in other words, there is no child support and my son’s college expense will be all mine.  Next, how wise is it to incur more debt when I’m still paying off undergrad loans?  True the outstanding balance isn’t huge (especially by today’s standards), but I’m still trying to recover from the great recession and it’s furloughs, wage reductions and of course we can’t forget, the foreclosure and bankruptcy that it left me with.

Putting my grad school concerns on paper illustrates the fact that my concerns are all based on money.  I’m fortunate to possess the confidence to know I can be successful in grad school, I don’t care if I’m the oldest person in class, and my job is laid back enough that I don’t have to worry about having the time to devote to the rigorous demands of the program.  So here I am with a little meme who won’t shut up and leave me alone – or should I say, I just really, really want to go to grad school.  I want to learn more, I want to know what else there is.  I want that thrill of challenging myself to do things I never thought I could do.  I want to meet new and diverse people – some I may not like so much and others I’ll love.  Who knows maybe there will be a promotion in my future, especially since I’ll probably be 90 and still working the 9-5 grind.   So If you know of any scholarships for middle age, single moms let me know.  I’ll be right here, writing my application essay.

 

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Letter to Sacramento City Council – A Plea for Humanity for Sacramento’s Homeless

ImageThis is an email that I sent to Steve Hansen, a member of the Sacramento City Council – 4th District. I want to make it clear that I have no issue with the proposed sports arena. I’m not for it, I’m not against it, I really don’t care about it.  I’m simply sick and tired of our society turning a blind eye to the overt suffering and despair of so many humans – our brothers and sisters if you will.  People don’t wake up in the morning and decide it’s a great day to become a homeless drug addict & defecate in front of public buildings.  I’m seeing veterans, women and young twenty somethings out there every day & my heart aches for them. So in my search for solutions, I’ve decided to start small. I’m simply asking for public porta potties to be installed throughout downtown Sacramento.  This would restore a small bit of dignity to those who are living on the streets, and those of us who frequent the downtown area wouldn’t have to worry about stepping in Uncle Jack’s poo at the light rail stop.  As always, I welcome your comments and thoughts.

Greetings, although I do not reside in District 4, I am deeply concerned about an issue that is becoming far too common in the downtown area.  I work for the Employment Development Department in the Labor Market Information Division.  Our office recently relocated from Franklin Blvd to the EDD headquarters on 8th/O Streets in a set of buildings often referred to as “the bunkers”.  When our office moved in September of 2013, we were all taken aback by the number of homeless people who we had to step over to get to our office in the morning.  But the bottles of urine along the walk ways and the human feces in the flower beds is completely appalling and I think brings shame upon our central city.  This afternoon as I walked up the ramp from my building right below the 8th/O light rail stop, I literally walked up on a woman’s bare behind as she was squatting over the ivy doing her business. This was at 1:30 on a Thursday afternoon.  Frankly that woman broke my heart.  I can only imagine the desperation one must feel being homeless, tired, and hungry; not knowing where they’re going to sleep at night and as if that’s not enough, not having any place to humanly relieve one ’s self.   I understand that homelessness is a ubiquitous issue that touches every major city within our great nation.  I also understand that homelessness is not an issue that is likely to be solved at the level of City Council; however providing strategically placed porta potties throughout the area can be done at this level.  I realize this solution comes with a price, however if we can push forward on a mega sports arena for the area, we can provide our tourists and citizens a humane and sanitary environment that doesn’t rival the conditions of a third world country.  I would love to discuss this issue with you further as I would greatly appreciate seeing this become an agenda item for the council.  Thank you for your time in reading this message.  I sincerely appreciate your attention.  Terilyn Jackson @gorivercity (Twitter & Facebook) & RiverCitySocialMedia.com

 

It Ain’t Easy Being Old

four_generations_hands  As an African American woman, I’ve pretty much seen it all when it comes to subtle forms of discrimination.  You know what I’m talking about, those quiet little nasties that only the dishee and the disher are likely to notice.  Such as the mommies who suddenly needed to grab their kids and scurry off when my son entered the sandbox with their children, or the server who lost his vision as my family waited to be served in an empty restaurant, I could go on, but that would sully the point of this story.  What I’m talking about here spans all races.  I’m talking about the rude, dismissive and opportunistic treatment of the elderly.

 I first noticed a problem when my normally confident and incredibly talkative 77 year old mom was unable to answer any questions after her medical appointment with a particular doctor.  Knowing that leaving a medial appointment without a thorough understanding of what was said was completely unlike my mom, I decided to accompany her and dad to her next appointment.

The folks were in the exam room with the doctor when I arrived, and I will never forget the look of sheer relief on their faces, when I walked into that room. The doctor was hurriedly spewing medical terms at them until mom asked him to slow down and explain things in laymen terms. The doctor became visibly irritated.  He slowed down, but he also adopted a tone that left no room for doubt; my mom was the most stupid patient he’d ever encountered.

I saw my dad deal with a similar situation when he took his truck to a local repair shop due to an ungodly clunking noise it made every time he drove it.  The mechanic told dad it would cost $200 dollars for a diagnostic test and someone would contact him the following morning with the test results and the repair price.  A week went by with no call from the mechanic.  Dad called the mechanic on the second week and was told that nothing wrong with his truck; however, just to make sure, the mechanic wanted to take the truck home for the weekend.  Another week went by and no call from the repair shop.   Finally, dad demanded his truck.  The mechanic told him no problem, his truck had been ready for days and he could come anytime.  Dad’s pride slid down to his toes as he drove his loudly clunking truck home and parked it in the drive way.

These are just the 2 most recent events that I’m aware of with my parents.  Unfortunately, there have been many situations that have raised my suspicions.  Such as the expensive data plan mom was talked into even though dad does not have a smart phone and she’s never used an entire gig on her iPhone, and the lady at the deli counter who helped the harried young mother ahead of mom, despite the fact that mom had been standing in line for ten minutes prior to the woman’s arrival.  And let’s not forget the constant phone calls and emails they receive requesting their personal information so their home can be sold, (it’s not for sale) or they can be rescued from an assortment of computer hackers, credit card thiefs, and Panamanian  drug lords.

My parents’ generation are proud, determined and fiercely independent people.  They came from sharecroppers, factory workers and housekeepers and pushed their way into the front door of the American dream. For many of them, asking for help with daily tasks is a sign of weakness. Unfortunately, there is no shortage of people who are all to willing use the pride of the elderly as a tool to take advantage of them.

The moment I saw my parents faces at the doctor’s office, I realized that our roles had officially shifted. The real challenge is learning to listen to what my parents don’t say,  because in their silence often lie the signals that help is needed or that they are scared.

Please don’t get me wrong, being a sandwich person is not easy and I’m no saint.  My parents, just like my teenager, frequently drive me nuts, but I’m immensely grateful to have both of them still with me.  I just wish the world treated them with more compassion, patience and some plain old fashioned respect.

If you’re a sandwich person – raising kids, while caring for elderly parents, I’d love to read your stories!