Is a college degree necessary for success? Yes, Yes, Yes! I am forty-three years old. I was wooed by MCI Telecommunications during a job fair in my senior year of high school in 1982. They were impressed by the fact that at eighteen I had lots of work experience. Not only did I take the usual after school babysitting, tutoring, cashiering, route but I had worked during my Junior and Senior year as a part time receptionist/file clerk after school and on Saturdays, and I knew the basics of office life pretty well. MCI had invited me for an interview along with four college graduates actively looking for a job, I still was undecided. I took the train ride down to the city and before I got home from the interview they had called and left a message with my mom saying that they wanted me to consider taking the position which was available two weeks after graduation. I really wanted to go to college but I was undecided and even though I had parents that were always supportive they were also very old fashioned and grew up in an era where they felt, a college education for a girl was unnecessary. They would have let me go if I so chose but there was no encouragement. I don’t blame them it was the way they were raised. They believed prince charming was going to come and sweep me off my feet and I would have a big house in the country, with four children and live happily ever after as “Miss June Cleaver of the New Millennium” Well guess what, that never happened.
As it turned out, prince charming was busy and his court jester actually showed up. Being young I had this fantasy of what a wonderful life I would have, and even though he was silly and immature he would change the minute we said “I Do”, so I decided to forgo my college education and take the job at MCI, after all they chose me over four college graduates because those women had never worked a day in their lives, they only had classroom smarts and no practical experience, I was the lucky one. The lucky one indeed. I’m sure now twenty-five years later those four women are very grateful for their college education even though it cost them one silly little administrative position.
I loved my job at MCI, I made the same amount of money that I make now twenty five years later, but I will explain that later. I was married two years later and my first baby a year after that. Everything was on track, except I was on the 1955 track and it was actually 1985.
In 1988 I had my second baby, I was a typical 1958 stay at home mom, with a husband that worked and played ball and had card night with his buddies. We bought a one bedroom co-op with my thought process being that we would keep selling and trading up and one day by a home and his thought process being “Wow, the building complex has a pool!” There we remained for eleven years. We both got older but he in years only. I got very resentful that I had to be the “grown up” all the time. He made the money, or should I say the bulk of the money and I did odd side jobs around my daughters’ schedules to take in a little extra cash. My dad had a deli which I worked in for free food and a small salary, but my ex-husband didn’t consider it really working since it was for my dad, even though I wrapped meat, cut cold cuts, and waited on customers for six hours a day. At the end of each of those days I picked up my daughters from school volunteered for a couple of hours for some school activity they were in, came home helped with homework, cooked dinner, etc., etc., etc. But he needed the extra activities with his friends because he actually had a job job. He was a school bus driver who worked two hours every morning and then two hours every afternoon, and on his swing time was on a bowling team. Do you see a pattern here?
A pattern leading right to divorce, after fifteen years of marriage. A divorce for which I was not only NOT sad, but quite relieved. This probably goes with out saying but he was not helpful at all with money, as a matter of fact he was quite stingy when it came to his children but very generous when it came to his new wife’s eight children from three other marriages or trysts I was never quite sure of the details. Unfortunately, the poor guy had a heart attack last year and died suddenly. Leaving no will, his wife, and step children pocketed everything he had. Telling my girls in no uncertain terms that they deserved nothing because they were both over eighteen, working, and going to school. Her eight children range from thirty years of age to five years of age but they are all ne’re do wells with no education and no jobs. I still had his pension which was promised to me in my divorce decree but lo’ and behold they cashed out a year before he died. I guess he didn’t expect to go so young and he figured by the time retirement age came he would tell me to go jump in a lake and the statute of limitations would be long over. But that wasn’t the case. The problem was that 75% of my divorce was due to his gambling problem. His new wife was a neighbor of ours with the same affliction. So the money that was ear marked for my children was gambled in Atlantic City, they went there for a couple of days every month. She had three children living home and was collecting about $800 a month for each because they were all “learning disabled” and they were on section eight so the rent was low. With all that money from the state plus low rent and food stamps, they were able to deposit in Atlantic City, Foxwoods, and Mohegan Sun a couple of times a month.
I on the other hand worked three jobs simultaneously, I was the office manager of a yacht club as my full time job, I bar-tended two nights a week and on weekends for said yacht club, and I worked in McDonald’s as the family night clown three nights a week. This is how I paid for rent, food, tuition. As I said he died suddenly at forty-three a year ago, and left $32,000 in a combination of child support arrears and stolen pension. I fought for months but he fixed it so that myself and my daughters got nothing and he also fixed it so that any legal papers I had were obsolete. Now not only do I work like a dog, because I lost all that child support arrears, with no hope of fighting for it, lost the pension, and lost the two hundred dollars a month I was getting I can’t even make ends meet. I pay my bills, my daughters buy food for the house and pay for their own tuition and my life has ended. I can’t go out with my friends, or on vacations, or even to a movie. Sometimes, I don’t even have a dollar to buy a cup of coffee in the morning.
I haven’t sent a birthday card, or bought a birthday or Christmas gift for anyone not even my daughters or parents in years. My clothes are all hand me downs from friends who were kind enough to think of me before sending there old stuff to the Salvation Army. I haven’t bought myself anything new in years, I can’t invite people over because I can’t afford company. Sometimes I long so deeply to just feel normal, there are times when I have to open a roll of toilet paper because I have no more napkins, or paper towels and I don’t have a dollar to buy it. I wouldn’t dream of going to Atlantic City, Foxwoods, Mohegan Sun or even buy a lottery ticket because each and every cent is so precious to me.
I know I have gotten away from the original theme of this story, however, I am trying to make a point. Had I gone to college, I might have been able to support myself and my children now, I may not have been making a fortune but I would at least have had the education to obtain a job where I’m making more than $33,000 a year and could at least afford the basic necessities like shampoo, soap, toothpaste. Yes, sometimes we do without, or we improvise. I now work at the Yeshiva University, where I am in the union. I took this job when my ex-husband re-married and decided that he wanted to cover his step children and not his real children. I left a job that I loved making $45,000 a year and took a $12,000 pay cut to be in a union that covered my children until they were twenty-two with health benefits. As wonderful as that is, to have good health coverage, how can you stay healthy when you can’t afford to eat, or even groom properly.
Now, getting back to the theme of this story, a college education. I am at the top of my game for me even to move up one grade level to the $38,000 a year salary range I need a BS and the levels after that a Masters. How do I obtain that now, I have two daughters who must graduate, they must. If they don’t I will have just created a viscous cycle of women who can’t take care of themselves. I will be happy when they achieve goals and realize dreams and do it because they are educated women. I will never experience that happiness for myself, my dreams my goals they have to be for my children now. Even though I am told by several people that my writing is moving, that I get my point across. Every job out there doesn’t require writing skill but a degree in writing from a university.
In a sentence, there is no such thing as success with out education, there is only disappointment, sacrifice, and hard work. Please stay in school, and encourage your daughters to stay in school. Prince charming doesn’t exist anymore.