This is an autobiographical post. The names of people and places may be changed.
We decided to write autobiographical posts about the colorful life we have lived. There will be tales of sleeping in a campervan on the beach, of defending a bird’s nest from a snake, and of running away from wolves while sick with bronchitis. There will be tales of diagnosis with PTSD and ADHD and how it changed our lives, of meeting biological family, and of job loss. It’s a tale of overcoming challenges, of finding out who we are, of love, hope, cats, and of a marriage that’s gotten stronger through it all.
Autobiography Post 6
Dorian graduated high school a year before me, before either of us knew each other. We both had the same goals, however. We wanted to apply for colleges outside of our state focused on the creative arts. Ones that would help us on our journeys as writers and creators, and get us networked with the right people and organizations.
But our families had other ideas. They chose the colleges for us, saying that is where they wanted us to go even though the right degree programs weren’t available. My family said they would die if I ever left the state. Dorian’s family simply said it was out of the question without an explanation.
I remember a specific conversation with my adoptive father.
“You need to go here and become a teacher,” he said.
“But I don’t want to be a teacher,” I protested. “I hate speaking in front of other people.”
“It doesn’t matter if you like it or not. It’s a dependable job, and that’s all that matters.”
I won that argument, at least. Even though it wasn’t my ideal college for my career goals, I got to major instead in psychology.
College Days – Talia
I went to two different colleges. The first was a community college where I got my associate’s degree in psychology. I loved psychology classes, and I enjoyed being on my own. I finally got time and space to myself away from my helicopter family. I will admit with a laugh I got so caught up in my own freedom I skipped classes and browsed shops. I didn’t have money to buy anything, I just liked finally being out for once. I’d never been allowed to go out on my own unless it was for school purposes.
Money was tight. I was only allowed to work a few hours a week at a local pizza place. I would split up the $70 paycheck across the two weeks to pay for gas, and I would divide it to spend $3 a day on my lunch. But it was my own money, and that made me happy.
After my associate’s I went to a new college to complete my bachelor’s in psychology. I went to many classes with the same people, and enjoyed their company. There wasn’t anything around this campus, so I spent my free time walking around the buildings and getting exercise.
I should note that neither of these colleges had dorms. I was encouraged by my adoptive parents to stay at home and help out with the family. The idea of living with strangers also made me feel very anxious. I didn’t know it at the time, but I had CPTSD, and one of its hallmarks is high social anxiety.
I was very proud of myself for graduating with a 3.5 GPA, and still am proud of my degrees even though I am still paying off the loans.
College Days – Dorian
Dorian went to another local college and did not stay at a dorm, either. He chose broadcast journalism for his major, which was as close as he was going to get to a degree in television and game production. His parents forced him to go to school full time and work full time at the local news station simultaneously. Needless to say, he was exhausted constantly and often fell asleep at the college’s library or on the roof hangout areas.
A high point of his college experience was helping out with its local radio station. He got to be involved creatively, planning and recording promotions.
“You have a talent for this,” his manager told him. “You’re really good.”
School was never Dorian’s strong point. He’s exceptionally creative, innovative, and intelligent. But at the time he didn’t realize he had ADHD. And it made the traditional school format of long lectures and memorization-based exams very difficult. But none of that was the reason that, despite completing a full four years, he didn’t graduate with his bachelor’s.
When it came time to graduate, he was told by the registrar he hadn’t taken all the required classes. He would still need to stay another year.
“I don’t understand,” Dorian protested. “I took every class my advisor told me I needed to take.”
Upon examining the classes, Dorian discovered that his advisor that was supposed to help him graduate simply had him enroll in all of his own classes. Not the classes he actually needed.
Tired of the long hours, and already promoted to Associate Producer at his job, Dorian left the college.
I think most would agree the American education system doesn’t work right. Some of the best jobs we both have gotten in our career didn’t ask about our college at all, and were more interested in our 10+ years of experience and skillsets. But that isn’t always the case.
Even though I’ve been writing professionally for years, and have won awards for my work, I’ll still have employers tell me they want someone with a journalism or creative writing degree. If my colleges had offered it, I certainly would have done so.
“I see you majored in psychology,” one interviewer said to me. “How did you overcome that challenge to make a career shift and get where you are?”
“It’s a misconception that psychology is just therapy,” I answered. “All of my courses were focused on communications, media, and consumerism. I feel that has made me a better writer.”
Even though, years later, Dorian did get an associate’s degree in psychology, and even though he’s an executive producer for television, the lack of a bachelor’s is still an uphill battle for him.
Let’s hope there’s an easier future for those that didn’t have the best options, or any options, when it comes to college. My heart goes out to those that never even got the chance to take classes due to money or family obligations.