I’ve been gestating in the cozy amniotic sac of “going back to school” for entirely too long now. Over the past several years, different obstacles have stood between myself and some type of legitimate adult career path. As much as it shames me to say it, my own hobby has held me back. Not in any significant way, mind you; there’s never been any point where I was debating buying yarn or paying tuition. But the thought has crossed my mind, in bold enough typeface to give me pause: if you go back to school, you’ll never have time to knit.
This, while true, should be embroidered and framed and displayed as an exhibit in my own personal museum of misplaced priorities. Of course I’ll have less time for the things I enjoy, provided I actually give my schooling the attention it deserves. It’s temporary. Besides, having finally seen my school transcripts, I really think I’ve spent enough of my life screwing around and doing what I want to do, rather than what needs to be done.
Speaking of which, my transcripts have been, up until very recently, the largest and heaviest obstacle in my path. My college transcript was in prison for about a decade, as a result of my failure to repay a promissory note for what ended up being my final semester. I never took out loans for tuition; I got by paying my own way and through the good graces of my mother. As a result, my schedule was erratic, and there were several semesters where I was only able to take 1 or 2 classes. By the 5th year, I was in a kind of do-or-die situation. I don’t know if I was on academic probation, but I was definitely on thin ice as far as my nursing instructors were concerned. I had already failed my labor & delivery nursing class and was making one last-ditch effort to pass Public Speaking, but my head was elsewhere (I was working full-time and in a long-distance relationship, so I was basically up all night 2 nights a week and driving 3 states away every 3 or 4 weekends).
In the end, I just stopped going to school and giving a shit about it. A year later I would move in with the guy I was dating. Two years after that I moved in with the guy I eventually ended up marrying. Seven years after that, I ended up basically where I am now; in a job I tolerate because my options are extremely limited. While I have experience and knowledge that could, were we living 40 years in the past, have gotten me a decent middle-class life with any number of employers, I don’t have what employers in this day and age want for, well, basically anything. I don’t have any certification or degree. And so when I look for jobs, I have a very narrow scope of what I can realistically apply for. I can’t even get a job as a nursing assistant, in spite of the fact that I’ve done the work of a nursing assistant for years. Because the years I did that work, I was in school. As I no longer am, I would have to pay somewhere in the neighborhood of $1000 and take 3 months worth of classes to get a piece of paper that says I can do the work I already know how to do.
And honestly? I’d do it. Even though it would be tedious and boring and kind of a travesty to pay that much for knowledge and skills I already have, I’d jump on it if I could find a program with night or weekend hours. But I’ve scoured the region, and every single CNA course expects students to be available from 8 or 9 am until 2 or 3 pm. Which is a bit of a problem when you work Monday-Friday, 8-5. Had I gotten the motivation to do this 3 or 4 years ago, it would have worked out perfectly, since I was on night shifts then. I remain ever vigilant in seeking jobs with a more desirable schedule (I hate working 5 8s), but I stand at a disadvantage without already having that certification.
Anyway, I finally got my transcripts out of jail. It took 18 months or so of wrangling. Not only did I have to figure out who to pay it to (the school had turned the debt over to the state) and how, I had to send the school proof that the debt had been satisfied (another month of bureaucratic constipation). Then I had to deal with waiting for paper copies of the transcript to arrive, after already having paid for 2 digital copies that wouldn’t load correctly. Today I marched my ass up to the community college to talk to a counselor, to try and figure out what would transfer and what my next steps would be. And after wasting about 45 minutes finding a place to park and the actual counseling office, I was told that they were no longer accepting walk ins, and the soonest appointment was a month away.
My aggravation and frustration with the school in question truly have no limits. This is the second time I’ve tried to set in motion the creaking machine of higher education, and the second time I’ve left pissed off and no closer to my goals. I left work early (something I am loath to do) just to try and get this done, since their hours are, again, completely and totally inconvenient to those of us who work 9-5 jobs. Which, correct me if I’m wrong, but isn’t half the point of a community college so that working people can attend school at convenient times?
This wasn’t even this first waste of time at this stupid school. I went down there a few months ago for placement testing. I went there after work one day, because their hours were listed as ending at 6. What I didn’t realize (possibly because I’ve worked exclusively in environments where our goal was to be helpful to the customer or patient) was that by “8:30-6” they did not mean that if you arrived at their facility between 8:30 and 6 you would be tested. They meant that their employees must leave by 6, so if you want to be tested, you better show up by 4:30. (I’ve never tried to get there early, but I can only imagine that they don’t actually begin seeing students at 8:30, that’s just when their employees clock in; they still have 45 minutes to an hour to get coffee, gossip, get the machines up and running, etc.)
This is aggravating enough on its own, but then there’s the fact that the campus, rather than being centrally located, is in the far northeast corner of town, and the layout of the city is completely ridiculous; from where I live, you have to take 2 different freeways to get there, and to get from one freeway to the other, you must go through downtown. I am not even close to kidding about how completely stupid this setup is.
Several times now, I have made this ridiculous trip and accomplished exactly diddlysquat. The first time, for the placement testing, I ended up wasting not only my time, but money. I had paid for a day pass to park, and after standing around an hour and not getting to do the one thing I specifically came to do, I asked if there would be a way to get the parking pass refunded. The guy at the testing center said I would if I talked to public safety. When I went back another day (again having to leave work early), I went to the public safety office and made a polite request to either get my $5 back, or get a 1-day pass for free so I could take my test that day.
The student employee in that position probably takes a lot of abuse. I’m not saying the low-level flunky deserves it, but I can certainly understand why the majority of the people they deal with are pissed. College parking is insane. Oftentimes people pay hundreds of dollars a semester for a pass only to not be able to find parking on campus because the school oversold the passes, and the official excuse is that the pass isn’t a guarantee of a spot, just that you won’t get a ticket if you do get lucky and find one.
But I was nice (because I always am to strangers, especially when I’ve worked up the nerve to ask them for something), and she was a bitch. Her response was “well, we all have to pay to park here.” Which is true (and shitty, especially in the case of the employees), but they also get something in return. They get an education, or a paycheck. If I pay to park to conduct business and can’t conduct my business, I have wasted my money. And it doesn’t give me a favorable opinion of the business in future dealings. She also told me that there was free curb parking on the back side of campus. Which, if I had known that, was what I would have done in the first place. But there was no mention of that on the website; in fact, the page for the testing center specifically instructs you to get a one-day pass from the vending machine.
My tolerance for BC’s shittiness was, admittedly, already low when I got there today. And I know it wasn’t the school’s fault that it was rainy. It’s probably not entirely within their control that it’s depressing, run-down, understaffed, and difficult to navigate. But all of those factors pushed me over the edge. I don’t care how long I end up having to pay back loans. I will pay ridiculous amounts of money to go to a school where they actively work to try and win me over and get me to attend, over an institution where the attitude is “go here or not, what do I give a fuck?”