Either my hiding skills have gotten worse or they are better finders as Cycle 3 has one main difference (or at least I think it does…maybe this is another tale of mine), but my children are very aware.
It was Benno who found me first crying hysterically as I lay balled up on our patio with the explicit goal to be alone. While I didn’t want him to see me like that and tried to pull myself together, the closer he got, I only got worse. Literally gulping for air as I felt his weight hit the cushion.
He just held me.
No words were exchanged. Not like I was capable of words, but he didn’t ask that of me. He just sat there. It was the kindest gesture I have ever felt. I wanted to tell him that. Tell him how proud I am to be his mom, but I couldn’t and even saying them in my head made the crying worse. Made me feel like a a shitty mom. But he didn’t seem to mind. He just sat there wrapped around me.
We did that for a whole 15 minutes. While that may not seem to be a lot of time. I don’t think I’ve had Benno’s full attention in absolute silence for 15 minutes ever. I would question if any parent has had devoted attention like that with with the barrage of better distractions from screens to games.
And then Jacob found us.
He, on the other hand, had lots of questions. “What’s wrong?” “Are you okay?” “What’s Going on ?!” He nuzzled his way between the embrace between Benno and me believing at first that benno must be the culprit .
He notices my arm. I am wrapped with bandages. These he knows. He knows what that means. “Did you have an IV today or shots?”
“IV.” This I could answer. “What is wrong” and “am I okay”… were questions I couldn’t. I wouldn’t even know what to say.
But Jacob did not stop. “Why?”
And I just said it. I have post-traumatic stress disorder and every year for some reason it flares up. It makes me really sad and I can’t stop crying. So the doctors are giving me medicine.
Benno just squeezed me, Jacob on the other hand, was just getting started.
He first explained to me the difference between a disease and a disorder. “Cancer is a disease, you have a disorder.” Normally I would marvel at Jacob’s understandings of things that barely I can, but I just couldn’t bear it..I told the boys I needed some space and to go and play. Benno obliged, Jacob followed, but 2 minutes later Jacob was back.
“You can’t be sad for no reason so what are you sad about?” It was clear he was not going to play. He wasn’t going any where.
“The world just feels mean to me. I don’t understand why there is so much pain and suffering and it doesn’t feel fair.” Looking back on it, this is probably a really unfair thing to say or put on an 8-year-old boy. His mother telling him the world sucks is probably not the most encouraging statement.
He asked for an example.
So many flooded my head. Gun violence, homelessness, and betrayal, but all felt a bit “R” rated so I told him that I hurt for some of my students. How stupid rules hurt kids. How it is so much easier to hurt than help and that didn’t make sense to me.
It was clear he disagreed. “Mom we can fix this. I’ll help. We can help your students.”
I quickly informed them that we can’t. But that wasn’t enough for Jacob. He clearly was not going to stop.
So I explained the entire thing to him. The issues in higher education that it’s really about money than the students.
Jacob had the solution. I need a build board. I needed a large sign to tell the world about them.
I don’t have access to a build board so this will do
So the rest of this post is me making good on a promise. Jacob told me that if I tell the story of one student the world would care. Alrighty then. I will use pseudonyms.
Meet Callie, one of the hundreds of students who I have held space for. One of the hundreds of stories I hear daily…
Callie’s father died when she was 10 and her mother just passed 8 months ago unexpectedly. She is 20 years old. She works in retail. Supports herself and a younger half sister completely and is smart as a whip. She is organized, she asks the right questions and she is educated on education. I do have to give this gen Z generation some props, they are not suckers. They walk into life with eyes of skepism. They do their research. I guess you have to when growing up with a phrase like “fake news.”
She wants to study graphic design. She explains her rationale. I am creative and good with computers and this is a job I can do on top of my existing job until I get more established.
Prior to her mom’s death she was enrolled at her local state university. While her mom’s death was the tipping point, prior to that she was already trying to drop out as even though she had a 4.0, she saw no value in her classes and after a year had not even had the opportunity to take a graphic design class. She would not have that opportunity to end of her sophomore year, and by then it would be too late to switch majors if she didn’t like it.
As I said, she is no dummy.
In addition, while she had become friends with her roommate, she found campus life shockingly isolating. She felt depressed and found herself between classes scrolling through tiktok by herself on a bench next to another student doing the exact same thing until the next class. She tried to meet 3 times with an academic advisor to see if she could find a way to stack her classes so at least she could work instead of spend time on her social media feed, but she waited weeks for an appointment and once she got a virtual one, she was informed that that wasn’t possible.
She became quite disillusioned with education. She asked for information on how to pause her education quoting financial stress (even though she was going for free), but never got a response. However, the day her mom died, she just packed up her shit and left. She is still on the school’s mailing list. They had no idea that she is not on campus. She even got her grades a “C” and three “Ds” in the mail. Not a question was made on how a straight A student all of a sudden went from C’s to D’s. Just a computer generated report. She is still trying to get someone on the phone to see if those grades can be taken off as she wasn’t there. She is still unsure what it all means regarding her student loans and scholarship.
She now has an understanding of all of that, but that is only through meeting me talking her through it.
Callie found MYX on tiktok. She was drawn to the community and travel. She applied. She was accepted and next step is meeting with the education team to curate her education to her unique goals. I was lucky enough to get her.
She cried in our meeting. I asked her if I said something that upset her. She was fast to say no and that she was just happy. No one has ever sit down with her talk about her hopes and dreams and explained to her her choices explaining the costs and benefits at the out front. I told her that the ROI on a degree in graphic design is poor (statistically speaking). Graphic designers get chosen by their portfolio not a piece of paper. I told her about the professional certifications out there by industry leaders like CarArts and how she can get that certification in one term and build her portfolio through real world experience at MYX. In two terms she can be off.
She did not stop thanking me and was so thankful of just the time. We hear that a lot.
But Callie can’t come.
Even though it is about 10x cheaper overall than the traditional route and she will walk away in 1/8th the time with the skills credentials to be a graphic designer with a portfolio AND have the benefits of life coaching and a small community that would know if Callie goes missing for months, MYX is not considered an “accredited education.”
She can’t click a button like last time and get student loans. We don’t qualify. AND she has no parents to underwrite a personal loan.
So Callie can’t come.
She is used to disappointments like this. She is stronger than even me. But I mourn for her and the hundreds of others that fall in her bucket. She is not alone.
For MYX to become accredited, we would have to become just like a traditional university. We would need all of our students to be degree seekers (even if the ROI is terrible!), we would need to have certain numbers of instructional hours, we would need to become the problem instead of the solution.
The fact that Callie can take out 1,000s of government student loans to go to her local community college with a 19% graduation rate, but can’t come to MYX with a 100% graduation rate, community and support, is just another example of the unfair qualities of the world.
Jacob said by just putting this in writing it will make a difference.
I know he is wrong, but a promise is a promise.