Inclusivity

These days it is hard to not see a conversation on Facebook or social media about inclusivity.  In some ways, I don’t even know where to begin, but here as a few of my thoughts on what has been happening in our country.

Education

Americans are experiencing the inflation of education, in which the importance of a College education has been stressed so much that it is integral to our national identity.  Yes, an education is something no one can take away from you, but as I walked around in Target yesterday with my son, I heard a woman talking to her young daughter saying something I have heard a hundred thousand times.

“If you go to school and get good grades, go to college and get an education, you’ll get a good job and you won’t need a boyfriend or a husband to get nice things.  You can have them all on your own!”

Yes, independence!  Great!  Education.  Great! But here’s the bullshit we are all fed from a young age.  “If you go to college, you can get a good job…”  I remember being told this when I was a kid.

I watched my dad come home from the coal mine, blowing black dust out of his nose, coughing his guts up every morning before he drove off to the pit in -30 F weather to work a ten hour shift.  He hated his job.  It was backbreaking work.  The money was good, but in a boom/bust lifestyle, it was difficult.

My mom got to see doors closed because the jobs she applied for were going to people with a Bachelor’s degree.  Later, in her 50s, she got a BA and by then, doors were getting closed on her because they were now looking for an MA to fill those positions.

My grandparents ran a trucking business, which they sold and retired on on their mid-50s.  They warned against running a business because it was so much work and so much of a hassle.  My great-grandpa had started the company and he had an eighth grade education.

I hear a lot of “You just can’t do that anymore.”

I have to wonder why.

Gatekeepers

I got to thinking about this as I walked around the place where I work.  My day job is at the same university where I got my BA.  I haven’t gone far, considering the job I worked as a student was just down the hall as a computer lab consultant.  I have 16 years in the same building right now.

I work with a population of older women who got jobs here when you only needed a high school degree to work as an office clerk.  Some of them have retired with 35+ years in their positions, accumulating a lot of work experience in what they do.  However, when they retire, the jobs are opened for people with BAs, MAs, and knowing a second language.  A lot of this is because as an institution of higher learning, we ought to at least look the part.

Office staff are “educated” while custodians, maintenance, and food staff are not.  The university is drinking its own Kool Aid.  The funny thing is that even though some of us “educated” employees are independent thinkers, have a wide range of talents and backgrounds, we are continually reminded of our place.

We don’t have letters after our names.  No Ph.Ds.  So when we are working or having a discussion, those who do get to be called upper administrators or faculty, they have no qualms with interrupting whatever is going on to get what they need done.  And you know what?  A lot of people are happy to allow this.

In this country, we stand in awe at those who have amassed an education.  We consider them our “experts” even though so much of what the news reports as breaking news is just gleaned from peer reviewed papers professors have to write to keep their jobs.  And a whole bunch of other professors can refute these papers and have their differing opinion published to keep their jobs.

Really what it boils down to is a lot of people who never had to graduate high school.  They make a comfortable living dispensing degrees and holding or shutting the gates on others as they see fit.  And who tells us an advanced degree is the best way to be successful in this country?

The higher education system.

Drinking the kool-aid

Think about that.  Remember when Phillip Morris used to tell us how healthy cigarettes were?  Or what about the companies that made margarine as a healthier alternate to butter?  This country is now polarized.

We see a lot of “woke” or educated people whose perception of common sense is vastly different than the salt of the earth people who still live here.  We are led to believe that Trump won the election because of Russian collusion, or maybe even racism.  I see more of an indoctrination of the “educated” who also tend to have more liberal leanings.  Because as a person who has been through the system, I can assure you that being told about my privilege, my whiteness, and my affluence is ruining the lives of the same people of color or those poor uneducated bastards who would love to be in college right now but can’t, just reminds me that people who bought into the lie of “get an education and you will get a good job” look down their noses at plumbers and electricians and people who own their own sanitation businesses.

While an “educated” man such as myself is paid less than a new hire with zero experience just coming into this institution. Much less than someone who sells beer to restaurants for a living. Because being saddled with $100k in student loan debt makes sense when you are getting a degree to teach English for $15 an hour.

I’m smarter than you so I know better

These are the “smart”people who plaster Facebook with diatribes of how the Right are Nazis.  Where did they learn that?  Because the people who didn’t go to college, usually don’t flex their intellectually superior nuts like that.

I walk on these grounds without concern, because I went through the system and I no longer hold it in the same awe as someone who didn’t.  Certainly not like that lady in Target.  I make a living from being here.  But I also know I am not a part of it other than a cog in the machine.  It exists because it reminds everyone how important it is.  How successful those at the top are.  How the idea of not having it limits capable people who are brilliant, but don’t have the degree to validate this.

But how important is it, really?

Does the professor calling a towtruck from the side of the road consider this whenever he gets a flat he has no idea how to fix on his own?

I can see why Mike Rowe made a whole living off telling people the importance of trade professions. Or maybe that’s how my lens is tinged because I’ve worked here for so long and see just how ridiculous it all is.

I have known people who make six figures who have considered themselves underachievers, because unlike me, they didn’t get their BA.  People, I went to college to make that kind of money and I probably never will.  Definitely not in my major’s field. Back in the day, I was told to better myself, just like that little girl, and that meant going in a different direction than what my parents did. That meant college.  What would my life have been like had I gone to a trade school, rather than driving a desk around people who are infinitely wiser just because they sat through six more years of school?

I’d probably be on vacation right now.  Running my own company.  Cashing checks.  That’s what people do who have worked a job for 20 years solid usually.  They aren’t just sitting down the hall from where they worked as a student.

If you are making a good living, regardless of where or if you went to college, you won.

There is no rulebook

Single parenting is possibly one of the most confusing landscapes to navigate.  It’s bad enough when you are married and at least have another opinion or in the case of a relationship that is crumbling, a significant difference in how you think parenting should be done.  When you are a single parent, a lot of what you are going through is done with the guidance of example or watching your friends and family fail miserably.

Honestly, I’m just making up my own rulebook as I go.  I’m hoping some of this helps you too.

Teenagers are hard

Teenagers are dreaded in the world of parenting.  What I can say about them is they will start to smell very bad.  They will test the limits of your love for them on a continual basis.  They will break your heart.  They are supposed to do this.  Otherwise, you wind up with people who are comfortably attached to you and dependent on you for the rest of your life.

I see a lot of single parents who are heading in this direction.  Sometimes I think they miss the point of reproduction and raising kids.  They are not permanent fixtures in your household.  These are human beings and you have been tasked with the job of making them capable and versatile enough to withstand the pressures and hazards of adulthood.  It is not your duty to buy them ice cream, cell phones, stuffed toys, $200 shoes, cars, or any other damned thing they want.  For one thing, they won’t appreciate it if you do and another thing, at some point the idea of the whole thing is they become independent enough to get this stuff on their own.

That’s why they are insufferable jerks to you.  It is a biological drive to push away from you.  The same reason tiny little birds hurl themselves out of the nest and sometimes they fly and sometimes they hop around on the ground until a weasel eats them or they figure out how to fly back into the tree.

Smaller kids

Smaller kids are still fun and cuddly and want hugs and think you are a superhero.  They have not had the overdose of estrogen and testosterone that makes people crazy.  They probably talk to you in a very wise, logical way.  Especially if you are a single parent, because they have been going through the exact same bullshit you have, and they are trying to figure out how to love you both.  They will develop some pretty cunning coping mechanisms in the process.  They also need help with figuring out boundaries since single parents are sometimes bad at those.

They might drag you all over the Renaissance Festival wanting to eat all the food and ride all the animals and throw knives and shoot arrows and all of it, but it is okay to tell them no.  Otherwise, you will find yourself without any food in the house, but your kid has a bunch of experiences they probably won’t remember doing in a few years.

If you want to show your kid you love them, give them a hug.  Take them on a walk and listen to them.  Amusement parks are awesome, but goodnight hugs get you more miles.

New Relationships

There is no rulebook.  When someone new comes into your life, one of the things you will want to do as a single parent is to shelter your kids from the possibility of more heartache.  You are projecting.  You went through a lot of pain either in your divorce or other failed relationships.  You should protect your kids, but also, don’t shelter them.  This is a nice time to show them a couple of different things.

First of all, you can show them that people can be affectionate and communicate and not be at each other’s throats constantly.  This is a good time to model what they might pick up one day when they start dating or beginning healthy relationships of their own.  What they saw before when you were married was not healthy.  If you are in a relationship and you have doubts that you want to model that kind of situation for your kids, you might reconsider if that is the kind of relationship you should even be involved in.

I know a woman whose kid never met her boyfriend of 5 years.  I think he met him when they finally got married. I can’t even wrap my head around that.  I dated someone who didn’t meet my kids for a few years and by the time she did, they were happy to include her in their lives.

I soon learned that her hesitation had more to do with her inability to commit more than it did their capacity to welcome someone new. Her departure made me reluctant to let my kids meet anyone in the future.

But kids are resilient.  They have a lot of love to share, even if our hearts have hardened off a little bit and we have become jaded.

Failure

The other thing that is vital to show your kids is something many of us might have been fortunate to have been equipped with when growing up: the ability to give up.  The reality of long term relationships is how so many of them don’t last.  The divorce rate is well over half in the US right now.  That is not to say that the 45% who stick it out are happy either.  When adults are committed, sometimes they do everything they can to “make things work.”  When things fall apart, they get bitter, they fight, they play petty bullshit games.  They poison one parent against the other, because they can’t accept that their kids can be happy without a personality disorder to keep them from making good connections with others.

So, people continue on through their lives, hopping from one failed relationship to the next, like stones in a raging river.  Mostly they keep going for what was familiar, which was dysfunction.  Their kids see this.  They take it to heart.

What kids could see is a healthy adult not forcing themselves to “make this work” and instead saying “I’m not putting myself through a bunch of crap anymore.”  Maybe if kids saw this more than they did the emotional devastation, settling, or allowing one adult to push their will onto their parent, they would be able to make better boundaries.  And not repeat the mistakes of their parents.

The Takeaway

What I’m trying to say is this.  If something isn’t working, it’s okay to let it go, even if your kids are used to that person.  And if something is working, you don’t have some timeline or a rulebook to follow.  It’s very binary.  It’s either working, or it’s not.  Trust that.  Trust that people come and go from our lives every day.  The good ones will stay, the bad ones should leave.

If you haven’t done the work to recognize which is which, then don’t subject your or your kids to either.  Stop, figure it out, be single if you must.  But be content.  But don’t rely on your kids to fill that void either. They are not a replacement for a partner.

One day, they will grow up and go away.  That’s the entire point.