So many things afoot; it’s hard to believe it was just a week ago I posted on my flight from Boston. I spent time with family. Moved into my new, temporary, super cushy digs. Rafted the North Fork of the American River. Drank lots of wine and beer. Met new people. Swam in the woods (in a pool in the woods). Bathed in the moonlight. Spent too many late hours texting with an old friend. And, yes, bought myself a new motorcycle. Isn’t she pretty? (@HondaMotorsports <- just sayin’ I am in the market if you wanna sponsor me as I ride across America on this #Rebel500. Never hurts to ask, right?)
As some of you were, perhaps rightfully, confused about this purchase seeing as how I bought a motorcycle in Boston last month, let me explain. (Isn’t she pretty too? #HondaRebel for good measure.) I bought a second bike because, well, I could. Was it a good idea? Yes. Was it necessary? I think so. Will I sell one? Probably? Was is irresponsible? Yeah it was. That’s how this mid-life crisis stuff works.
I am told I can be impulsive sometimes and I suppose this latest episode is another addition to the long list if big irresponsible things I’ve done throughout my life.
Reflecting in my long life of wreckless behavior, my first big rash decision happened when I was 17 years old. Not to dwell on details, but as laid on the floor of my childhood home deflecting the full-fisted blows my dad was raining down on me, I decided, in that moment of crystal clarity, this would not happen again. I was gone.
In a brash and bold move, I didn’t run away.
I put my head down and worked two jobs plus continued periodically helping my dad clean offices for his janitorial franchise. I turned 18 and kept working – waiting tables for $2.13/hour plus tips, manning the entry booth at the state park and slinging candy in a store at the mall. With stubborn determination to leave and never look back, every spare cent was put away.
Three months after graduation, I moved into a small apartment in a very-less-than-desirable part of town. I furnished it with the bed and dresser I took from home, a black and white TV that sat on a milk crate, a ratty old couch propped up with bricks for legs and a discount store kitchen kit. A month later, my dad threatened to call the cops and say I stole the Jeep I drove unless I moved back home. I impulsively paid cash for a beat up old Toyota Tercel hatchback and quitely parked that Jeep in his driveway in the middle of the night.
While some insisted waiting a year to start college was disastrous for my future. Odds were against me ever attending college after a gap year. I recklessly worked my ass off for a year. I split time waiting tables between two pizza joints because neither offered full time and I continued on at the state park. A year later, I packed myself up and moved 70 miles away to start school, dragging my soon-to-be husband and ex-husband along (a story for another day)
I foolhardily attended classes before approval of my financial aid package. You see, according to the US government, a 19-year-old is not financially independent when it comes to college loan and grant consideration. Forget about all the other things the US Government thinks a 19-year-old can do. Even with working 20-30 hours a week at an off-campus big box store and another 20 hours a week at an on-campus fast food chain, we couldn’t pay for classes, pay rent and feed ourselves without financial aid. Oh, that included my soon-to-be husband/ex sort of working full time when he felt like it painting houses (give credit where credit is due). And that was for state school.
In a strange mental gymnastics, I called myself “lucky” to have a police report saying my dad was convicted of assault and battery against me. The US government considered this bit of “fortune” enough to call me financially independent for one year only making me eligible to get loans for the very education that would allow me more financial success. Every year for five years, I attended classes without payment until my appeal was approved yet again. Some years, that approval wouldn’t come until that last week to drop classes.
One year, I made an impulsive decision to waste some of hard earned cash on a scholarship search firm. When I got a list of eligible scholarships, I applied for ever single one whether it was $50 or $1000. I wrote aspirational essays, sent in transcripts and subjected myself to interviews. I didn’t get them all. I didn’t get enough to fully pay tuition and housing, but I reduced my loan burden by thousands. (Side note: Not one award was gender or race-based. They were all merit based. Of course, that didn’t stop small-minded assholes with half my GPA from implying my gender and race helped.)
Later, on a whim, after an off-handed suggestion by a professor, I applied for a National Science Foundation grant for graduate studies. The NSF grants is a pretty big fucking deal and it pays everything for three years of graduate studies. By then, my soon-to-be was now an already-ex, so I whimsically thought, “why not?” and went for it. Impulsive, I know. Since I didn’t think highly of my chances, I also applied to the most outlandish, top-rated schools I could think of – MIT, CalTech and Sothern Cal (for good measure). Go big or go home.
Then, before NSF grants were awarded, I found out that I got in to all of them. On impetuous, I rescended my acceptance of a job and decided I would go to MIT. (BTW, my buddy that did take that job spent years living in Hawaii. Who got the better deal?) I had no way to pay for MITs whopping bill yet, but when you are as irresponsible as I am, you say “MIT or bust.” My gamble paid off; “luckily” that grant came through.
Oh my, this post is verging toward a short novella. And at the start of a holiday weekend, none-the-less.
As you can see, the irresponsibility in my life is a long and sordid story. So, I will pick this up later. I promise, the next installment will explain how my history of impulsive behavior led me to buying two motorcycles.
Happy living and happy Fourth of July!