It was 10 years ago this month that I graduated high school. And I had dreams at that time. I originally wanted to be a history teacher by 16 because I just wanted to share my passion of history onto others, despite the difficulties of being a teacher. Unfortunately, my own history teacher laughed at me and told me to chose another career since he admitted he made a mistake. So, that sent me away from that path. To this day, I regret listening to him because I did have a passion, a nearly unquestionable passion for history. I still do. But, the only way I get to teach is to the very few teenagers who seek my help.
Upon graduation, that's all the principle and staff told us, "Go to college! Get out of here. Go to college and life a normal life." That just added to the desperation of trying to find something to do with my life.
After being scared from history, I got into art and I was fairly decent at it. And then, I went to some Pixar and Dreamworks movies...the original Shrek and Toy Story 2 and I fell in love with computer animation. I thought how great it would be to work in an animation studio, creating movies for children, telling stories and having my name in movie credits. So, I took several months trying really hard to get my admissions portfolio ready for this art college that shall remain nameless...but requires an art portfolio to be considered for admission. (Note: Any art school that doesn't ask for a portfolio, don't trust them) So by the end of 2001, I had everything all drawn and painted and I sent it in.
The school replied that for the computer animation program, my portfolio was unsatisfactory. And it hurt, I was sad, but I wish the school would have said "You are not good enough for admission", but they didn't...
Instead, they recommended I study traditional art....
And keep in mind, I was still a naive guy looking to escape the small town and the rundown trailer park that I resided in...I just wanted out so badly like everyone else who went to college. I never really stopped to look over my options but there I was...with a school saying "You can still come to this campus in the fall..."
And before I knew it, I was in the financial aid office, filling out my loan papers out of desperation, the lady smiling, going "when you're creating storyboards and painting children's book covers, you can more than pay it back."
And that was just music to this small town hick's ears.
And even though my mother had bad credit from her credit cards, they still approved the PLUS loan for her...
So that's 2 things I'll always wonder about...How a fancy and prestigious art school accepted a below mediocre student and how my mother with bad credit was approved for the PLUS loan.
I get to the school and I can't wait to draw and paint while other kids in college stress over research papers and lab work...And I just plain sucked. I was in a room of DaVinci's and Picasso's, the next generations of Walt Disney and Donald Bluth hopefuls...and I was the worst student.
When we put our art in the wall for review, I was always pointed out as the weakest artist. And there were times I would go to the office and ask "Am I going to get kicked out, or do I drop out? Do I transfer?"
And each time, they replied "We are not kicking you out. And you can't really transfer since art credits get you very little at other institutions."
I wish I had been kicked out. Why was I taking out 20k loans just to be embarrassed in class? Question 3: Why wasn't anyone really straight with me? There was a time I wanted out and they talked me out of leaving.
Ten years after high school, where am I? Well, I can't even draw a straight line, I hate art that much. I'm barely able to afford rent and electricity, and because I have to little-to-no experience in anything else outside of art, I'm useless on the job field. I've had so many interviews, with plumbers, silk screeners and warehouse, who said they like me but no experience...no job. I'm left just scrapping together enough to pay off my living expenses. There is nothing left for Sallie Mae or anyone else...I'm in default and under a giant mountain of debt.
I'm not telling this story to be pitied or get sympathy. I don't need it. Chances are, I may not be alive for my 20th reunion. And that's okay, I accept that. I've kissed away dreams of getting married, owning a home, starting a family. I'm good. I don't want to drag a wife down with me, or be unable to provide for my kids.
No, I only tell this story because its something I would never wish on anyone else.
I wish I could just tell myself back in 2001...Going to college wasn't everything. I wish I could have told myself to take my time, figure out who I really was, what would really make me happy and if I had to stock shelves at a super market until I was 25, then so be it. Baz Luhrman said in that Sunscreen Song, "Don't feel bad if you don't know what you want to do with your life, at 22 or at 40." And I should have listened.
Everyone has their own pace in life, don't force it or rush it...Just be patient and you'll find what you're looking for.
And don't believe the lie that if you don't escape your hometown for a while, you're a failure. Because that is the biggest load I've ever heard. I've had several friends stay at the supermarkets and pharmacies, worked their way up from stock to manager and now own homes and have families. Like I said, everyone has their own pace in life.
In the end, do what you feel like. Go to college, stay in your hometown, work your way up the chain, just do something that will make you happy. And always know, life never goes according to plan.
As for me, I know I made mistakes. I never bothered to look at the fine print or even research Sallie Mae. I was a desperate kid, and the faults of a desperate kid have shut many doors in my life. So, I'll admit fault to that. I don't know how much time I have left here...but, I just want people to learn from my mistakes. I want that on my tombstone...Learn from Where I have failed.
To the rest, I say...Keep fighting, tell your story, write to your congressmen, talk to the media, join Alan Collinge and his mission to restore the rights.
Good Luck and God Be With You.