I just spent the morning talking with my partner’s mother. We have so much in common but we’re two very different people from very different backgrounds. She was raised in a life of privilege where she wanted for nothing and was always cared for. However, her father made her work for the things he provided and it built her character and work ethic. I was raised always wanting for something. Maybe we would have food but my mom was never home between work and her drug habit. Or maybe she was with myself and my siblings more but we were living in a battered women and children’s shelter and were struggling to get by. Sometimes she was just gone and there was no food, no stability, and no love. What’s worse is who she chose to involve in her life. I always had a roof over my head but I had to fear who would sneak into my bedroom in the middle of the night or worry that what got me yelled at yesterday would get my arm broken today. By 14 I was completely on my own. I always knew no one would ever pay for me to go to college. I knew I would have to work for every single thing I wanted in life. I knew I came from nothing and would be given nothing. I always saw these kids who had their college paid for and a job lined up with daddy as being so lucky and so ungrateful. I knew so many kids who were literally given a college education and they spent it getting shitfaced. I knew kids who were given houses, cars, jobs, everything, and they didn’t take care of any of it. They took it for granted. And I always wished I was one of them. That someone would just give me the chance and pay for my college or help me get on my feet so I could succeed. But I knew it would never happen. I knew I had to get it for myself. It felt like I started 5 steps behind and was severely disadvantaged and spent my childhood/teenage years playing catch up. While most kids are still living at home spending mommy and daddy’s money and getting everything paid for I was paying for my life and trying to pay for college. Alas, it’s next to impossible to pay for college tuition and pass your classes whilst also paying for a car, insurance, an apartment, and food. It’s very difficult to maintain working three jobs to support all of those things and then still finding time to go to class and study. College was never a viable option for me. You simply can’t raise yourself and pay for school out of pocket and work all at the same time and expect to make it with no support. It was just too much. I was sleeping for a half hour in my car between classes and work shifts. It would’ve taken me ages to finish school and all the while I would been falling further and further into debt because of loans, so I dropped out. I learned trades. I did whatever I could to keep my head above water. My mother always depended on a man to help her with the bills even though she had a nursing degree. She did put herself through nursing school with two kids and I will give her credit for that; but that was not how she lived the rest of her life. She never learned how to just be alone, in her own skin, on her own two feet and those feet alone. She always depended on someone else to help her.
I don’t want to be that. I want to be a self-made woman. I haven’t made it incredibly far in life as far as education and career is concerned; but I have overcome impossible odds. I know a few kids who grew up like me, endured things like me, and survived…but they’re sucking dick on K&A for a bag, getting beat by their 6th baby daddy, or they’re dead. Most of them are dead. If they’re not dead, they’re not all there in the head. I am. I was given this indomitable spirit that helped me survive. But now I want to provide better for my children than what was given to me. I’ll never hand them everything because that will serve no purpose other than to make them spoiled, entitled, and ungrateful. They will work for what they are given. They will learn work ethic, they will be taught to have drive and ambition. They will have character. I won’t let them become entitled little brats. But first, I have to figure out how I’m going to get this life for myself where I will be able to provide college for them. I have a good job that I love but I won’t be able to pay tuition with it. I won’t be able to give my kids the opportunities I never had with it. I have to strive for more. I have to be more and work harder. And I’m going to. I will not sit around and wait for someone to give it to me because it will never happen. Now I just have to figure out how to get from where I am to where I want to be. If I can just find the right way up, it will be okay. I just haven’t quite found it yet. But unlike some, I have the drive to work for it. So I guess maybe I am privileged in that way. My mother-in-law says that I’ll find later on in life that I’m lucky to have grown up the way I did. Granted, she doesn’t know even quarter of it. But she seems to think that my lack of an entitlement complex and my drive to make something of myself makes me luckier than the kids who are given all the opportunity with none of the tools. I have the tools. I just need to make my own opportunities. They say, “The grass always seems greener on the other side.” Who knows? Maybe I did make out and I just have to find a way to work with it….
by Ashley Hebner
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