So, when I broke the news to family, I got some negative looks when family asked about my and my husband's college careers. Disapproving looks. Definitely didn't make me feel any better about my own choice, but ::shrugs::. Due to financial aid screwing my husband over, he has to paid a huge fee before he can return to the university to continue his degree. And me, well I've got 8 years of college, full-time, under my belt with no degree(s) to show for them.
A lot of that is due to early on, not knowing what I wanted to do. I wanted to be a vet, but due to my dyslexia and dyscalculia, it's just wasn't feesable. So I switched to Photography, but even the Disability Adviser advised against it. Which I didn't understand at the time. So I switched to Law Enforcement and Criminology. A dream of mine was to be in the military, but due to having weight loss issues, I wasn't able to drop the weight for bootcamp. So I thought that Law Enforcement was the next best step. In my mom's side, there exists a Wall of Heroes: Athletes, Military, and Law Enforcement. Everyone had a place on that wall, except me. At the time, I wanted to belong. I joined Law Enforcement because it was expected of me. Because I wanted the approval of my family. I wanted to fit in.
I worked my ass off, literally! But found that I was stuck at 245lbs! Then I learned that no one in my family had faith in me, except my brother....but he knew that I wasn't truly happy with the decision. He knew where my passions lay, even if I'd blinded myself to it.
Due to Financial Aid issues, I wasn't able to get into the academy, so I switch to Photography, which I loved! But then took Graphic Design, loved it. But when I finally transferred to Wright State, I was a Biology Major. Well, the adviser there was quick to destroy my hopes and dreams of being a scientist due to my learning disability. So I returned to Photography and the Fine Arts.
I love the arts, but I suffered the same problems that I had with Law Enforcement, I didn't have the support of my family. Only my brother, who knew I was finally doing something I loved. Really loved. With their disapproval, I now call the Wall of Heroes, the Wall of Shame, a wall that I'll never be a part of, because artists are looked down upon in my family. Well, artists and teachers. Because of their disapproval--seemed like I could never be a star in their eyes--my art suffered. It wasn't until a couple years ago when one of my teachers said that I had potential, that the only person standing in my way was me. That gave me a HUGE boost of confidence! For once, someone outside of my family and friends said that I was good (well, had a photography teacher say the same back at the community college years before). It was then that I began to push and challenge myself.
But as time went on, I was so burnt out on college. The longer I was there, the more damage was being done. I was a career student with nothing to show but dozens of self portraits and decades of debt.
In 2011, I began to have bouts of depression, because I wasn't happy. I was lost. I was still in college without even an Associates degree. I began to realize that the university art program wasn't helping me to grow as an artist. They teach from more of an "Art Gallery" point of view, whereas my stuff was "commercial" and "mediocre". But to me, that's what sells. Pieces that the viewer can relate to. Instead of something so artsy-fartsy but it's just lost on the viewer--the average person. There's no story. Nothing, just a pretty picture. Or something that only other artists can understand. I didn't like it. Didn't help that many of the other photography teachers were biased. Seeing those of us who wanted to do portrait photography or interior design photography as a waste of a spot for someone more....artistic. Someone more deserving.
With the senior show, I showed off pieces that I'd been working on independently, pieces that I was so proud of...but they weren't "artsy" enough. None of my photos were chosen and I was crushed. Where my peers had up to five pieces for the art show, I only had one, a Collograph that I love and was proud of, but I was crushed. Everything suffered. My art, my self esteem, my grades. Towards the end of spring, after the art show, I decided that I needed a break from college. I was so burnt out. I needed to find myself again. I realized that WSU's art program didn't teach how to get a steady paycheck, but how to be a starving artist. That the only real way to succeed was to be an art teacher or therapist (which were also often looked down on in the art department too). Which I had considered, but I needed a break for my mental health first.
Apparently it's a break that none of my family can understand. They're all driven to succeed and I was just a loser. I want to go back, as I only have a couple more quarters left. I only need 10 more classes. Someone said, why not go back now, before the baby comes? Well, because the only classes I have are studio classes. Not only are they really stressful, but also EVERYTHING is deadly to pregnant women. EVERYTHING. Especially with the classes I have left: which are a couple film photos, 2 digital photos, a sculpture class, and a bunch of print making classes, not to mention more independent classes.
Doesn't help that many family think that art is just finger painting....
Despite their disapproving glares and whispers of my naivety (because I'm the youngest in the family, everyone assumes that I don't know anything about the world or being a grown up, despite that I'm 28-years-old. No, maybe I haven't seen the horrors that police officers or soldiers have seen, but I've dealt with my own demons and my horrors)... I know what I'm doing.
I know we're going to suffer and struggle, we're doing it now! But we're not stupid. No, we don't know everything, but we'll make it, because we're determined, we'll persevere. It's in our blood. I've never done anything by the book, in the order that everyone else does it in. I know it's possible to return to college even with kids--my parents did it; shit, many of my peers finished college with young children. I know I can return to school after our kids are grown. Even if it's just for an Associates, I'll be happy. We're willing to work for our goals and dreams, even if it's the rockier path.
I just hate how they want me, the one who's not on the Wall, to work in a cubicle in a dead end job; instead of following my dreams, of not letting the matriarch of our family stomp out my talents because they're not acceptable to her. I'm an embarrassment to them....and I don't care anymore. I didn't do what was expected...much like my Patron Goddess, Hestia. She stood strong and confident in Her choice, regardless of others opinions. I draw strength from Her example. I know we can be happy.
An example that will carry on to our family and to our children. I never want to make my children feel like a failure that way that many in both sides of my family have made me feel. Not all of them, mind you. Like my brother (military), some cousins (all teachers), and some aunts (who also have talent, talents they wish they'd pursued); they all supported me in the face of adversity. I had the ovaries to challenge the matriarch and tell her NO.
We will not have a Wall of Shame, each child will be a star, regardless of their interests and goals. We will not favor one child over the other.
I'm a proud black sheep who didn't follow the herd. I'm a late bloomer with a learning disability. Nothing's ever been easy for me. I tend to do things the hard way before I actually get the lesson. That's just how some people are. Most of my obstacles are mental, and I know that. I stand in my way. I also know that I'm not alone. I've got my husband, my close friends, and family who supports me. And a wealth of Spirit Guides and Companions, and caring Deities who've picked me out of a hat because they saw my potential; a potential that just needs to be unlocked.
I'm learning to be a strong person, a determined person. How to work for my goals. How to stand up to my fears and push through; lessons that I had to learn on my own. With this little one on the way, I'm learning how to think ahead for our future. For them. Like many, we wanted our shit in order before kids came along, but it doesn't always play out that way. Sometimes you've just gotta go with it.
There's a reason why Mountain Goat is our family's Totem Animal, the emblem of who we are. Perseverance. A slow but steady climb with plenty of lessons along the way! Determination. Eventually we'll get there....perhaps not at the speed we'd dreamed of or what was expected of us, but we'll get there. Eventually a well worn path crumbles, would you want to be on it when it does? Not me.
I want our kids to be proud of who they are, regardless of not living up to someone else standards. The disapproval of others, to me, speaks volumes about their own unhappiness with their lives. I don't want to put that same pressure on them. Pressure works for some, but not all. Don't be afraid to forge your own path, even if it's completely by accident. Just go with it.