Oppressing Myself

I’ve been doing a lot of reading lately about multiculturalism and how being a part of a race or ethnic group other than Caucasian can foster feelings of tremendous inadequacy. These feelings can lead to those in these groups seeking to dull the pain of their experiences through any number of means, including denial, assimilation, and even outright hatred toward their own heritages. Indeed, there is a desperation for some people to not only escape their situations, but also to escape who they are in general.

This is not light reading I have decided to pick up for myself on a whim. It is part of two college classes I am taking this summer. The prevailing opinion I seem to be picking up on so far is that white people – whether they realize it or not – are part of a privileged race. This privilege is not even necessarily evident; it simply exists because white people (white males, in particular) have traditionally been the dominant cultural group in America. As a result, many Caucasians have never experienced the type of prejudice and even hatred directed toward other ethnic and cultural groups. Therefore, they have less of a reason to loathe themselves because of their cultural station.

I’ve been turning this idea over and over in my mind, and I have come across a feeling of self-hatred for myself. It has not come from a sudden realization that I have acted in a racist way toward anyone, although I do not rule out the possibility that I have. I also do not mean that I necessarily feel as if I have been wronged by some other ethnic or social group, although specific incidents where this may have happened certainly spring to mind. If these two variables have been eliminated, then, where exactly does it come from?

Here’s what I have concluded: I have discriminated against myself.oppression-fists

How is this possible, you might ask? Well, it has to do with my depression and my lack of self-esteem. By result of my never believing I was very handsome, talented, skillful, or desirable, I denied myself many opportunities. It’s not that I didn’t want to succeed; it’s just that I didn’t particularly think I was worthy of it. Of course, external factors may have had a role in this as well, but the driving force in my desire to change myself came as much from inside myself as it did outside. Any barb or slight directed at me was not deflected by a sense of self-worth, but was rather taken to heart and assimilated into my personality.

I have reached a sort of crossroads in my life. I am starting to believe I am worth more, but I am concerned that I have spent so much of my life believing I was less that no one will give me a chance to prove otherwise. This is a hopeless feeling, to say the least. It almost describes the tree falling in the woods: If a person changes but no one takes notice, do they really change? Just as the answer to the question about the tree is affirmative, however, so is the one to this question concerning change. A member of an ethnic or cultural group who makes a lifestyle change does it as much for themselves as for the society around them. Perhaps that is the truth I need to focus on.

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I’m Still Here!

I have not posted anything here since last Tuesday, but I have a very good reason why: I am a college student again! My first night of classes began last Wednesday, and I also have one class online. These are summer classes, so everything is going to be pretty compact and intense. I spent all day today reading, typing up a paper, and making copies of pages from a workbook. Welcome back, my friend.

SUMMMER-SCHOOLThat last line may be a joke, but I had honestly forgotten about the intensity of college courses in general, and I had definitely forgotten how compressed a summer class can be. As a result, I have been more than a little overwhelmed just trying to set up some sort of routine to deal with everything. I believe the newness and initial shock will wear off, however, and I will find my groove eventually. In the meantime, my posts here may be sporadic, which is sort of a shame because I’m getting some great material to write about from these classes.

So there you have it. Just my quick little check-in to say I’m still here, I haven’t stopped blogging, and I will have some really good stuff coming up in the future. Of course, the future maybe two years from now, but… 🙂

Back Again

In June of last year, I wrote a post here titled “Getting Real,” in which I described how I was going to be returning to school to study psychology.

To follow up, it is now January 2015, and I still have not returned to school to study psychology.

As much as I want to shift into my default gear and blame myself for this, I’m somehow strangely not doing that. Finances didn’t work out. Work situations changed. I actually found a better program than the one I was thinking of enrolling in. I would be lying if I said I wasn’t a little disappointed to not be attending classes yet, but it just wasn’t the right time. Shockingly, I’m totally at peace with saying that.

As I mentioned in that previous post, however, it is much easier to be at peace with things before the reality of them sets in upon you. College, back then, sounded like a great idea … until I received an acceptance letter and began reviewing financial aid options. All of a sudden, the dream wasn’t idealized; it was real. Not that I wouldn’t have gone through with it, because this feels like a driving passion of mine now, but the journey wasn’t going to be anxiety-free. I was going to have to stare down some old demons.

Thanks to a dear friend and co-worker, I was able to get my hands on some study materials for the GRE (Graduate IMG_0230Record Examinations) today. As I often foolishly do, instead of actually sitting down and examining the books from the beginning, I decided to randomly flip one of them open and see what was inside. Of course, I managed to open it right to a page dealing with some type of algebra. I nearly hyperventilated. Math is the enemy of the English major, which I was in college my first time around. Suddenly, passing this test didn’t seem as possible as it once did.

The trick here, obviously, is to slow down, read through the books in some type of order, re-learn how to study (since I haven’t had to do that for anything in a long, long time), and stop envisioning failure. All of this is just another reminder to me that nothing in life – be it overcoming depression or earning a degree or just getting out of bed in the morning – comes without some effort. As silly as it may sound, I didn’t always know that. Or, at least, I didn’t always want to know that. Part of me hoped there was some pill I could take or some switch that would suddenly flip on. I’m at least somewhat wiser now.

Since opening that book this afternoon, I haven’t opened it since. I have to let the initial shock wear off before I can pick it up again. I am back again, though. This feels almost like it did in June.

Things just got real.

Four Aces

I don’t know why I thought this would work.

It was a pipe dream. I’m too old. I don’t have enough time. I don’t have enough money. I should have done more research into the financial side of things. I shouldn’t have told anyone I was even thinking about it. There’s no way I can win.

Some of you may remember a little over a month ago when I wrote about my decision to return to college to pursue a degree in psychology. You may also remember how shortly after I wrote about how I was freaking out a little over how I was going to pay for classes. After sizing up the situation, it would seem to make more sense for me to begin classes in the Spring 2015 semester than in the Fall 2014 session. Finances would be better, more time to plan a schedule, etc., etc.

If it all makes sense, though, why do I feel as if I’m failing?Failing-Project

For starters, I signed up for the Fall semester. I had eyes on it, so that’s what I planned to do. Then I had to open my big mouth and tell people I was going back in the Fall, so now I have to explain why that’s not happening. That explanation includes my not being aware of financial aid options for post-baccalaureate students, so I have to basically say I didn’t know what the heck I was doing. Worst of all, though, is the feeling that this is just another one of those big plans I had that will never work out.

My chances of being able to begin in the Spring semester are actually looking quite good, however. As with anything in life, though, some measure of doubt still exists, and I hate that. It makes me want to stop talking about it altogether, but, well, since I had to mention it here…

Earlier this month, I ruminated on the dangers of self-diagnosis and the mental disorder known as Borderline Personality Disorder. I mentioned finding a book on the subject titled “I Hate You – Don’t Leave Me,” by Jerold J. Kreisman and Hal Straus, at the local library. I finally got brave enough to check it out a couple of weeks ago and concluded after reading just a couple of chapters that I did not suffer from this particular disorder. Particular aspects of it, however, seemed to fit me to a T. Here’s a brief passage on how those who suffer from BPD assess risks:

Unwilling to play the hand that is dealt her, the borderline keeps folding every time, losing the ante, waiting to be dealt four aces. If she cannot be assured of winning, she won’t play out her the hand. Improvement comes when she learns to accept the hand for what it is, and recognize that, skillfully played, she can still win.

Four-aces-hand1967I find myself guilty right now of wanting those four aces. I keep thinking of all these reasons that if this doesn’t work out perfectly, it won’t work out at all, when, in reality, an amended plan (or possibly something altogether different) might work just as well. It’s change, though, and change just doesn’t feel right sometimes. It feels like failing.

I am regrouping, but you might not see me mention much about college for a while. I may not be able to pull together the perfect hand, but I think I’ll at least wait for a winning one before I say much more. It’s just so hard to talk about winning sometimes, though, when you feel as if you’re losing.

Facing The Freak-Out

I knew it. I just knew it. It never goes smoothly, so I don’t know why I thought it would this time. There is always something I don’t know or didn’t plan for or is more difficult than I thought it would be. I can feel my stomach tying up in knots right now just thinking about it.

I do – DO NOT – enjoy trying to get registered for college classes. At all. Whatsoever.

With that in mind, it was (of course) inevitable that I would experience at least one major freak-out in the process of pursuing a degree in the field of psychology. I would have hoped this would occur somewhere down the line, at least after I had registered for some classes. But, no, I couldn’t even get that far this time, even though if I had just used my brain for a second I would have realized what a dope I was.

Apparently, there are no grants available to post-baccalaureate students. The internet says grants may be available under certain circumstances, but I haven’t found anywhere yet that explains what those circumstances are. From the genesis of this idea to return to school, I have wanted to avoid a loan at all costs. My wife and I have worked very hard to keep our debt down, and piling up college loans would be very counterproductive to all that effort. I’m not saying I wouldn’t ever resort to a loan, but for the time being I would rather not.

now-panic-freak-out1That pretty much just leaves scholarships and grants to cover the costs of my Fall 2014 semester. Since I’ve missed most of the deadlines to apply for scholarships, however, that narrows things down to grants … which I just found out were unavailable. When I found this out yesterday, all my positive thinking, cognitive therapy, hopeful outlook went straight out the window. I felt like a fool. More accurately, I believed I was a fool. There was no way this could work. Why don’t I just give up right now?

Stepping back and looking at things today, I can see all is not lost. My main problem is I would like to obtain a degree which will take multiple semesters to complete right freaking now. The thought of having to begin with just one or two classes didn’t compute. “Do not despise these small beginnings…” I’ll definitely be out more of my own money than I was planning on if we go the route of paying for things ourselves, but it is possible to get started that way. And, really, I’m just beginning to discover what’s out there as far as areas of study and aid options go, so there may be something good waiting for me yet.

I don’t write all this to portray myself as some kind of martyr of the big, mean, expensive system of postsecondary education (although I do think it is absolutely outrageous what schools are charging for tuition these days). I’m writing it to say this: I freaked out. I thought I was moving past doing that, but I went headlong into it yesterday. Granted, in the past, I would still be freaking out today (and the next day and the next day and…), but it was a little frightening to see that side emerge again. I didn’t like it.

What I do like, though, is that I’m able to write all this down in past tense. I’m still extremely nervous and frightened and impatient when it comes to this new course (which I may never even get to), but I realize now there are going to be obstacles. There is going to be time involved. I’m going to have to what I can when I can. The main point of pressure is going to come from me, which means an occasional flip-out will be nearly certain. The real challenge will be whether I can recover from those moments.

By the way, if anyone reading this has had a similar experience with trying to get back into school to complete a post-baccalaureate degree, please contact me. Quite honestly, I have no idea what the heck I’m doing at the moment, so any and all advice would be appreciated. And feel free to share your own freak-outs as well. I’m sure we’ve all had them.