My Response to The Current College Admissions Scandal

blog pic march 13thALL WRITTEN AND ARTWORK ARE THE INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY OF PSG LOPES. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED 2019.

By now everyone has heard the latest scandal on the news involving certain celebrities bribing college officials and testing officials guaranteeing the entrance of their children into prestigious schools. Although this may appear shocking to some, given the particular celebrities that were mentioned in the scandal, I, for one was not that shocked. I feel that this has been going on for generations. It was always quite apparent to me that some celebrities use their wealth and status to get into Ivy League schools. I see all the time that actors will pursue their college degrees in between acting gigs and will have bachelors from Yale or Harvard or another top-tiered school. When I hear certain celebrities have bachelor degrees in psychology from Yale I am not very impressed because I know that their status factored in on how they got in. The lines have always been blurred as to how many actually got in by merit. Who wouldn’t want a big named celebrity going to their school? What great business that is to have a prestigious individual serve as an alumnus in your institution!

Now, I’m not saying this about every celebrity. I am certain that many do work hard for their degrees and their passions but I am certainly skeptical when I see a celebrity’s child’s educational background and wonder how much was merit and how much was status or monetarily motivated.

One thing I do, that I really should stop doing, is read the comments on posts highlighting certain news announcements. The comments really boil my blood. I understand that there are so many varying opinions, what I am offended by is the close-mindedness of people who are so quick to identify things in a clear cut black or white manner. They never consider that gray area. Situations are never identical. You have socio-economic status, familial structures, educational backgrounds, and other matters to consider. The conversations in the comment section veered away from the topic at hand and became a conversation about the usefulness of education and what a waste certain majors are in terms of finding fruitful employment post-graduation.

We are raised believing that going to school when you’re young, then going to a four-year college, getting married, having kids, buying a home and a car, while earning a paycheck at a traditional nine to five position is the only effective form of living. This is perceived as “the norm.” Imagine if everyone thought that way? There would be no actors, musicians, comedians, artists, photographers, or other entertainers out there. And if everyone opted for a four-year school there would be no military personnel or trade workers either. Some people thrive thinking outside the box. Everyone has a place in this world and every single person on this planet deserves to feel fulfillment. That person defines fulfillment for themselves.

Few things boil my blood more than when people mock someone who pursued a major in English, Psychology, Liberal Arts, etc. Education is never a waste. Granted, I feel that every college should properly guide students who do choose such a major and inform them of the appropriate path for each major. It should be presented as a dichotomous key.

Do you want to be an English Major? Yes. What do you see yourself doing with this major? Teacher. Then proceed. If you say you want to be an English major but aren’t sure how to proceed then that student should be given opportunities to do internships, enroll in seminars, and engage in other programs offered by the college to expose them to all of the job opportunities that they can do with that major. If they want to become a published author, or work in advertising or do copywriting, or be an editor, or whatever their skills could be used for there should be transparent information provided for the students so that they are properly prepared and given some hope post-graduation.

The same is true for majors like psychology. I was a psychology major as an undergraduate. I admit that I was an absolute hot mess coming out of college at twenty-one. I had no direction and no guidance and I figured everything out on my own. I realized fast that my degree was pointless and I did try to go back to school for a masters in social work but I didn’t get into the programs that I applied for at the time so I dropped pursuing that path altogether and went into education. Not everyone is meant for education; however, and no matter how much I wanted to pretend to be normal like everyone else, I just couldn’t squeeze myself into societal’s mold they had for me. I knew right away as a child that I was different from everyone else. I was more artistically inclined was not interested in striving towards a traditional path. But I lacked direction and ambition in my youth. I was a dreamer. The traumas of my childhood enveloped me into this safety blanket nestling me from outside exposures. My mind protected myself for so long from the elements of the cruel outside world that I was just not prepared for life post-graduation. I recognized right away that the world was certainly fast-paced and you had to be aggressive if you wanted to find a place in the world. I just wasn’t that type of person to run people over to get what I wanted out of life. I always believed that the proof was in the pudding. If you do a good job and people witness that then you should be offered a position. Merit should matter much more than status.

Now, nearing my forties, I have stopped trying to hide behind the shadows of others and finally am forging my own path. Would everyone agree with my path? Certainly not! What is good for the goose, may not always be good for the gander. But it’s also not anyone’s place to judge.

You had a great childhood with two loving, supportive parents who got you a car at seventeen and paid for your college and you now have a nice cozy job in the city and found a spouse at twenty-three and are now married with kids and live in your own house, blah, blah, blah. Good for you. That’s not everyone’s path. Not everyone was built to be doctors, lawyers, teachers, engineers, etc. You can’t judge someone’s experience based on your own good fortunes.

I don’t make excuses for myself. I outline the reasons that things occurred the way they did for me. I had no one to guide me. I had no money to pursue things the “right” way. I had to pay for my own education, my own textbooks, my food, and clothing, etc. I was left to my own devices and had to learn about life on my own. Therefore, I made a lot of mistakes, I learned about life on the streets from different types of people. I was naïve and foolish and idealistic. Yes, I made so many mistakes throughout my adulthood, but they’re my mistakes to make and I learned so much from them. As painful as my mistakes were, the life lessons were priceless and I wouldn’t substitute any of my experiences for anything. Do I have regrets? Absolutely! If I could go back in time I would make changes where I could. I don’t enjoy being poor and doing things the hard way. I would do one of a few things. I would either pursue my masters and Ph.D. in psychology right away after my bachelors and be a psychologist. I would have convinced myself that risk-taking is a part of life and that if one school rejected me that there were others to pursue and to not give up so easily. By the time I did go back to school for my masters and Ph.D. in my thirties I wasn’t interested in psychology anymore and decided to pursue degrees in business administration. If I could go back, I would definitely have chosen to go to a brick and mortar school for my masters and Ph.D. and not do the online route that I did. I hadn’t realized what a negative reputation online schools would have by the time I was done with schooling. If I had gone the brick and mortar route, I probably would have gone into accounting or something that would have gotten me a traditional job.

At this point; however, sitting at home regretting my past mistakes is not helpful and is borderline destructive. I have learned that instead of lamenting on all of my past mistakes and all of my life choices, I have chosen to instead highlight all of the positive things I have done. I choose to recall all of the positive contributions I have made to society, all the lives I have touched. I choose to remember my former students telling me that I was the best teacher they ever had because I was different, in a good way. I choose to think of my former colleagues at my old high school where I worked for seven years and how they are all reading my novella, A Wynter’s Tale, and constantly ask my sister when the next novella is coming out because they loved reading my book so much. I choose to think of my poetry, my novella, my children’s book, and my music that I was able to produce because of all of my past choices. I choose to be grateful to be at home with my dad during his final months with dementia instead of the opportunities I could have taken had I moved out of state or out of the country. I am a firm believer in the sentiment that everything happens for a reason.

My path may not be easily understandable to most people out there but it’s what works for me and it’s all I know. I finally feel that I am on the right path. It is certainly slow-moving but I have learned so much and have improved as a writer and artist and have learned so much about myself as an individual. I follow my own path. I don’t feel compelled to fit into molds others have forged for me. I will never be perceived as “normal.” I’m the trailblazer and I forge my own paths in life and create my own trends.

As William Ernest Henley wrote in his poem Invictus, “I am the master of my fate: I am the captain of my soul.” My life is not yours to make sense of. All I ask is that you don’t pass judgment of others when you don’t understand their situation. People are complex and things in life aren’t black and white. What worked for you may not work for others and that’s fine. There’s nothing wrong with that. Enjoy your successes. Everyone has goals they set for themselves. One version isn’t more correct than another’s chosen path. It’s all about respect and empathy in my book.

These Past 3 Weeks

blog pic march 8 2019

ALL WRITTEN AND ARTWORK ARE THE INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY OF PSG LOPES. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

2019 has proven to be one of the most harrowing years of my entire life. I have endured quite a bit over the years but I always seem to be outdone by even greater and more severe challenges. Just when I fear that I can no longer handle what is being handed to me, I finally, FINALLY, see the light at the end of that very, very long tunnel.

I thought new years was bad, but these past three weeks were simply the worst experience I have endured to date. First, I get the flu and bronchitis, then my father, mother, and brother all get it as well. My father, having advanced dementia, was strongly advised to get the flu and pneumonia vaccine this season. We took him to our local pharmacy and he received both vaccines in November. These vaccines gave us this false sense of security because regardless of these vaccines, my father received both the flu and pneumonia and had to be hospitalized. Granted, we were told that there was no guarantee even with the vaccine but it was definitely absolutely ridiculous how he got both back to back and it was such a severe case he was in the hospital for almost a week. He even had to spend his 76th birthday in the hospital!

My family was absolutely inconsolable. Watching my father struggle with fever, cough, sneezing, being in and out of consciousness, was so heartbreaking to witness. Once he arrived at the hospital, they gave me him fluids and Tamiflu. After his week at the hospital was done, we noticed some drastic changes to his behavior.

Dementia is one of the most unpredictably cruel diseases I have ever had the misfortune of observing for the past six to seven years. My father was always a man on the go. He was always working. He was a full-time math teacher during the day, he taught night school and worked at a community college on the weekends. The man always had plans, always was out the door and we barely saw him. During the summer months, he would socialize with his creative art groups in the city where he worked and kept himself occupied. This was the father I knew as an adult. As a kid, we didn’t see him much either; however, because we were young, he would make it a point to do some trips with my siblings and I whether it was to the movies, apple picking, the beach, the park, etc. These events didn’t happen often, but he tried when he had the time.

When my father retired, he became a completely different person. His behavior was erratic, he became clumsy, he became aggressive, violent, and made many foolish decisions. As an adult, I didn’t really know my father well aside from the hi’s and byes and light dinner conversations. I didn’t really hang out with him much. I considered myself pretty much estranged from him. So when these things were going on in my dad’s life, I just assumed it was because he couldn’t adjust well to retirement. I figured he was so busy his entire life and the shock of retirement was just too much for him. But the chaos became greater, the insanity of the events involving my father became so grand scale that as a family we knew it was time to intervene. We did everything we could from allowing his driver’s license to lapse and having his car towed, to other measures to guarantee his safety.

During the beginning phases of his dementia, he was diagnosed with prostate cancer as well. My father was very fortunate to still be healthy enough mentally to be properly treated and has since been in remission. We took him to the neurologist and he’s had MRIs and they had told us he suffered from a series of mini-strokes. There was no way of knowing when they occurred or how often they occurred. As a result of these mini-strokes, his brain shrunk significantly causing the dementia. They said he had a mixture of vascular- type dementia and Alzheimer’s-type dementia. I remember one of the last things the neurologist told my brother at the end of the office visit after diagnosis was that we were in for years of heartache. He certainly was not kidding.

Over the years since dad’s diagnosis, we have had to become smarter and sneakier and wiser and always tried to keep one step ahead of my father. He would sneak out of the house and walk the streets of our town and be gone for hours and we would have to call for help. He would touch all the kitchen items and make himself “food” made out of napkins and milk. He would try to feed our cats saucers of dish soap. He would pace and wander all night in his bedroom not remembering he had to sleep. We went from doctor to doctor until we finally found one with the compassion and empathy to guide us and my father through each stage. She has been an absolute blessing and up until now, she has prepared us for what was next to come.

When dad came home from the hospital, my siblings and I were shell-shocked watching dad’s newest transition of this distressing illness. Dad lost his speech, he looked at us like we were public enemy number 1, and he refused to eat or drink anything. We all came to terms with the fact that this may very well be the end. He may need hospice care and it may be time for us to finally accept that it is time to let go. After the hospital visit, the hospital staff set up several health care professionals to visit the home and evaluate my father and to help with his care. We received two very caring women who have also helped us further understand our father’s condition and to kind of relinquish some control over what was going on.

As human beings, we are raised to believe you have to eat and drink to survive. The one nurse practitioner that visited us taught us that in my father’s condition that need to eat and that need for a three-meal structure no longer exists. He will eat when he’s hungry, he will drink when he’s thirsty and we can’t make him do anything he doesn’t want to do. Even though to the naked eye it appears our dad is long gone, there is still the shell of the man he used to be in there somewhere and that man craves attention and dignity. He won’t be told when to eat, he won’t be forced to live up to our standards. He will do what he wants to do when he is ready. After hearing that, I was finally able to ease the tension that had been burdening my shoulders these past few weeks. I’ve let go of that desperate need to want to save my father’s life and to keep him living for a thousand more years.

Once I let go, I realized that my father began eating and drinking again. I nearly collapsed with relief. Along with eating and drinking, my dad began saying a word here and there. If you say, “Hi, how are you?” he will say “Good.” He will also nod his head yes or no when you ask him questions like, “Are you hungry?” or “Are you cold?” This was also a great relief.

I have literally been by his side since he’s gotten back from the hospital and I have been putting myself last, as usual. I haven’t been blogging, I’ve been lax with my podcasting, and I have neglected my latest writing project. I know that is completely and totally unhealthy of me to do. I just have been so traumatized over this event. I just wanted to be there for my father because I realize how short life is and I don’t know how many more moments I will have with my father.

I think life works in mysterious ways though. I think that even though this was such a tragedy, I feel that this has brought us all closer together as a family. I feel like I finally have a relationship with my father. I will never have the kind of relationship I always lacked and always wanted growing up, but I am satisfied with the relationship I have with him now. My father has become a sweet, kind, and vulnerable man. My family and I are constantly advocating for better care for him from the healthcare system. We have reached somewhat of a current homeostasis at the moment. His care is under control. We have people who come periodically to monitor his well-being and as a family we all take care of him and provide him with the best round the clock care we can possibly provide him with given our lack of knowledge of healthcare. We do the very best that we are capable of doing. Given our lack of finances, he is being cared for at home. We’ve adjusted and he is finally at a comfortable level post-hospital. At this point, this is the best we can expect given his condition. We are grateful to have him eating and drinking and engaging with us here and there. At this stage in my life, after everything I’ve endured, and my family has endured, there really isn’t much more we can ask for.

On this day, International Women’s Day, I’m going to allow myself to step away for a while and join the living and get the things I need to get done that I’ve neglected nearly a month ago. I’m happy to be back in my office writing and producing. It’s where I feel the most alive and happiest. Thank you all for continuing to visit to read my blogs. Thanks for the well-wishers. I had the loveliest comment on one of my blogs last night that helped motivate me to get back on track. Thanks to that individual. I am happy that my words bring comfort to some. I wish you all a very lovely day and a restful and relaxing weekend!