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.

The Literal Versus Creative Mind

blog photo january 29th 2019

ALL WRITTEN AND ARTWORK ARE THE INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY OF PSG LOPES. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED 2019.

I had noticed a startling trend throughout my years as an educator. I noticed that kids just were not as imaginative and creative as they were when I was their age. I realized that the reason for this was due to the abundant access to technology. When I was a child, we didn’t have the internet, smartphones, Netflix or Hulu, or any of the fancy sophisticated video games that are out today. The kids of this generation are so overstimulated and are basically handed all the ideas without them having to work for any of it themselves.

I remember one assignment I presented to my fifth-grade students. They were to create their own short story. They had the ability to create their own characters, setting, time period, etc. We carefully went through what each component meant and once I was satisfied that they understood the assignment, I sent them off to work independently. The work I received in return was disheartening, to say the very least. What I got back were twenty-two regurgitated stories ranging from the origins of Mario and Luigi, Pokémon, or Disney princesses. I would remind my students that those stories were already claimed, and I wanted to read stories that came from their own minds. After revisiting the assignment once more, I then received much better stories. Some stories I genuinely felt had the potential to be expanded into novels someday and had encouraged the students to keep pursuing their writing. I had always wondered if their future teachers pushed them the same way that I had or if they reverted back to their literal way of thinking, completely forgetting they have the potential to be wondrous, creative minds!

When it rained or snowed in the 80s or early 90s, my siblings and I stayed indoors, and we used our imagination to create make-believe worlds and fight fictitious creatures and live to tell our harrowing tales! We made tents made out of blankets and used flashlights to scare one another, we would use our older brother’s or father’s camcorder and create screenplays and put on our own shows. We would use my younger brother’s playpen and pretend we were pro-wrestlers and kick the ever-loving snot out of each other. We would do arts and craft projects. I remember my mother buying me this magazine for kids that had tons of art project ideas and she would buy me all of the stuff I would need, and we would make the projects together. I know that when I had free time as a child, I would love to write in my diary or journal. I was always productive in some way that was not directly attached to technology.

Don’t get me wrong, there were days where I’d watch television. That was my vice as a child. I’d watch the heck out of soap operas or other trashy television with my parents and siblings, but in that era, we could take it or leave it. We weren’t addicted and we were able to expand our minds and create original ways of entertaining ourselves.

Here in 2019, I do not see any of these things that made my childhood so magical. Kids of this generation prefer instant gratification, have created a culture of cruelty and thrive on hurting each other, and everything is tied to electronics and the next greatest technological advancement. Parents are always trying to keep on top of their child’s demands and when new video games, cell phones, or other gimmicky devices go on sale, they have to be the first to get them or else they will suffer from FOMO (fear of missing out).

I’ve got a five-year-old cell phone and a just as old Nintendo 3DS and I’m pretty grateful for that. I can’t imagine feeling that pressure to constantly buy the next best thing. It’s tiring and damn expensive too. I guess since I’ve lived pretty humbly for the past four years financially, I have changed my mindset greatly. I recognize what matters more in life and objects and materials just don’t do it for me anymore. I’d rather have my health, the love of my family, good food, and a lot of laughs. Call me old-fashioned.

I remember one of my favorite episodes of the Twilight Zone, “The Shelter,” that perfectly describes how I feel people in 2019 treat each other when they are shown their true colors. “Damages? I wonder. I wonder if anyone of us has any idea what those damages really are. Maybe one of them is finding out what we’re really like when we’re normal; the kind of people we are just underneath the skin. I mean all of us: a bunch of naked, wild animals, who would put such a price on staying alive that they’d claw their neighbors to death just for the privilege. We were spared a bomb tonight, but I wonder if we weren’t destroyed even without it.” I think one major flaw of the current culture is our lack of empathy for one another as well.

Creativity and passion work best when people exhibit compassion, empathy, loyalty, and trust of one another. We need to feel that spark of creativity and instead of wounding each other or living for material goods, tap into that creative spirit and do so because you’re passionate about it not because you’re copying others or trying to compete. Do something creative that you identify best with, not what you feel matches the climate of the current FOMO culture. Quash the ego. Alleviate the troubles of a literal mind and allow yourself to find a passionate outlet within creativity.

I find it difficult being me most days. I feel like I live a very anachronistic life. I have always felt that I belonged in an earlier era in time like the 1940s or 1950s. I look around and see what kids are turning into and all of the politics going on around the world and my head spins. I just don’t recognize this place anymore and it deeply saddens me. Everything is happening much too quickly and often times I just wish for things to slow down. I’m reminded of a quote from one of my absolute favorite plays, Our Town, by Thornton Wilder. One of the characters, Emily, stated “I can’t. I can’t go on. It goes so fast. We don’t have time to look at one another. I didn’t realize. So, all that was going on and we never noticed. Take me back—up the hill—to my grave. But first: Wait! One more look. Goodbye, Goodbye, world. Goodbye, Grover’s Corners…Mama and Papa. Goodbye to clocks ticking…and Mama’s sunflowers. And food and coffee. And new-ironed dresses and hot baths…and sleeping and waking up. Oh, earth, you’re too wonderful for anybody to realize you. Do any human beings ever realize life while they live it?—every, every minute?” I still cry when I read this play. This play has, for me, always captured how everyone still takes life for granted. Everything does move much too fast and it needs to slow down. We need to press pause and take a good look at ourselves and find meaning in our lives once more.

I think that Enigma song, “Return to Innocence” says it best: “If you want, then start to laugh. If you must, then start to cry. Be yourself, don’t hide. Just believe in destiny. Don’t care what people say. Just follow your own way. Don’t give up and use the chance to return to innocence.” With that “return to innocence” mentality, imagine what potential we can tap into for our own creative minds!