Can We Talk?

Please Stand By

So I feel like I have some explaining to do.

This whole “now you see my blog, now you don’t thing” is new. Actually, it’s an experiment.

Actually, it’s annoying.

Be honest. I can take it.

But I like it. And I dare say, I will continue the peek-a-boo blog show for a while longer, if you will indulge me.

Here’s why I like it: because it perfectly sums up my personality. I’m one of those people who sort of fades into the background at parties, only to resurface and offer a soft, genuine smile of acknowledgment or to inject a funny sentence or thought into a random conversation. I think my personality might be a bit too much, full strength. It might be better, for all parties concerned, if I dilute my thoughts, rants and daily mutterings and sort of space them out over a week’s time, instead of subjecting you poor people to daily doses.

And I like it because I don’t feel like I’m constantly on display. I can be me. I can write when I feel like it and not stress if I haven’t written something before midnight. I don’t have to worry about whether Google is cataloging me, or if I’m losing readers. When I have something to say, I can say it and not have to count the number of times I’ve hit the publish button in a 24-hour period.

Some days, like today, I can post three times and not feel guilty that I’m overwhelming someone’s RSS feed. Or, I can go days without publishing anything simply because I have nothing to say and am feeling introspective and quiet.

I know it’s hard to believe, but there are days I feel quiet. There are days I can hardly stand being in the same room as my family. I want nothing to do with them. I would much prefer to get lost in a book, or to find a quiet corner and write nonsense, or to pop a DVD in and watch several episodes from my favorite TV shows.

That’s how I feel about blogging my thoughts. Sometimes, I simply have nothing to say. Those are the days I post nonsense, videos, jokes … stupid things.

And I always feel guilty after doing that. This is my journal, my life. It’s personal. I don’t want to leave silly, inconsequential things behind for my family to read (and chances are, those videos, links, jokes will no longer exist at that time period, anyway).

I’ve turned comments off. Not because I’m not interested in what you have to say, but because I feel like I can be me, uncensored. I have no intention of offending anyone, it’s better for me, as a person if I’m forced to weigh my opinions with fairness, but I’m tired of walking on eggshells. My husband frowns whenever I imply anything remotely bad about him. My mother gets annoyed with me whenever I talk about my childhood and inevitably get it wrong.

I have very loud thoughts and sharp opinions – I can’t help that. And I resent it whenever I can’t say what I want to say, on my own journal.

I’ve thought about keeping this journal completely private, and I reserve the right to make it private at some future point, but for now, I enjoy putting my words out there, but only on my terms. It’s hard to explain, perhaps I’m a bit narcissistic in one respect, having the urge to have other people read my thoughts, but I don’t want to disappear from the blog-o-sphere entirely, just partially.

I know none of this makes sense to you, or perhaps, it does on some weird level. All I know is, I am feeling more relaxed about this journal in a long time and it is once again, fun for me.

I hope it’s fun for you.

If you don’t feel like clicking over every day to see if I’ve stepped back into the light, or want to keep track of my Twitter stream, 24/7, you could always subscribe to my RSS feed, or, if email is more your thing, subscribe by email. I always allow my blog to stay live long enough for the search engines to find me before going dark again.

I apologize for my crazy antics, but well, this is me.

Life

Is College a Rip Off?

This issue weighs heavily on my mind right now. Why? Because Dude graduates from high school this year and our natural inclination is to send him off to college.

But should he go? Is it really a good idea?

Let’s back up a bit …

We started digesting this whole college, to go or not to go, issue about five years ago when one of our nephews decided to skip college and go right into the work force. He had the motivation and discipline to teach himself everything there is to know about Flash while in high school. He made entire websites in Flash just to practice his knowledge and he wowed the right people. His work was recognized, and appreciated, and an up-and-coming computer agency offered him a job, which he wisely took, shortly after he graduated. (This up-and-coming agency has since been recognized by Apple and is currently bringing in high-dollar clients. I’d say the kid did pretty well for himself).

Though the situation was pretty unusual and there was really no other option than to take the job, we wondered if skipping college was really the way to go. I mean, work experience is pretty important, I won’t dispute that, in fact, I think too many people nowadays don’t put enough emphasis on work experience, but let’s say, at some point down the road, our nephew is ready to move up, to be promoted and it’s between him and another dude, equally talented, equally hard working, but who has a college degree.

I think the dude with the college degree may win out. Would it be fair? No. But it would be realistic.

I don’t know what it is about that hard-earned piece of paper, but sometimes just having it can open doors, or offer more opportunities, for an individual. Speaking as someone who used to hire people, I looked at work experience, but I looked more closely at those individuals with both work experience AND a college degree. Because even though it’s important for people to have work experience, to know what it takes to work in, and around, the public, I also think it’s important to have the college experience.

And not just for the education aspect, but for the thinking aspect. Though I learned a lot from my own college experience, I think one of the biggest lessons I took away from college was how to relate to people. College taught me so much about the world in general. It taught me to think outside the box, to appreciate, and respond, to opposing views as well as how to persuade (or manipulate, if you want to be honest) people.

To me, those are valuable, invaluable really, tools when dealing with people, especially people in the working world.

Going to college also helps mold and shape your expectations, ideals and maturity level. You’d be hard pressed to find a college graduate not admit he/she is a different person than when he/she began the college experience.

So we wondered, and we still wonder, if not going to college will affect our nephew long term. Only time will tell, I suppose.

The next big thing that got me thinking about college pros and cons, was a report by John Stossel on 20/20. I found the video on YouTube, take a gander:

Did you catch what Suzie Orman says about college?

“I have to tell ya, I don’t think it’s a good idea.”

Orman says, college is a good idea, if you have the grades (i.e. smarts) to back it up to become a doctor, or a lawyer, but others should reassess the value of a generic bachelor’s degree.

So what’s the alternative for the “average” kid?

A vocational school?

“More people need to realize that you don’t need a four-year degree to be successful.”

I absolutely agree.

And this knowledge is something we plan on sharing with Dude. The “what to do with your life” talk is coming up – fast. And when Kevin and I sit down with Dude, we want to give him all the facts, the pros and cons of going to college or not, and try and steer him in the direction he wants to go. The problem is, he probably won’t know.

I didn’t know what I wanted to do with my life at 18, did you? In fact, going to college was the LAST thing on my mind when I was 18. Heck, I was thrilled that I even graduated from high school, the LAST thing I wanted to do was go back and do more schooling.

And though as Dude’s parent, I would like to see him go on to college, either a university or a trade school, is he emotionally ready to take it seriously?

How many parents push their kids off to college, wipe their hands and think their job is over? How many kids do you think are mature enough to handle college? To take it seriously? The LAST thing I want for Dude is to send him off to college and he just blows it off, thereby wasting all the money he paid for his classes.

And if we send Dude to school, are we paying for it?

Kevin and I have had loooooong conversations about this very topic, and quite frankly, nothing has really been decided on that yet, though we’re leaning toward possibly paying for his first year (to whatever school he decides to attend) and then making him pay for the rest. And we plan on helping him budget and figure out a way he can do that WITHOUT taking out student loans.

Student loans will eventually strangle you, if you’re not careful. We plan on suggesting that Dude work AND go to school at the same time, perhaps paying for his classes as he goes along. Yes, it will take him longer to get through school, but he’ll appreciate his education more if he pays for his own schooling AND he won’t graduate with a ton of debt starting out. If that means he needs to live with us to save himself on rent, utilities and food (though we fully expect him to contribute some money toward living expenses), then so be it. We would love to have him around, and it would help the kid manage his finances in a smart and economical way.

That’s our current plan, at any rate. But it could all fall apart, or change, if he happens to land a job with a promising career with a good company. Who knows.

This whole go to a university, go to a trade school, or don’t go to school at all is weighing heavily on my mind. We don’t want to give the kid bad advice, but on the other hand, we hope he’ll have the presence of mind to weigh what he would LIKE to do against can he make any money DOING it. Going to school to say, major in writing, SOUNDS good (*ahem*), but exactly what type of job can you land DOING it?

*Side Note: I never really had any expectations of landing a job actually using the degree I graduated with [technical writing] because Springfield simply doesn’t cater to that industry – I’d have had to move to either coast to get a job in that field. However, having that writing degree will serve as a springboard to something that requires good writing skills, like this paralegal path I’m pursuing, and give me an edge against my competitors. Which is another pro for going to college, an edge.

I think the most important lessons we can teach Dude as far as his future is:

1. Keep your options open. Be willing to change your plans if something more lucrative comes along.

But with that said …

2. Set goals. Though we want to teach him to keep his options open, he’ll need to eventually (and that’s sooner rather than later), decide on a path. If he drags his feet and doesn’t decide on anything, years will go by and nothing will be accomplished. He’ll be at a stand still and possibly living with us when he’s 30.

Um, no.

3. Be willing to work as an intern, an assistant or even do some volunteer work in the field he’s interested in. Most times, just getting a foot in the door is all it takes to be accepted and offered a paying job.

Volunteering to re-design and maintain our sons’ school websites is what led to my current (paying) position as webmaster for ten local schools. This NEVER would have happened if I hadn’t volunteered for the job to begin with.

4. Be flexible. Just because your degree has a “title” doesn’t mean you have to get a job with that title. Look for ways you can use that knowledge in different fields. (Like me planing on using my writing degree as an added bonus to landing a paralegal job – paralegals are required to be pretty good writers as well as proficient in research and analytical skills).

The bottom line? College is not necessarily the answer to a successful life. Sure. It can be a starting point, and it might prove useful down the road (like if you’re competing for a promotion against someone who doesn’t have a degree, or a springboard to a field that’s related to your degree), but it’s not necessarily the ONLY option.

Michelle, over at Scribbit, has written an interesting, and informative, series on Preparing Our Kids for Life. I recommend giving it a read, she makes some excellent points.

I know Dude is both excited and scared about starting a new life after high school, we’re just as scared and excited for him, but the kid is smart, and he has options – that’s a strong start.

Our job is to help guide him on whatever path he decides to pursue.

Parenting

Football is Hard on the Brain

I read an article in the New York Times today (which is a shocker in itself because I pretty much loathe the New York times) about the possible correlation between football and brain damage.

The article cites a young college man who committed suicide and when the parents gave permission for examiners to autopsy his brain, they “discovered early stages of chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), a disease linked to depression and impulse control primarily among N.F.L. players, two of whom also committed suicide in the last 10 years.”

Even though the doctors are being careful to say that though the young man had this brain disease and played football, it’s not necessarily the reason he hung himself.

BUT, they are noticing this same disorder in other football players that have committed suicide over the years.

Thomas never had a diagnosis of a concussion on or off the football field or even complained of a headache, his parents said, although they acknowledged he was the kind of player who might have ignored the symptoms to stay on the field. Because of this, several doctors said, his C.T.E. — whose only known cause is repetitive brain trauma — must have developed from concussions he dismissed or from the thousands of subconcussive collisions he withstood in his dozen years of football, most of them while his brain was developing.

The idea that C.T.E. can stem from hits below the level of concussion — which are endemic to football and all but impossible for doctors to see or manage — is relatively new.

They now wonder if years of being pummeled to death all in the name of playing a good game might have something to do with this CTE.

And at the risk of sounding insensitive – duh.

I have never understood the appeal. I can’t imagine why anyone would knowingly put themselves in a situation where they will routinely be beat up – sometimes severely and often times to the point where they are actually injured. I don’t see how butting heads, quite literally, play after play, game after game, and year after year, (starting as early as Mighty Mites) could possibly do anything BUT injure someone’s brain.

It all seems like pointless torture, in my opinion. And for what, exactly, a game?!?

Now granted, our boys are anything BUT athletic. In fact, they will be the first to tell you that they hate sports. All sports, all the time. They just aren’t interested. So, I’ve never had to worry about them getting hurt in that arena. (So to speak). But even if they HAD expressed an interest in sports, football specifically (because even though an individual can get hurt in any sport, hell, one can get injured just crossing the street sometimes, that person is less likely to get hurt than willingly participating in a contact sport like football where the whole objective is to tackle, and knock each other down as fast and as hard as one can possibly achieve), I am pretty sure we would have vetoed that idea.

Actually, there’s not pretty sure, we would have said, “no way in hell.”

I was directed to this article in the New York Times through a blog. This woman was talking about how she’s nervous for her son, who eats, sleeps and lives for football and how even though she’s scared something like this might happen to her son, she can’t live her life in fear of it happening.

And I agree with her – you can’t live your life in fear and that should never stop you from living your life in a responsible and safe way. But I have to disagree with her willingness to sacrifice her son to repeated abuse on the football field. Even though her son will likely not develop CTE, or mess his brain up to the point where he takes his own life (God forbid), how does she know that his repeated abuse on the field isn’t taking SOME sort of toll on his brain and possibly causing long-term issues?

Accidents happen, of course. But this goes beyond accidents – this is willingly, and knowingly, placing a child in a dangerous situation, not once, but every day, week, year of his young life.

Again, I ask … why? All for the sake of a game? I just don’t understand why anyone would risk a life-altering illness, or injury all for the sake of those few minutes in the end zone?

Please understand, I’m not criticizing this woman’s decision, or any parents’ decision to allow their sons to play football, not at all, they have the freedom to make those choices, and if the kids are willing and love it, then by all means, go for it.

I just wonder how many parents truly think about the possible repercussions – to me, the odds of my sons permanently damaging themselves are just too high for me, I’m not willing to play that particular game of Russian Roulette.

We all went to a football game this past Friday night at my sons’ high school – Jazz was playing in the band at half time, which is the only reason we were there to begin with. I like to watch football, and I like the sport, overall, though I’m now seriously reconsidering my opinions on the sport after reading this article and thinking how the sport impacts these young men as individuals, and two of our players got injured. The crowd got deathly quiet as we awaited word on the boys’ conditions.

The first time it happened, I watched one of the coaches talk to the mother, explaining the situation to her. From what I can gather, he broke his arm. He was taken off the field in the golf cart.

The second time, the boy was able to get up on his own, but walked with a noticeable limp. I believe he sat out for a few plays, but ended up back in the game. His father was sitting right in front of me and he didn’t move a muscle when his son was lying on the field. He didn’t move when he was escorted off the field, and still didn’t move to find out what was happening when they were looking at him on the side lines.

I simply don’t understand how any parent could simply sit there and not at least go down to see how his child was doing. I mean, I get the whole, “we’re in high school and OMG, parents are so dumb and uncool and don’t talk to me,” stigma – I have two teenage boys myself, remember? But when the child has been injured, all bets are off.

Even though the boys were physically injured, after reading this article, I wonder how many boys went home after that game with a headache, or feeling woozy, or just not feeling “right” overall. I’ve seen several kids weave off the field and act disoriented and again I have to ask, how could they NOT be disoriented after being treated like a punching bag for an hour?

I guess the point of this post is to raise awareness of the dangers of participating in football. I mean, it seems the “cool” thing to brag about, “my kid is in such-and-such sport” but at what cost? Both short term and long term?

I can’t tell you the number of weird looks I’ve received over the years whenever I’ve talked to parents and they ask, “what sport does your son play” and my answer has been, “none. He’s a geek and we’re cool with that.” It annoys me that they assume that our sons are in something because it seems the “norm” for them to play something.

Though I wish they had gotten involved in some team … activity, these things really are a great tool to teach our children the importance of working together as a team and sportsmanship, I have to be honest, I’m really glad they never got involved in anything that could potentially rattle their brains.

The Thomas case will almost certainly prove more arresting to those assessing the long-term risks of football at all levels, as he had developed the disease before leaving college and, for reasons that remain unknown, developed severe depression and killed himself.

“It’s pretty hard to make a jump with one case,” said Dr. James Moriarity, the University of Notre Dame’s head physician, who oversees the athletic department’s medical care. “But if it’s true that that happened, it would kill the sport,” he said, referring to an amateur player getting C.T.E. “As a parent, it’s going to be hard to justify kids going out and doing that.”

Maybe we need to seriously reassess this sport for what it is – downright dangerous.