Monday, September 8, 2014

Choices and consequences

Last week, one of my students who came from my Comp I class (which was about a year and a half ago) came to class twenty minutes late.  Since I like the kid, I didn't do more than tease the hell out of him.  I like most of my students, so that's my likely response to any of them that hadn't cleared it with me beforehand.

Most of the time, consequences aren't so benign. 

I see a lot of poor choices on the college campus--everything from blowing off classes in favor of partying, to blowing off paying bills in favor of spending money on what they want.  From sleeping with everything that moves and wondering why they can't find a relationship, to badly socially awkward guys wondering why everyone thinks they're creepers. 

Choices carry consequences.  Always. 

Records of repeated poor choices result in a lifetime of grinding poverty and debt.  Always. 

My family is an incredibly good example of this: my mother and sister, in particular, consistently make poor choices that leave them unable to tread water, at times. 

When I was in college as an undergrad student, my mom decided she needed to replace her '86 Cougar (she did).  Instead of looking for a good car in her price range, she overspent by double her budget on a Ford F-150.  A 4x4 with a beefed-up (but not cared for) transmission for towing, and two giant gas tanks.  The trouble started almost immediately: the truck was eight years old when she got it, and had been a farm truck--one that was used hard.  The steering started having trouble.  The transmission started having trouble.  The electrical system started having trouble.  The truck has cost her more than she could afford to pay for twelve years because all she looked at were the monthly payments. 

And all of this financial trouble has kept my sister living with a woman who constantly keeps the abuse we lived through, and our abuser, in the front of my sister's mind.  I didn't start to heal from everything until I got the hell away.

That's only one issue.

My sister has been looking to move into low income housing, where utilities and cable are actually part of the rent--$400/month.  That would leave her $200/month for food and dry goods, but she swears that she wouldn't be able to make it on that. 

Um...yeah.  The only reason that that wouldn't be enough is that she doesn't shop wisely.  I've seen my mother and sister's grocery budget.  They buy name brand everything--it has to be top quality, or it simply isn't good enough.  Never mind that there is little to no difference in quality.  They spend twice the amount to feed two people that I spend to feed two adults and two children. 

So, my sister chooses to stay in a very bad environment because she's convinced that it will take more than her check to survive.

Poor choice, harsh consequence. 

My father-in-law is an example of precisely the opposite: when his first child came along, he looked at his income and spending habits.  He realized that he could either buy cigarettes or diapers, and he quit smoking. 

The people I've overheard on campus complaining about not being able to afford more than ramen as they light up a cig doesn't bear thinking about. 

Choice, consequence.

This semester, I've had four students so far dropped from my class for non-payment of tuition.  One of them has come and talked to me, asking if I'd give them a copy of the text, and would let them back into class when they got the money together.  I asked them if their loans and grants hadn't come in on time, and they said that they had, but...they'd used the cash on a car.  Because they hated their old car, and wanted a new car.  And since they made that choice, I had to give them my textbook, and tell them to try again next semester, if they qualified for loans after they'd committed fraud. 

The choice made here was beyond stupid; the consequence could well be no more funding for college, at best, and jail time at worst.  Not to mention debt that never goes away.

Speaking of such, how many of us have seen the pitiful "I got a MA in Women's Studies, and can't find a full-time job, or one that pays more than minimum wage, and can't afford to feed my children" twits online?  Seriously, they put themselves into six-digit debt to an entity that never goes away, and doesn't vanish with a bankruptcy filing. 

Worse are the ones that almost make the right decisions: they get their degree, they go to work in their area, and find out they've been lied to about their likely income. 

I have a cousin in this situation.  She got a degree, and then a master's in social work.  Her advisors told her that she'd get a larger percentage paid by the government of her fees when she went to work as a counselor than someone who got a master's in psychology. 

She graduated, and went to work.  She got the larger percentage, yes, but it was a smaller dollar amount because a MS in psychology got paid half again what she did.  On the upside, she worked for five years in "underserved areas" and got her debt--something close to $60K--forgiven, so she doesn't have her student debt hanging over her head, just her husband's.   She's currently working seventy and eighty hours a week to be able to afford food, utilities, medical insurance, and other basic necessities, as well as her daughters' extra-curricular activities. 

My cousin is facing the consequences set for her by someone who lied to her, when she didn't research to make sure that what she was told was the truth.

Ooh--case in point of poor decisions: there is a student outside my classroom (my door is open, the lights are on, and I'm playing music on my laptop, so if they were paying attention, they'd realize that there was someone listening).  They're on their cell phone (bad choice #1--unneeded contract cost), complaining loudly about having to buy everything to stock a household because they chose to break the rental contract over a fight with their roommate (bad choice #2--the roomie, apparently, owned everything) and move out into their own apartment.  "Do you know how much everything costs?  How much money I'm having to spend on things like towels, and dishes, and stuff?"  Sounds like the poor darling is buying absolutely everything new--bad choice #3, since it's pretty easy to find durable goods used for pennies on the dollar of the price for new things.

Choices.  Consequences.  Suck it up, learn from it (not likely), and stop being stupid.  Life will be much easier when you're not paying stupid tax on your choices. 


  1. The problem with most with most folks, and I've been guilty a time or two myself, is that they can't learn from others mistakes. The times I've been able to slow down and think twice about things, I've almost always come out way ahead in the scheme of things.

    And another idea along this line of thinking is that many have to repeat certain mistakes twice before learning.... not just once.

    1. I've avoided many mistakes because I think first. I do look long-term, and base decisions on what's in my best interests (or my husband's or children's best interests). And...I read. I read a lot (more in the past than I manage now).

      You're right, though. Most can't learn from watching others' mistakes (or reading about them). I count myself blessed that I can. Most of the time.

  2. You can lead a horse to water, but you can't make him think. I was lucky. I had parents that taught me about debt, what it is, and how it's used against you if you renege on your promissory obligations. We eat like champs on our budget and things like steak and shrimp are nice sure, but if it's diaper or kid clothes time, the surf and turf can wait. The longevity aspect of modern critical thinking skills these kids have today just is not there anymore. They better brush up or get mopped up because the real world after a 4 year binge of spending mom and dad's dime on partying and a theater arts degree, will flat out eat them alive.

    1. Yup. They're gonna hurt--and a lot of them that have graduated already are hurting.

  3. Stackz is right... And Ramen SUCKS after a while... sigh

    1. Ramen's okay. It's quick. I prefer making a pot of lentils and rice, though. Cheaper, and better for me.

  4. Eldest Boy is learning these hard lessons now, but at least he is (FINALLY!!!) learning. Eldest Daughter is in the "got my degree in a field that I was told I'd be able to get a good job in" boat as well, problem is all those good jobs are somewhere else, and that somewhere else is a higher cost of living area, so it would be a net negative.

    Sucks being an adult sometimes.

    1. Yes. Yes, it does. Especially when trusted adults lie to you about employ-ability when you're still a kid.