So I’m on a quest. Sort of. For $20,000 in a year. Yup, you read that right. I foolishly sat down and realized that with tuition, travel to and from school for both my residencies, a trip to the AWP in March, a WorldCon in August, and vacation in August, I need to somehow find an additional $20,000 in this year’s budget.
Now, once upon a time, I had an uncle who offered reimbursement for tuition for school, but I have a feeling it’s too late for that. I could always take out more loans for school, but I would much rather pay some off instead of take some more.
I find myself falling back into overwork – less enjoyment but goals being achieved. I’d like to find a balance, though. How do I find it? How do I make it work?
Meanwhile, we’re paying off debt, paying for Patrick’s MBA program, dealing with unexpected expenses that always seem to show up (like last year’s animal emergencies, a hot water heater that broke, etc, etc.).
I suppose the biggest problem is that what I enjoy doing the most pays the least. And even what I like doing doesn’t pay enough. Doing taxes was horribly depressing – it made me realize that since I’ve gone from full-time to “part-time,” I’m working twice as hard with little to no vacations or benefits, yet my earning were down by almost $10,000. (But that’s a whole ‘nuther blog about the issues in higher education and the undervaluing of adjuncts….and, yes, I have decreed that undervaluing is a word, regardless of whether it really is or not…just accept it.)
Anyway, the main point here is that I’m trying to find my balance and handle everything from my son to school to work to life in general. And somehow in all of that, I need to find a get rich quick scheme. Anyone wanna buy a bridge?
In 2002, Dickard and Schneider reported that only 54% of Americans were online. According to a recent CNN Money article, 52% of lowest income families (making $20,000 or less) don’t have a computer in their homes. However, 62% of those in that low bracket own between two and four televisions (as of a 2009 survey).
What does that actually mean? And why should we care?
CNN Money asks if it means that they aren’t poor. But maybe they’re missing the point.
It IS poverty to own a TV and not a computer. Literacy does not refer to just reading skills. Illiteracy, according to Ribriro (2006), is not just a lack of schooling but anyone who has a “limited mastery of reading and writing skills.” In this day and age, reading and writing occurs online.
It isn’t just reading and writing that gets accomplished online, though. In order to make a difference, in order to start a movement, in order to get involved and be able to be empowered, one must be able to get online. Grassroots organizations solicit members, get donations, and even sign petitions. They make others aware of problems, get people involved, and get ideas for helping to overcome problems.
How can someone nowadays find a job that will help them earn more than $20,000? They have to look for it online.
How does someone get the training and skills they need for that job? They have to look for it online.
Not owning a computer, and not knowing how to use one, is part of what keeps many of these people at that level. It’s easy to buy a TV and know how to use one; it’s hard to buy a computer and know how to use one.
The last time I went shopping for a laptop, I walked in knowing what I wanted and how much I wanted to spend on it. Even then, the salesman questioned me. Why did I want that computer? Did I know about this computer? What was my budget? If I hadn’t been sure of myself, I might have crumbled and caved, given in to his “I know more than you” attitude. Would someone, earning less than $20,000 a year, who may already be unsure of him or herself, give in at that point and allow themselves to be bullied?
Even if they don’t give in, even if they buy what they intended to buy, what about being able to afford everything that goes along with it? Would that person be able to afford monthly connectivity charges to the Internet, ranging from $30 or more a month? Would that person be able to buy the software that comes as a free sample and then runs out? What would they do if the computer broke – or was broken when they got it home – and they couldn’t tell how to fix it? And just how many computer shops (that aren’t pawn stores with questionable stock) are located in the middles of areas with median incomes of $20,000, anyway?
There are more questions than answers, but I think the important thing to take away here is the fact that we can’t judge that someone who has a TV or two instead of a computer is “not poor.” If anything, they are far poorer than they know.
The Huffington Post had an interesting article about a brilliant high school principal in Pennsylvania that was busted sending texts and emails about a special needs (bipolar) student. In these messages, he called the student a “psychopath,” noted that he thought the student might turn into another “Hinckley, Booth, and Oswald,” said that student was “the biggest accident waiting to happen,” and said he thought the student was, “the inspiration for the CSI show on school killing sprees.”
In response to these obviously offensive and completely inappropriate comments, he was suspended for investigation, but then the school board went ahead and reinstated him (a 6 to 3 vote), but noted that he is no longer allowed to work with the school’s special needs students.
Okay, so let’s think about this.
The guy isn’t bright enough to know that everything he says about students is available through the open records act. Yet he’s bright enough to run a school? Somehow, me thinks he’s too stupid to be in charge of that school. Especially with those types of comments. (And the fact that the reason he was caught was that he sent the text during a meeting with the student and the student’s parent!)
Next up – he’s allowed to be the principal, but he can’t work with special needs students. Hello? That’s like saying, hey, I know you molested an 8 year old, so you don’t get to work with any more 8 year olds. But go ahead and keep on working at an elementary school. The guy has proven he is not appropriate to work with part of the student body, why keep him? And the fact that this kid is now going to school knowing that his (or her – student not identified) principal thinks that he/she is crazy. Wow. That’ll make him/her feel great about school! And the fact that the board doesn’t care about him/her is going to make him/her feel great, too.
Why do we excuse behavior when it comes from adults who should know better? Especially when it makes the kids suffer? If I was in that town, I’d be looking forward to the elections to get rid of those six school board members…
So lately I’ve been thinking a lot about motivation. And the lack of it.
But back when I was working on my Ph.D., I read McKeachie’s teaching tips: Strategies, research, and theory for college and university teachers. In it, one of the authors, Hofner, believed that motivation was based on choice, effort, and persistence. She also pointed out the difference between intrinsic and extrinsic motivation. Intrinsic is always stronger; however, it is not always present. Sometimes that extrinsic motivation (the grade, the diploma) is the only thing there, and in those cases, teachers can use that to help motivate students who have not achieved internal motivation.
Some of it the internal motivation is praising ourselves. I just began reading “The Writer’s Workout,” which, so far, seems to be a very interesting and helpful book, and it brings up how we need to praise ourselves. That helps. Writers do have egos, and they do need stroking. But sometimes that’s not enough (or even wrong). Sometimes there’s a need for external motivation.
If writers just want to write for themselves, that’s internal motivation. However, if they want to actually be published, they need to go to external motivation. That’s people buying your work, liking your work, or even willingly talking to you about your work.
My external motivation that I’ve gotten lately, other than selling work, is the fact that I got accepted into two different MFA programs in Creative Writing/Fiction. One even included a lovely note about how much they enjoyed my writing and how much they looked forward to working with me! Lovely and nice to find that in the mailbox!
But there’s a limit to it – the motivation that is.
While the praise and ego stroking is nice, there’s also what I consider the anti-motivator. Sometimes we see what other people accomplish, and instead of it motivating us, it makes us competitive. Like the episode of “Malcolm in the Middle” where a new teacher comes to the Kreylbornes and makes them compete with each other, our egos make us want to fight to come out on top. We care if we’re 99.99995 or 99.99993. And, really, why should that matter?
So let’s just forget about motivation and self-praise and ego stroking. Let’s just write.