The High Cost of Education

(I started this post before doing a monthly reading list, of which I am tardy on this month. But I left this sitting in drafts. My goal over the next month is to complete every draft that I’ve started and get it published on the blog. What you’ll see is that I have a problem with spending money on books, I have a lack of space with which to house all of my books, and I have a lack of time with which to read all of my books. So, about the same as any other book-lover all over the world.)

I’ve paid for an education on credit. No, not the degrees that I’ve eared (though the debt I’ve accrued in earning those is substantial), but I specifically speak about my love of books, or bibliophilia. And what an education. I can’t help but peruse the stacks at Barnes & Noble, Books-A-Million, or the countless used bookstores that I frequent. The musty smell, a fragrance that only holds a hint of the words of thousands-upon-thousands of women and men, just waiting to be re-released into the world.


So I stack books on shelves, on top of each other, on the floor. I try and read as many as I can, though I usually only finish one per week, though if it’s particularly gripping I’ll get through it in a little less time. The point I’m making, though, is that I find it difficult to leave a bookstore without some acquisition (or two or three, etc). My collection on philosophy, metaphysics, logic and esoterica is growing just over the past year (2017 – I was contemplating enrolling in a PhD Philosophy program, but have set that on the back burner for now).

I keep one bookshelf in my room, just to store the current interests. I’ve got books from Karl Ove Knausgaard, Alan Watts, Neil Gaiman, and Joseph Campbell. There are books on writing, time management, chakras, meditation, and philosophy. An entire shelf is made up of journals and notebooks – some blank, some partially written in, and others full of my scribblings. And every day, multiple times, I find myself just looking at the book shelf.

It may be impossible to read through everything I’ve purchased, but as John Waters said, “Nothing is more important than an unread library.”

The problem with applications

I’ve filled out a lot of applications. Online mostly, though still some on paper. The online revolution and conversion was ushered in between the times that I was looking for work. In 2003 I fell into my first after high school job, which I don’t even recall if I filled out an application for. It was an office manager for a nonprofit, and until the office space we had was lost, I thought it was going okay. I learned a lot about business skills in that one-man shop, though maybe not enough.

After that, I started what could have been my first career I suppose you could say. Had I not resigned to pursue professional acting, maybe I’d still be there. It was a service organization affiliated with NASCAR, and while I have many problems with the way some of that went down, I can remember fondly my times at the track.

I think from there I learned that work should be fun. Could be fun, at the very least. I was a highly effective worker, and given increasing responsibility during my time there. (In five years, I received two promotions and was asked to handle several increasing complicated aspects of the job – mostly related to computer systems or point-of-sales.) And I had fun, mostly. When the crowds started slowing to the races, then concern gripped the corporatists – cut budgets, watch the bottom dollar, churn out the returns. 

But we’re not robots. Not cogs that, if tightened, can produce two more widgets. (This theme has been coming up recently – the production of widgets.)

Long story short, when it was time to go, I knew it was time to go. The exact phrasing of my last meeting with my boss and my boss’s boss (Office Space anyone?) went like this:

My Boss: “It’s either you quit your outside activities and commit to this, or you should go somewhere else.”

Me: “I have my two weeks notice ready. Let me grab it for you.”

Now my outside activities were my first volunteer endeavors with community theatre, and I had requested a day off a week after the Daytona 500 to be involved with a professional production of an opera. Whether or not either of us were right or wrong is just a lot of conjecture, but we both did what we did. 

I go by my gut a lot. Every job I’ve known it was time to leave, I went ahead and did it. Sometimes without a safety net. Thankfully, I’ve managed to land on my feet. (This time is a little harder, as I’m more keenly aware of the level of debt I’m carrying from my student loans.)

So when I go out and look for those jobs, and I come to a website where I am filling out over and over again the same information. Name. Number. Address. Work history. Education. Etc., etc.

Exactly why we have resumes. And, truth be told, nearly all of my jobs have come through people I knew, or people who knew those people. Not online applications. So what then is the point there? 

When they ask you in their application (posted online, and responded to in the same way by every applicant) “what about this company makes you want to work here?” – the most likely honest answer is “if hired, you’ll give me a paycheck.”

Company culture isn’t bought into in an online application. And good companies will have trouble matching good applicants in that way. 

Companies – if you want good workers (and to retain them), be different. Don’t be another online application for a hopeful paycheck.

Applicants – if you want to work for a good company (and do well), be different. Bring your talents to someone who will take those talents, and let you use them. Let you fail. And then help back up.

An honest look at 2018

This year, closing out today, has been what I would used to call, “Meh.” There were some ups, some downs, and then the mostly flats.

To the year’s credit, I did have more time on stage; rejoined the nonprofit world; made considerable effort towards getting out of debt (given the state of my student loans, that didn’t look like much – but I made progress nonetheless); worked on relationships with family, friends, and other loved ones; decluttered; and started new endeavors.

On the other side of the ledger, there was an overwhelming feeling of not accomplishing enough. Many of the new endeavors sat unfinished, or abandoned. Some money-making ideas didn’t pan out as hoped, and were laid to the side. A few of my writing projects got pushed to the back burner, and nothing got even close to completion this year.

Som highlights:

  • With my subscription to Movie Pass in 2016, I saw numerous films throughout the year. After changes to its subscription model prevented me from buying several tickets, it was time to cancel though, and I’ve reduced the number of films I see so that I wasn’t spending so much on tickets.
  • I started the year working in telecommunications, and studying basic electric circuit design. I’m ending the year with a primary focus in fundraising and development.
  • In April I purchased my new car, a Toyota RAV4 Adventure Series. There was a notion to buy a small camper, and do some traveling, living and working from wherever I ended up. I haven’t gotten that far yet. To date, I haven’t even had a tow hitch installed.
  • A few shows under my belt – Evita, Oklahoma, and Little Women. I’m enjoying the character work that I’ve been getting, and would like to try my hand on camera again. It’s been many years since doing television work in Ft. Lauderdale.
  • During November my girlfriend and I did make the trip to Costa Rica. This was a quick jaunt, and I would have loved to have seen more. In the summer of 2019 we’ll be heading to Alaska for ten days, so I’m excited for that as well.
  • The remainder of the year was just so-so. Nothing dramatic, nothing earth-shattering (all this being on the personal front). Just a development year. It’s 2019 that promises change. As I said, my focus words for 2019 are Success and Harmony. There are no limits to what those mean, and as the Universe receives my intention, I know it’ll bring it back to me in the auspicious, Universal way.

So, fare thee well 2018. Greetings to a prosperous and healthy 2019.

Happy New Year!

Adulting 101

Had drinks with my friends following a birthday dinner the other night. I think there are things that you talk with lifelong friends about that you don’t talk to anyone else about. At least, not to the fullest extent.

  • I shared some issues I was having in my personal life, both emotionally and with a relationship.
  • We spoke about issues relating to money, and homeownership.
  • We talked about working, and having a business.

There are classes in school that teach so many facts and stats, but where are the principles of adulthood? Where do you learn how to file taxes, or make a budget? Where do they get off saying that student debt is okay, when really it’s the largest portion of debt now in the United States, and it places American students with outstanding debt on uneven footing.

Out of our discussion, we came to the conclusion that schools should have an actual class, and that life lessons in those classes become progressively more challenging each year. Budgeting, taxes, investing, business ownership vs. being employed, college vs. trade school.

No tests would be necessary, but each student must annually present on what they’ve learned, what they hope to accomplish, and a career path that interests them. Not an elective, like home economics or shop, but an actual dedicated curriculum spot for every student.

That is Adulting 101.

Economic Theory

Been looking at the economics of the nation this week. Will give it more thought as the year progresses, especially with the new Fed Chair. A low rise in interest could turn out to be a good thing.

But I’m considering debt, and the need of money being bondage. Once you take on debt, you start working for someone else.

The Communist system has been used in similarly broken states as Capitalism. Bartering, maybe, was a more honest system. But the accumulation of goods led to some or one wealthy barons working less and exerting control over others.

An imperfect system is the only way to maintain order. Too little pay and you have revolt. Too much, and the need to work is greatly reduced. The majority barely making survival pay (needing debt) induces conformity.

The Youth of America

I look around, and I can’t help think… It’s a breaking system. Yet, time and again I see that as it continues to fail, someone starts picking up the pieces, putting them back together, and doing it better. And I’m heartened by that.

We’ve had two significant movements coalesce in the first fifteen months of the Trump Presidency: Me Too and Never Again. Two slogans, each started some time ago, but both with more traction now than had ever been seen.

I believe the older generations have grown complacent. Even the older millennials are guilty of this. We’ve been frogs slowly boiling in pots of water, watching the rise of the age of information, instant access to nearly everything, as well as the reduction of privacy. We’ve slowly been acclimated, so it’s not something we specifically noticed. By the time the heat is too high, it’s too late for us.

The country has made some frightening changes. Amid record levels of prosperity and renown from abroad, we’ve upended system after system. Healthcare. Education. Gun laws. Civil rights. Military service. Worker’s rights. Women’s rights.

And in 2016, it seems even Democracy itself. We Americans of an age 30 or older are in no real place to fix this. Though it’s not impossible, it certainly seems unlikely. We can’t seem to cooperate long enough to take a bathroom break, let alone try and fix the system.

In come the youths!

It’s the younger Americans, and youthful citizens around the world, who are seeing this and saying, “Wait a minute. Wait a minute. Something is wrong.” They’re taking up the causes, and will only continue to do so, and improve on it.

As education moves to more testing and less teaching, the students will find ways of educating themselves. Maybe even reinvent the system that is currently failing them.

As levels of debt increase in the Nation, the young Americans will get behind spending moratoriums. Pundits have decried the millennial non-interest in driving as laziness. Yet, maybe it is a subconscious, or inherent move against the rampant consumerism that faces this country. Why does a family need three or more cars? What’s wrong with public transportation? And, if living somewhere where public transportation does have something wrong with it (anywhere not heavily metropolitan and without significant investment), then they’re going to get busy fixing it!

As race relations seem to endlessly be a matter of debate (white vs. black; white vs. Latino; black vs. black; white vs. white; white vs. very nearly everyone it seems), students who were raised according to the golden rule (do unto others) or general codes of ethics (everyone deserves to be treated with respect) feel that their parents and grandparents are acting irrationally, either cussing Trump and the Republicans, the NRA and anti-choicers; or cussing Obama and the Democrats, gun control and pro-choice. (I’ll rarely use the term pro-life to describe the Conservative Christian side in this, for as long as you can support the death penalty, you have no right to call yourself pro-life. I know there are those who are completely pro-life, but not all who call themselves pro-life fit the title.)

Seeing this irrational behavior, the kids are crossing boundaries. They’re more likely to find friends of different races, religions and creeds. It’s the parents that are trying to instill fear into the children. “Watch out for people from X. They are the enemy.”

Kids know better.

We’re a young nation, struggling for identity. Struggling to see who it is we are. I’m for one optimistic about what our future looks like. Yes, it seems that we have some form of derailment every other day. Yes, we have racism and misogynistic behaviors still shaking us to our core. Economic inequality and mass hysteria brought on my faulty media sources (or sources claiming to be media). There are dangerous people and damaged people. And sometimes, just sometimes, it’s scary to be out among the Americans. But it also seems that we’re doing better, averaging in an upwards trend. And the youth are leading the charge.

We’re not perfect, not by any stretch of the imagination. But each and every citizen, I believe, feels a desire to make the world a better place. And it is the youth of the Country that, I believe, hold the key to brushing off all the problems currently facing us, and moving us into the bright new future that is America.

Rebuilding

Following natural disasters, how does the government respond? Where does the money come from, and aren’t there ways that we can be better prepared?

Early estimates are that the total cost of Harvey and Irma are $150-$250B. In perspective, the cost of Katrina was $160B. How do we pay for that? What are other economic factors that need to be considered?

The United States annual budget is roughly $3.8 trillion. So, those two hurricanes comprise approximately 5% of the annual budget.

When I worked in municipal government, I dealt with the Office of Management and Budget from time to time. Check how much overall was left for the office until the end of the fiscal year. Request transfers from one category to another. Those kind of things.

I’m neither an expert on budgets nor on government expenditures.

That being said, it seems that the Nation has a problem. Debt is required to make up the deficit in the budget (already), and more debt will be needed to pay for the damage.

Following Hurricane Katrina, John W. Schoen had this to say when asked who’d foot the bill: “The simplest answer: our children and grandchildren will get stuck with the bill. They’re the ones who will ultimately have to pay off the debt Congress has authorized to keep spending on the war in Iraq and now the rebuilding of damage caused by back-to-back hurricanes. In the short-term, the cash is coming from the sale of Treasury bonds, which will have to be paid back decades from now.”

I’d say great, but I’ll probably be alive to see my taxes increase for that. Probably won’t have Social Security benefits either.

Regardless, the question of handling national disasters comes down to the matter of handling the National Budget. And given that the Country was created partially through the borrowing of money (to finance the Revolutionary War), we have always been a people of debt.

The American Dream was founded on debt.

Is it sustainable? Probably not. Are we going to suddenly have to become a Chinese State? Highly doubtful. Still, planning for the budget deficit in responsible ways has become even more important in recent years.

The Treasury Department was cerated to handle the Country’s finances (thank you Alexander Hamilton – I’m a theatre guy, please keep that in mind).

From a website showing US Government Spending, we get these charts:

usgs_chart4p01

“When charted in dollars the total accumulation of federal debt looks huge. Looking back over the last century, the debt back in 1900 doesn’t really register.”

usgs_chart4p02

“But by charting accumulated debt as a percent of gross domestic product (GDP), you get a look at government debt compared to the size of the economy at the time.” This looks like a more reasonable time comparison, though having debt at 100% of the GDP is certainly not a desirable method of running the Nation’s finances.

So where does that leave us? Raise taxes? Cut spending? That’s the crux of the Democrat-Republican debate!

But in the short term it unfortunately doesn’t matter which side is right, if either side can actually be right. The cost of repair when destruction hits needs to be paid.