Fucking Hard…

No, not that kind of fucking. This is what my advisor said to me when we chatted over lunch last week. I was saying I didn’t have many peers. When I look around I just don’t see enough people doing what I’m doing.

“That’s because it’s hard. It’s really fucking hard,” this is a woman I don’t hear cuss ever, she even quieted her voice a little when she said ‘fucking’.

And while I wanted to agree, to take the kudos she offered so bluntly, I couldn’t. Yes, being a single parent while earning a Master’s degree is hard. Yes, being an advocate for sex positivity is hard. Yes, realizing your passion for social justice isn’t going to pay you well. Yes, it’s all hard. And I can see why people avoid being in this position. But there was something missing in her acknowledgement of why I know so few women the same age as me, with kids my age, focussed on sexuality and social justice, working on a graduate degree.

This is what I replied after taking a moment to think, “You know what’s really hard? Being uneducated, oppressed and feeling like shit about your sexuality. That is fucking hard.”

I don’t think she expected that. She has always been educated. She has her PhD, her practice, her teaching and researching career, she is a brilliant and dedicated academic.

I completed my Bachelor’s from UC Berkeley when my sons’ were 6 and 7 years old. When I graduate from this MA program they will be 11 and 12. If I go on to the PhD program that I am salivating after, they will be in college themselves when I finish it.

So, ya, it’s rough. And I’m looking for my peers. I’m looking for people who know deep down inside what the cost/benefit ratio is when balancing so many important moments day by bay.

Example: I stayed up too late writing a paper for Biology because I spent most of the my normal writing time (after dinner) consoling E about his less than stellar report card that came in the mail. He’s a bright kid, but he takes after his mom in regards to giving a shit about handwriting, neatness and turning assignments in on time. It’s finally catching up to him now and the results are not pretty. He was really upset. So make the decision: spend the next hour and half focussed on him and what he needs or take the time you need for the paper? I took care of my kid, and then submitted my paper 1 minute before the assignment closed online.

That in and of itself is not the hard part, the hard part comes when there is no one to share that moment of triumph with. The hard part is the silence that I sometimes interpret as, “ya who really fucking cares if you just pulled that off? You put yourself in this position, so deal.” It’s the double edge sword of struggle.

I am grateful my advisor acknowledged my struggle. I appreciate her support. I am so very aware how many women in my situation would have had a much different exchange. I’m also glad I was real with her. I can’t allow the success of now to erase what motivates me. I spent a good chunk of my life being both uneducated and undereducated and I’m not going back.



Choose your own adventure; Last Day of My First Semester of Grad School.

Our character is a 32 year old single mother of 2 elementary school aged children on the last day of her first semester of graduate school. She has many goals to meet on this day and very many ways to not accomplish any of them. Let’s begin:

You wake up at 6:45am after having slept for about 5 hours since you had to wait for the kids to go to bed before you could begin working on the final version of your theory term paper. You stayed up till almost 2am, but really stopped making any sense around 1am. The first thought that comes into your head when the alarm sounds and your eyes pop open is, “Fuck, the paper still doesn’t have an adequate explication of race and gender cross selection in non-monogamous partner choices. Fuck.”

Wake up your sweet little angels who tell you they hate school and to go away, it’s almost Christmas vacation and why do they have to go to school they’re not going to learn anything today anyway? Threaten them with bodily harm to get them out of bed and then feed them. You make sure they’re wearing mostly clean clothing but forget to make them brush their teeth.

8am- Drop off children at school. And breathe. Deep cleansing inhale, long slow exhale. You’ve now got exactly 6 hours to finish writing, edit, print and turn in the term paper for your Sociocultural Foundations of Human Sexuality course. The paper is your grade: no paper = no grade. No problem, just get to Downtown SF, settle down in a corner somewhere and write. You do it everyday. Lots of deep breaths.

8:15am- Arrive at Coliseum BART platform. Stop breathing. The platform is the most full you’ve ever seen it. At least a hundred people are waiting for the SF bound trains.

After about 15 minutes of waiting and more people arriving and empty trains passing, there is the announcement that there was a cable fire on the tracks between your stop and the next. The length of the delay is unknown, but they suggest taking other transit. They’re expecting the whole system to be backlogged for hours.

Here’s where you’re screwed: you’re broke. It’s the end of the semester so you’ve used all of your financial aid. You have $5 in the bank, but, you’ve got a paid gig in the city waiting for you. You have to be at their office by 2:30 and will leave with cash in hand just in time to head back to Oakland to pick up the kids from school.

Eventhough you have a car, you don’t have that much gas, you don’t have bridge toll, and even if you did, you wouldn’t have enough cash to pay for several hours worth of parking. Here in Oakland, the other BART stations parking lots will be full by now and the all have a fee. The parking around the stations is all two hour maximums and you really can’t afford a parking ticket.

So what do you do? Do you stay on the platform and wait it out? Do you drive  further down the line to where there isn’t a delay and hope to find some free parking? Or….

8:45am- Get in the car and decide to try for another station.

9:00am- Super wonderful pragmatic BFF Janee calls. She knows you’re up early and needed some motivation to get yet another day of Bar Prep underway. You tell her your predicament, she offers a new solution. Come over to her apartment, write, edit and print paper, by then BART should be back on schedule. She’ll even cook you breakfast and make you coffee. She is just that damned cool.

9:30-1pm- Write edit and print term paper while drinking lots of Janee’s coffee. You are somewhat satisfied with what you wrote and hope hope hope the professor is too. Your paper finishes printing, Janee goes to print something of hers and the ink runs out.  You now have exactly 1 hour to get paper turned in to professor. Janee sees on her facebook that people waited for over 2 hours to get into the city this morning.

1:15pm- Decide to go to West Oakland BART since it is the closest to SF and least likely to be delayed. However the parking lot costs $5- which is exactly how much money is in your bank account. You’re not sure if the machine will work with that little available funds, but figure it’s worth a try.

1:30pm- Arrive at West Oakland BART find a parking spot right next to entrance. Run up to parking machine and see that parking today is FREE!

1:35pm- SF/Daly City train slides into station. Grab a seat and text a few people, check some emails, and will the train to not stop no matter what.

1:50pm- Arrive at Powell Street BART

1:55pm- Slide paper into Professor’s box. You have just completed your first out of four semesters towards a Masters Degree. Take a moment to see how that feels.

2pm- You now have 30 minutes to get to the office in the Richmond for the paying gig. Realize you don’t actually have bus fare and will have to go to Wallgreens to buy something for a buck and get cash back, thereby fully emptying your bank account.

2:05pm- Run into friend in your program, go for being shameless and ask if you can borrow $2 to take the bus. She digs in her pockets, because as a grad student at the end of her semester she is just as broke as you, she finds first one dollar and then another. Shower her with many thanks, hugs and a kiss on the head.

2:10pm- You’re running to Union Square to catch the 38L.

2:15pm-Bus arrives, it’s pouring down rain by the way. The transfer you get expires at 4:15pm.

2:35pm- Make it to the office soaked but on time for the most part.

4:20pm- Leave office with cash! Money makes the world go round. But now all you have is large bills and no time to break them and the bus is coming and it’s really storming now and you have to get back Downtown to get on the BART to get back to West Oakland to get the car and drive back to East Oakland to pick up kids from school by 6pm.

4:25pm- Decide to try to use expired transfer.

4:30pm- Bus arrives, flash transfer amidst the rainy, grumpy, umbrella and plastic tarped people, driver waves you through.

5:00pm- Arrive back at Powell Street BART

5:30pm- Arrive West Oakland BART. Crazy windy, hailing, storming weather. Get in car, realize you have just barely enough gas to get to boys’ school, but gas in this part of town in ridiculously expensive, you know there are at least two gas stations in the hood with much cheaper gas. The freeways are not moving anyway, so you decide to take surface streets from West to East hoping if the car starts to die, there will be a gas station close by.

5:50pm- Roll up to gas pump just as car dies. Buy gas for $3.15 a gallon.

6pm- Arrive at kids’ school. Deep cleansing breaths.

6:45pm- Home and making kids’ dinner.