Why do I have everything?

I’m so sick of posts talking about how women can have everything, just not at the same time (a Claudia Goldin quote, I believe… she was talking about the generation of women who are now retiring).

I especially hate the way that disagreeing and saying, “Hey, I have everything” makes me look like a jerk.  Folks should be able to say, “I have everything and you can too.  You may not have it now, but if you keep trying it can happen.”  People shouldn’t have to apologize for being awesome.  People shouldn’t have to say, “The only reason I’m awesome is because I have had advantages that you don’t (so don’t even bother trying).”  The truth is that we can all be awesome, or at least awesomer than we are now, but some of us have to work harder than others at becoming awesome because of differences in advantages.

Here’s why I have everything.

I’m smart.  I have good genetic material.  A family that values intelligence.  My mom ate crazy healthy when I was in the womb.  My parents were active with me as a baby.  My house was full of books.  But smart isn’t just an inborn trait, it’s something you have to use and nurture by growing dendrites and taking on challenges.  You can become even smarter, starting now.  (Read Mindset by Carol Dweck.)

I’m focused.  I know what I want and I make plans on how to get there.

I’m well-prepared.  I’ve sought out and taken many educational opportunities.  I understand the culture I’m working in (I didn’t at first, but I learned and changed).  I had solid training.  My parents also gave me tools to navigate the adult world… I can budget, invest etc.  If I can’t do something I know how to find out what to do.  The best thing my mother ever taught me was how to use the library.

I’m determined.  I’m not a shrinking violet.  I know I’m valuable.  If I’m not getting what I want, I figure out how to get it.  I don’t have everything I want, but I’m going to keep trying until either I do or I decide I want to try a different game.  I realize that often opportunities don’t fall into my lap, but I can ask for them (firmly and politely).  And if some people think I’m not staying in my place, that’s their problem, not mine.  Sometimes I strike out, but I still go up to bat.

I’m hardworking.  I no longer work 80 hour weeks, but I sure don’t work less than 40 hrs/week either.

I have a growth mindset.  Set-backs are simply set-backs.  We learn from them and work harder to get ahead.

I have the perfect partner.  We don’t fight.  We don’t guilt.  We shoulder the load.  We comfort.  We support.  We look for solutions together.

I’m not a martyr.  I don’t see any reason that I should have to sacrifice myself for anybody or anything.  Yes, I did all the “right” things when DC was a baby, but never at huge sacrifice to myself, and I got to decide what was “right,” after a lot of research.  I did what I did because that was what I wanted to do because I thought it was the right thing, not because I wanted people to think I was a saint or because I was trying to convince myself not to feel guilty for whatever reason.

I’m lucky.  Also privileged by geographic and demographic virtue.  I have to work harder than a white male from a tony family but I don’t have to work as hard as an equally perfect female from an underrepresented minority family would to get to the same place.  I don’t have to work as hard as someone from another country, and being an American gives me untold advantages and safety.

Perhaps most importantly:  I get to define “everything.”  My goals are achievable.  I don’t want to work 80hrs/week and be at home for my child 168hrs/week.  I want a happy independent kid who works to hir own chosen potential.  I want to be respected in my career and to do good work.  I want to be continually growing.  I want to make enough money (and spend reasonably enough) not to have to think about it unless I want to.    (#2 thinks that the ability to have it all depends on how you define “it” and “have”.  Do I sound Presidential?)

Anyhow.  If you’re feeling unhappy about your lot in life, instead of complaining about how women just can’t have everything in yet another blog post… well, ask yourself what you can do to get what you want.  Changing the game is difficult, but there are still strategies you can use to get ahead as a player.  And it’s not fair that it takes more effort for some groups than others, but if that’s what it takes, then that’s something you can do.

What can you do to make your life better?  Are you trapped?

Sowing the Links of Love

I am not alone in my desire to never ever teach online.  I just don’t have the TIME, besides disagreeing with it philosophically.  Check out the comments at Historiann.  There is always, always one student who comes on and says “I took an online class and it was so useful to me and very rigorous too!”  These people have no idea what it’s like to teach a 3/3 load to unprepared and unmotivated students. They also fail to understand that the plural of anecdote is not data.  Still.  Sigh.

Here we have beautiful photos of a Chinese tea market, from Wonder a Day.  I might have to spend way more time on that site.

The works of the book surgeon are Wrong (aaa!  books!) but also so very beautiful.

“I just know this is gonna be the comic that totally ends sexism on the internet FOREVER!”  Sadly, it didn’t — but great try, Gabby!  We love ya.  And the kitten.

Check out this awesome awesome debt reduction calculator.  From in mint condition.

Would you like to take a 7-question quiz about cheese? Nom nom.

FGA reminds us to live for now in addition to the future.

This BS-ometer is awesome.  From academic jungle.

Finally, in lieu of more awesome links, here are two lovely pictures and a funny video to look at:

arbor at Santa Clara University

and

and

August challenges: Money month!

August is money month for both #1 and #2.  We are going to take care of all of those niggling things that have been getting put aside by life.  We will update you on our progress through August and September posts.

#1 is going hard-core!

  • go through all my TIAA-Cref paperwork, discard the outdated stuff, file the new stuff, and sign up for paperless statements
  • track my spending all month, as suggested by Your Money or Your Life
  • finally get rid of my lingering retirement accounts from 2 employers ago, which have like $87 total, and roll them into my current accounts
  • call my credit card companies and ask them to stop sending me those checks
  • consider how much of my emergency fund I need to have liquid, and possibly invest some
  • only sort of related: back up, patch, and otherwise maintain *all* computers

#2:

  • Sell all individual stocks and sucky mutual funds (except the one).  Reinvest.  Check numbers to see if IRA possible this year.
  • Force Ing to let go.
  • Check out 457 plan.  Decide between it and mortgage prepayment.
  • Make the etrade margin account not a margin account!
  • Look into moving from etrade to vanguard.  Or just open new vanguard account.
  • Call credit card companies and ask them to stop sending checks
  • Figure out how much to deduct for dependent daycare account
  • Cash in last DDA for the year
  • Sign up for annual benefits (easier this year… there are fewer choices…)
  • Are we Roth eligible for this year?

What are we missing?  Are there any money chores we should be considering that we’re forgetting?  This is the last chance until probably next August!

How much does your partner know about your job?

For us, we don’t need to be all up in each other’s stuff.  One of us is an academic (me, obvs) and the other is not (my partner).  We don’t totally understand all the other does on a daily basis.  We don’t need to have all the same friends and do everything together.

but!

My partner could tell you, in general terms, what my specialized area of expertise is.  He may not have understood a lot of my dissertation defense, but he did attend it and tell me how awesome I was.  He has met my boss and knows the names of my colleagues.  He probably couldn’t find his way to my office without a map, which is understandable, as he’s only been there once and has been living in a different state.  He knows enough about the academic structure to be able to use it as a metaphor for something else.  He did originally have to ask what tenure meant, what’s the difference between assistant and associate professor, etc., but that was years ago.  He hasn’t read my publications and I don’t expect him to– he would probably find them rather opaque.  He could proofread them if I needed him to, though, he’s pretty good at that.  He’s been with me since before grad school, so he has a good grasp of what I’ve been through and what my job requires.

I know only some about his job.  He finally explained it to me in a way I can understand by using an academic metaphor, though he is not an academic.  I’m really glad he isn’t because I’m sure that two academics in the same household would make me go insane(r).  I know who some of his coworkers are and until recently I could’ve found my way to his general office area (they moved though).  I know some things about his current boss though his name has slipped my mind, if I ever knew it.  I anticipate learning more about his job now that he’ll be working from home (in the same home as me)!

#2’s partner is an academic working at the same school, so naturally they share a lot of common experience and understand each other’s jobs well.  Also they both have moms who are academics.  #2’s partner probably understands more about #2’s research than #2 does about her partner’s research.  He’s also adorable when he uses jargon from #2’s field, as people in #2’s field tend to do because they’re obnoxious that way.

So, readers… as the title says?

Yes, I talk to the press

Do you?

Whenever the press calls it always gets me off my game.  Especially when I don’t pass the phone interview stage.  It’s hard to get focused back on work.  I see why a lot of my colleagues in the greater academic community don’t take press calls, but I sort of feel like it’s part of my job to spread truth and light to the general public.  If only I were as good at explaining complicated things as Neil DeGrasse Tyson!  Maybe after tenure I’ll polish up some soundbites and practice them like he recommends.

Neil DeGrasse Tyson

#2 never gets phone calls from the press, because they took my office phone away in a budget cut.

Do you talk to the press?  And how related to your area of expertise does it have to be for you to say something?

RBOC

  •  Fruitflies are driving me nuts.  Note to self:  Do NOT put fruit in your trashcan.
  • DC has gotten to the age where the most bizarre things freak hir out.  Yesterday ze ran into the dining room sobbing and shaking in the middle of a Madeline episode, because Madeline had gotten placed in a box for a life-size doll.  Yet, truly scary things (like in Mary Poppins, the Wizard of Oz, or a violent computer game, or say, I dunno, almost drowning during a swimming lesson) don’t seem to bother hir one whit.
  • Branch library #1 owned zero books on evolution in the children’s section.  Branch library #2, all the books on evolution in the children’s section were checked out.  That’s all the branch libraries.
  • Oddly, I feel a sense of loss that Gmail is no longer offering stickers, even though I did not know they ever offered stickers until today, after they, you know, stopped offering them.
  • Apparently if you’re really nice as a 5-7 year old Japanese animated boy, you are set for life in terms of attractive love interests.  They will fall in love with you and hold a torch for you for the next 10 or so years at least, even if you completely forget them.  Hm, it sounds a bit creepy stalkerish when put that way.
  • We have decided that high school students with no experience don’t do a very good job teaching swimming.  This webpage is awesome.  We’re making progress now on the weekend at the HOA pool, even if an entire summer of lessons has not taught hir how to be safer in the water.  Yay internet.  [Update:  college students with lots of experience do a good job teaching swimming.  Yay floating.]
  • It is embarrassing not having someone to put down as emergency contact.  We had people to replace the folks who graduated and moved, but then they graduated and moved.  Now that I’m older, surely I can be friends with folks more likely to stick around…
  • My external harddrive is sad.  Must remember to back-up frequently.  Perhaps daily now.  [Update:  external harddrive is dead.]
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Education and kids these days: A cranky rant

Yeah yeah, it was probably always like this.  But WE weren’t like this.

A few months back, budgeting in the fun stuff had a guest post on Get rich slowly talking about how she worked her way through college and ended up with no loans (after her parents paid off the balance).  In order to do this, she spent some time during the school year working 60 hrs/week at low wage jobs while going to school full-time.

Very few people can work full time and go to school full time and still learn.  Many folks who try end up not getting educated.  Folks who do manage it… one has to wonder what they could have achieved if they’d gone to a more challenging program and worked less.  Maybe they could have rocked MIT or Caltech and come out with a 6 figure starting salary and paid off those loans in a year or two.  Or a high quality state school in 2-3 years and started a high paying job that much earlier.

Many undergrads today are not learning how to think.  I don’t know if undergrads ever did learn how to think, but at the undergrad institutions I attended (both in high school and as a college student myself), a big emphasis was on how different high school and college were from each other.  Calculus was taught to “expand your brain,” that’s why it fulfilled degree requirements. Students had personal responsibility to learn– to do the homework even if it wasn’t graded.  To attend recitation sections and get help from the TA (at the regional state school) or office hours and get help from the professor (at the SLAC).  Today college seems to be just an extension of high school– with huge lecture classes it’s much easier for professors to lecture and then assign work that can easily be tested in a scantron framework.  There isn’t enough support for small discussion sections; budget cuts have resulted in ballooning class sizes with no corresponding increase in resources (TAs, faculty lines, faculty pay, reassigned time, etc.).

Not only that but many undergrads do not want to learn how to think.  They want the certificate as a ticket for a job and don’t care about the learning.  If there’s no value to the education itself, then that makes perfect sense.  You want to get the degree at least cost with minimal effort, so sure, working long hours at a menial job and not wanting to learn makes sense.

Even the undergrads who WANT to learn how to think are often not being taught how.  We get graduate students with high grades from supposedly high-quality schools who are shocked that not everything has an answer that they can memorize and regurgitate on a scantron exam.  They’re smart, and after the initial cognitive dissonance, they succeed, but it is often difficult going before they get there.

What’s the point of school anyway?

We’ve already talked about how people from different educational class backgrounds have different beliefs about the reason for schooling.  We’ve always thought of it as a coming of age experience, something to make you a cultured adult, to teach you different ways to think.  Or as South Park says, There’s a time and a place for everything, and that time and place is college.  But we’ve come to realize that many other folks were brought up believing that college serves as primarily a job credential.  If it isn’t going to help you get a job, or a higher paying job, you shouldn’t go.

Not all education or degrees are equal.  Some are difficult and, as one of our partners knows full well, students who try to work full-time and go to school full-time end up failing and wasting their time and money on the schooling.  Other majors apparently allow shiny grades and full-time work outside of class.  Does your degree matter in the labor market?  The evidence is mixed.  It is true that an engineer will tend to make more than a communications major, and that an ivy league grad will tend to make more than someone from a not-so-good private school or directional regional school.  But is that because of the selection of the students who go into the programs or because of the degrees themselves?  Research hasn’t pinned the answers to these questions down yet.

Crystal from Budgeting the Fun Stuff worked long hours at low wages and got pretty grades in a non-challenging major in school.  She is not making much money from her day job that she dislikes.  Maybe if she’d spent more effort and time in school and worked a bit less in the labor force and found a major that was more challenging, she would have found a better fit in the labor market as well, and perhaps been able to pay the loans off with a higher salary.

Then again, maybe not.

Crystal from BFS is going to be a full-time blogger, and she is very happy with that.  Even if we made choices about work and education it’s never too late to make new choices.

Bottom line:

As your professors we request:

Please do not try to work full-time and also go to school full-time.  That’s why we have low-interest loans for education.  Don’t take out more than the average salary for someone in your major from  your school, but don’t kill yourself either.   School isn’t just a degree– the reason it gets you a job is because of the skills you learn, and a lot of these skills are fuzzy… they’re training your ways of thinking.  How to think like a [insert your major here].  If you’re just repeating things you’ve memorized back, or cranking numbers through an algorithm like a computer could, then you’re not really much more useful to an employer than a high school graduate would have been.

If you do work full-time and go to school full-time, don’t blame us for trying to make you get a solid education even though you don’t have time for it.  Choices = consequences.  As your professors, we realize that you have other things in your life besides our courses.  But if you don’t place a high priority on our courses, your grades will suffer, and if they don’t, you have to wonder about the worth of the degree you’re getting.  More importantly, you won’t be learning anything.  Save yourself the time and money and don’t go to school full-time now if it’s not going to be a priority.

And… regardless of the schooling choices you make, it is never too late to learn and grow and change.

Do you think people should be encouraged to work full time while going to school full time?  What would your advice be?

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