In Just Over 7 Days…

I will be someone’s wife… again…

Alright, alright, settle down… Yes, again, but it is not a commitment that I take lightly.

We got our marriage license the week before last…

#official #octoberwedding #stl #stlouis #10415

A photo posted by Alyssa B Chapman (@lyssa_chap) on

My ex-husband married his new wife a couple days ago. Congrats to them! I got to see some pictures float by on Facebook. It looked lovely and they looked terribly happy – and I could NOT be more pleased with that. I wish them the very best, of course.

Now – it’s our turn. I have been counting down across all of social media (Shut up, I am a very excited ‘girl’, with emotions, and stuff – this is an exciting time and I am allowed to have a pass and be giddy.) and I do not even one bit feel guilty about it.

63 Days. ❤️❤️ 💍 #MrsChapman #10415 Life is good.

A photo posted by Alyssa B Chapman (@lyssa_chap) on

(That was SIXTY THREE days to go!)

(And this was FORTY THREE days to go! One of my favorite pictures of us… Time has virtually flown by.)

We were laying in bed the other morning and Drew rolled over and he said “We’re getting married soon!” and I was immediately transported back in time to a moment last Fall when we had started the conversation about wanting to be married and we were about to move in together as his home was fully “staged” and ready for listing. Last September we had been together just about seven months at the point where we were moving in together and selling his house. When you know, you know. Drew was the first relationship with any other human that I have had that did not give me pits in my stomach, or red flags – not once – not ever. Drew is the only relationship that I have ever had where I feel completely “at home” all of the time.  He is also the only man that I have ever been with that makes it a point to show me that I am never “less than”. I have shared my deepest insecurities and my darkest moments with him. There have been times where I worried that he would tire of my stress response, since he is the first person in years that I felt like it was OK to be my true self around and actually expose that stress response or my incessant worrying and sometimes my own self-deprecating inner voice. But not once, not ever, did I question even in seven short months that all of the bad apples, and some that were not awful but that I did not see a future with, had led me to this good one. This one good apple.

Anyway, the memory… back to that… Drew had gotten up to make his bed for the last time in his old house, because that night would officially mark the transition into my tiny bachelorette pad until we could find a bigger house… I was laying sideways across the bed and he was wandering in the hallway brushing his teeth.  The conversation was contextual, so don’t think that I randomly brought up getting married with no prior discussion,  I may be a hopeless romantic but I damned well know better than to pull a rookie move like that with a man.

“Maybe we will get married in the Fall? That’s about a year or so from now.”

Him: “Yeah, that would be probably be ideal, give us more time to do it how we want to.”

“I don’t want to go too far into the Fall because I don’t want it to be cold or have there be any possibility of freezing rain or something ridiculous.”

Him: “Agreed”.

I smiled a little bit to myself. I was finally in a relationship with someone where I did not have secret doubts about whether or not I would be happy with that person and was ignoring them. I was finally with someone who was actively choosing me every single day and there were not financial or other obligations between us before then that made it difficult to walk away. He’s not the clingy awkward type. He’s completely secure, and was totally fine with his independence before I showed up in his life-like “Haha, Sucker!” No, but really. He’s just not the weird clingy type so to recognize that he was still choosing me, when he didn’t have the personality type to do so even if he wasn’t sure it would work — meant that he was seeing ‘forever’ with me… which was something I am uncertain that I have ever truthfully had.

That afternoon, I started perusing the calendar looking for a weekend in “the Fall” to start blocking out, mentally, that we could get married.

“September is too close to my parents.” (Which was yesterday…) “And my Aunt and Uncle…” (Two weeks ago.) I thought to myself.

I looked at (what I thought was) 2015 and saw that October 4th fell on a Saturday… Wouldn’t that be perfect? Still close enough to the heat of the St. Louis summer – but just a touch closer to Fall without the blustery cold that methodically always begins on Halloween weekend for St. Louis. “Hmm.. 10-4. Oh! Like the truckers say! How funny! Drew would NEVER forget it then!” You know when you were a kid they taught you little sing-song things so you can imprint them more easily to memory? I was rolling with that.

…and I texted Drew excitedly.

Him: “In theory, it sounds like it could work!”

And two days passed and we were excited… we weren’t even formally ENGAGED (which happened the night before New Years Eve in a little A-frame in the Smoky Mountains) and we had already picked out the date that we ideally would like to get married. We were emotionally committed to a date on the calendar now. Kind of crazy to commit to something like that when we were just moving in together, which I view as a VERY big deal. I have two kids and I was not screwing around with anyone who was going to walk into our lives and not show them that we were a MAJOR commitment.

After three days of being very excited, I had to scroll ahead in my iPhone calendar to  look at work holidays and that was when I saw it… I had been looking at 2014 the whole time… 10/4 was on a SUNDAY in 2015. Oh no! We were emotionally committed to a date already – Drew had even adopted the practice of walking around the house and smacking my behind and shouting “10-4 Good buddy! Over and out!” and my closer co-workers with whom I had shared this excitement had made jokes about “The Trucker’s Holiday!” ….Not that either of us are truckers… or have any connection to truckers… or use a HAM radio… OK, I digress – we were invested in this date and people were just going to have to take off Monday instead of taking off work on Friday to travel. And surely there were was no sing-song mnemonic that would aid in Drew remembering the date (he is awful with dates) if we decided to go with 10/3… I virtually had to train him to remember mine and his father’s birth dates by explaining that we are each others half birth date. (3/29 – 9/29), you get it.

After making this commitment to sticking with Sunday, October 4th we realized in the planning, and purchasing, process that getting married on a Sunday has saved us thousands and afforded us significant amounts of upgrades that we would have otherwise footed the bill for. Instead, we saved that money and are going on a super fantastic Jamaican honeymoon.

We are officially going to #couples #negril #jamaica for our honeymoon!!! Booked with #beachbum vacations!

A photo posted by Alyssa B Chapman (@lyssa_chap) on

So, in just over 7 days… we will be married. 10/4 here we come. Over and out.

Higher Education and Major Life Choices

My socioeconomic status growing up implicated that higher education was not a major priority, nor was it something attainable to the likes of our bank accounts… I only have one person in my maternal family (in which I  was raised) that has a Bachelors degree. When I decided to pursue my degree, solely for personal conviction, I did not realize that I was doing this SOLELY FOR PERSONAL CONVICTION. I was misled, I felt. I think that I believed that after growing up pretty damned poor that a college degree meant that I had “made it”. It mean that I had done something, my mother and many other of my familial constituents had not been afforded the opportunity.

I will admit it. I came out of my expensive Private College education (as a working adult) with a pretty smug and snooty response. “Well, I’ve given myself a leg up. Sorry about the rest of your luck!” I am allowed to admit that. I am human. I was convincing myself of a reality that I hoped for in a world that was completely foreign to me. I imagined that for the first time in my life, I would be “privileged” and that I would have an advantage upon other competitors for employment and careers than others competing for the same positions.

Boy, how wrong I was.

I received tuition remission to the tune of 18 credit hours per year, however, that would take me roughly 8 and a half years to finish… so I financed the extra 12 credit hours and went full time. FULL TIME. Thirty to 36 credit hours a year. Balls to the wall, for lack of a better term. I believed in myself and I made it happen – cum laude, Dean’s list, all of it.

Here I am. After four years of desperately hard work, conviction, honors graduation… and nothing has changed.

What does this mean about our American education system? We have convinced MILLIONS of people to get a degree when the only thing that has afforded them anything better is hard core experience. The piece of paper did not make any difference for them, nor did it for me. Even after tuition remission, I owe Sallie Mae $44,000… Oh, wait, I’m sorry — Navient. Pells, scholarships, etc, all deducted already — this is what is left, and I will add $18,000 more for my Masters program that begins in the Fall.

I get to carry this into my marriage and force Drew and I to handle it.

I get to try to grin and bare it when my kids asks me what the purpose of college is (mostly girl child since she is getting closer to the age where she is curious about it) and I have to make sure I fake it enough to show her that college is a non “option” in our home… its a definitive. She’s going. End of story. Drew and I know (in conjunction with other parental units) the Boy and Girl child, and any subsequent children, are GOING to college. Period. However, with Girl Child, I have to fake it. I worked SO hard… so very very hard to have a piece of paper… so that I could ‘check the box’ on applications- combined with my experience… and it has not turned out exactly as I had hoped.

I work more than I believed that I would. I am more stressed, and more underpaid, than I believed I would be. My immune system, as it turns out, is compromised in the face of stress and lack of sleep. How did I get here? How did this happen? I remember ghosts of boyfriends past who were “so stressed” and friends whose jobs “Sucked the life out of them” — and I remember saying… “Then change things, you have a choice, do something else! Be happy!”… Like I had any clue what I was talking about. Everything was “well enough” for me when I was a single parent, making it, caring for only myself and two children – now we are a family. I have more than just the kids to worry about 50% of the time in my home. I have a future to provide, help to provide, for several of us. I have convinced myself that there has to be something better for those of us who work so hard educationally to set ourselves apart from other applicants.

I recall interviews past where they asked some of the most ridiculous questions I have ever been asked. “What makes you want this job? What makes you want this job, in this department?” What I wanted to say, initially, was “I am VERY good at my job, and at my skill set, I think you should be asking yourself what qualities about ME you would desire.” I did not.

I sat there, in my fancy suit that I saved money to curate and put together. Thinking. I wanted to say “Um, money? Why is money not an acceptable answer? Why do I have to have some sort of life long dedication to YOUR department? Your cause? Your project? Your research? — Why can’t it be that my motivation is money, and then I will show you my dedication all around, and have you be pleased with that?” Staff positions in higher education are not about “dedication to a department”, you know why? Because we don’t gain the dedication to those departments until we are in them, entrenched in relationships with the people in these departments. It is your responsibility to nurture an environment that we love — not ask us in an interview why WE want to be with YOU… The relationship is beautifully co-dependent and for staff positions, it starts with money, or a desire to shift away from one type of administrative work. We don’t have a desperate connection to your department. We build it.

So, where does that mean we go from here as an American middle class with thousands in student loan that will have us in a noose for three to four decades to come, unlikely to make enough enough to pay them off in a more reasonable amount of time? What does that mean for those of us who were tricked into believing that higher education would give us opportunities, )outside of higher education that provides one with certifications to actually practice in a career -MDs, Vets, DPTs, Clinicians, pharmacists, etc), where does that leave the rest of us?

Waiting? Desperate? …. or in my case furthering my debt to income ratio with additional education solely so that I can have more letters behind my name? Where do those of us in the middle class, who were raised poor, get left when we have pursued the education that society has told us that we must in order to be ‘wealthy’, ‘fulfilled’, ‘happy, ‘productive’ members of society?

They are about to raise the minimum wage for people who flip burgers. Sorry, Folks. If they are raising the minimum wage for you, then they need to raise the median income for those us who STARTED at the minimum wage and worked hard and sought higher education in multiple fashions. Period.

I should admit that we are not financially destitute, that we do not worry about where our next meal is coming from, and we enjoy some of the finer things in life — but this is personal, this is about me, my hard work and my feeling of simply being a warm body. Make no mistake, I have worked very hard. I deserve to receive credit from myself for this.

Are they lying to all of us? Convincing us to willingly shuffle into educational debt because of something they convinced us that we will have, but ultimately never possess – so that we are ETERNALLY in debt to the government trying to obtain something impossible?

To put it in perspective, when I was full-force heading into the LSAT and law school, it never ever dawned on me that without $180k in student loan debt, that I make what an entry-level attorney does right now?… How insane is that? I changed my mind, with that reason in rear view mirror. How crazy skewed is that?!

Where do we continue to go from here? Accept that we are chained to student loans that we will never use and continue to provide high interest loans to the government for that same education that we won’t use?

Saturday night pondering while struggling to reply to my Admissions Counselor on how to attack my schedule for the Fall term… while conceding and admitting I just don’t have the energy to worry about this right now. We are getting married in 14 days and all I can think about is what I have committed my soon-to-be husband to. Copious amounts of student loan debt that he will be largely responsible for paying off. Why?