Why Don’t We Talk About Finances​?

Why is everyone so afraid to talk about finances? I grew up in a home that didn’t really talk about it as if it was “grown folks” business. It wasn’t until I was deemed old enough (senior year of high school) that my dad opened up to me about our family finances. The discussion we had was eye-opening because, for most of my life, I didn’t think we were bad off, financially.

I grew up living a simple life. We lived in a six bedroom, one bath, full basement, 3 story house that had belonged to my grandparents and was passed down to my dad. Our neighborhood wasn’t that bad, but as the decades went on, the neighborhood started taking on more and more negative connotations. We always had food and we always had clothing, a running car, and heating during the winter. We didn’t have central air, but that was because the house was a turn-of-the-century home and the remodeling would have cost too much. We had air conditioners and steel fans for St. Louis’ hot summer days. When I think about my childhood, I remember big Christmas celebrations,  birthdays, annual trips to amusement parks and even out-of-state field trips. If I asked for something, my parents always delivered it. Luckily for me, I didn’t ask for things often, so it was never really a burden on them.

But all of this was a lie. A carefully constructed lie. My family never tried to act like we were big ballin’ or whatever, but at the same time, I was purposefully kept in the dark on financial matters. During my senior year of high school, while I was applying for colleges, my father had a frank discussion with me about our finances. We were working poor. I would say we were working class but that would imply that there was money stashed away somewhere in a 401K or we had investments or something like that when in reality, we were working poor. We didn’t live paycheck to paycheck. We lived every three paychecks to paycheck.

My dad explained it to me like this: he could miss two pay periods and everything would be fine but if he missed the third one, one of the bills wasn’t going to get paid. My father was a master saver but he was a man with a family and he was the only person working. He had three kids and a wife that couldn’t really work due to the aftermath of chemotherapy and leukemia. Don’t get me wrong, my mom can work, but working a fulltime job would destroy her body. She has an extremely weak immune system and her joints are all messed up from the chemotherapy and leukemia. That all started when she was in her early thirties and still continues to this day. So my dad shouldered the burden of everything and became the sole provider for our family. We were staying afloat until the 2008 recession hit.

After two years without work, both of my parents finally re-entered the part-time workforce. Well, my dad started off as a full-time manager but because the economy was still so shaky, he slipped into part-time work and that led to another job, and that led to another job. Things were tough. By 2012, he and I were having frank discussions about our finances. My dad was of the generation that still believed that a college education was the gateway to wealth or at least financial stability. And since a fair and good education was something that my family was denied (my parents, aunts, and uncles all grew up before or during the civil rights movement) they always encouraged me and my siblings to do well in school and pursue higher education. College was seen as a gateway out of poverty.

During my freshman year of college, my father died from cancer. His battle only lasted for three months but it depleted all of his savings and the money I’d been saving while in school. It left us paying off medical bills, property taxes, and funeral fees. My father had insurance, it just didn’t cover cancer… Isn’t life great? But that’s neither here nor there. After his death, I ended up taking out more student loans because my dad was no longer giving me money for school. After four years at a private university, I raked up $38,000 in student loan debt. I know, your eyes just kind of glazed over, right? Originally, I was on track for $32,000 in loans, which would have put me closer to the national average, but I just had to study abroad (I say sarcastically). But in all fairness, I don’t regret studying abroad, I just wish I would have planned for it, starting in my freshman year, instead of doing it as an impulse thing the summer before my senior year.

But yeah, I’m $38,000 in debt and I’m not freaking out. Mostly because all of my loans are federal loans, President Obama made sure I wouldn’t be screwed over by the interest rates (Thanks, Obama!) and I plan to get an actual job. I’m working part-time, making peanuts, but I recently went through the process of ALMOST getting my first professional job. In this case, almost really doesn’t matter but at the same time, it does. It let me know that even with my very small job history, my degree allowed me to make it to the very last hiring stage of a job that would have started me off on a salary of $35,000-$37,000 a year. I really wanted that job but the whole experience just made me grateful went to college. It let me know that my degree isn’t worthless and that it can open doors that can lead to high paying careers and that made owing $38,000 in student loans a little less scary. It also made me believe that maybe my dad was right to believe that college really can be a gateway out of poverty. It just takes time.

I Finally Got My Diploma!!!!

<Breaks into happy old lady dance!>

sponge_bob_gifYes. It finally arrived. I’m so happy. If I’m being honest with myself, I actually got it about a week ago but I was still in Texas, so I actually couldn’t see it until I got home. And when I made it home and held it for the first time, I thought something was wrong with it. But I just got off the phone with a representative of my school and they basically told me that minors don’t normally go on the diploma unless they were part of an emphasis area. As long as it says I completed my minor on my official transcripts, it’s fine.

Now it’s time to go frame shopping.



Post Graduate Dilemma

So I have three paths in front of me and I don’t know which one to choose.

Path One

Move to Houston, Texas at the end of the summer. This blog is about writing, traveling, and life. Way back in my first post I promised that this summer would be filled with adventure but I didn’t explain what that meant. Well, back in March my cousin who lives in Houston, Texas reached out to me to see if I would like to babysit for him during the summer. I was delighted because I thought it would only be for a week or so. But nope, my cousin wanted me to be a live-in babysitter for the summer. So I thought about it and said yes. Then him, my sister, and my mother started talking and the more they talked the more the plan changed. Suddenly, I wasn’t going down to Houston to babysit, I was going to move down there and try to find a job in a field similar to my degree field because Texas’ economy is so much better than Missouri’s.  I don’t have an official move date, but I do have an official move month: September.

Path Two

Go back to school in August and get my Masters in International Relations. Going back to school was always in my future. The only reason I didn’t apply for graduate school during my last undergraduate semester was because I didn’t think I’d be able to afford it. My alma mater has an accelerated MA International Relations program that allows you to get your degree in eleven months and during those eleven months, you have to travel to five different countries. It’s an intense program and once I heard about it, I knew it was the program for me. But the price tag was sure to be out of my league so I didn’t apply. I recently found out that scholarships would pay for most of the program (hurray) but I would still have to pay for the living expenses (which is understandable). But, due to my previous international travel, I know that conversion rates would really eat through my budget and there would be no way to make up for it other than to take out additional student loans. Taking out additional student loans would put me further into debt and make my goals of paying off my student loans in ten years highly unlikely.

Path Three

Stay in St. Louis and save up money for a year so that I can afford the additional expenses that would come with traveling internationally for eleven months. This would mean that I’d start grad school in August of 2018. After I graduate in August of 2019, I’d start thinking about where to live and which career paths I’d want to pursue. This path allows me to focus a little on my writing and develop my publishing company. This option would also give me a much needed break from school. But it’s that break that everyone is worried about. My family is worried about me taking a year off (essentially) because they know how hard it is to get back into the groove of school once life starts to happen.

So I have three paths in front of me and I don’t know which one to choose…

[Photo by Tyler B. Humphries/Berlin, Summer 2016.]


School’s Out Forever!!!

I did it! I graduated. BA in Scriptwriting. Minor in International Human Rights. Department honors from the Department of Journalism and Communications. First generation college graduate. Yes. I did that.

Honors Dinner:



This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Media Exhibition, Possible Internships, and I’m Graduating With Honors

Let me get the most pressing news out of the way. I will receive honors from the Department of Communications and Journalism at my university.


It was so unexpected and so welcomed. I’ve basically been on cloud nine since getting the news and I can’t see that changing.

The Debate

But in other news: The Media Exhibition. In the span of a week, my world exploded…but in a good way.

Let me tell you about it. Earlier, in March, my amazing academic advisor told me that he’d nominated me for a student award. I was excited but I didn’t feel like I’d get the award. You see, I think I’m a good writer, but I’ve encountered better writers, so I seem to second guess myself a lot when it comes to what I can achieve. It’s something I’m working on. But anyway, he nominated me for the student award a.k.a. a slot for the media exhibition that my university was holding in April.

A few weeks went by and I didn’t hear anything about whether I made the cut or not. So assumed I didn’t. Just when I’d given up hope, I received an email telling me I’d been selected to participate. I was also told that I could choose to not participate. I was leaning towards not participating because there had been a lot of craziness going on in my life and I didn’t have the time to spare to prepare for the media exhibition but on the very last day for sign-up, I decided to give it a go. What harm could come from it?

I selected the three screenplays that were used in the media exhibition. I chose three shorts. The first one was called The Naked Finger and it was a short, dark comedy about a cheating spouse. The second on was called Wedding Day Blues and it was a short, suspense piece about a wife that killed her husband. Yes, there is a theme there. They were both from the same class and I sometimes use themes in order to help me organize my projects. Moving on here. The third piece was part of the paid pieces I’d written for my university for the sexual assault prevention and awareness training.

Before the participants could go to the media exhibition, we had to go through a mandatory meeting to make sure we were prepared for the exhibition. Basically, they wanted to coach us on how to dress, proper etiquette for the event; looking over our sample pieces, critiquing our resumes, etc. Why so serious?


The Media Exhibition

Well, the media exhibition was set up as a reverse job fair. Instead of us shuffling from booth to booth, eagerly looking at what companies were there and what they had to offer—the companies were doing that to us. The horror. The excitement. The sweat. Seriously, I wasn’t wearing any sleeves that day and I still sweated like a farmer chained to his land, forever obsessing over what the land yielded. But I digress.

The media exhibition was exactly like it sounded. I walked in and there were tables and booths set up. Finger foods off to the back of the room on tables longer than the tables we were given to present at. Everyone was dressed in their best representation of what a “professional” for their major should look like.  We had the journalists, the video game designers, the audio people, the film people, the public relations people, the advertising people, and then there were the scriptwriting people. I just really want you to picture how amazing everyone’s tables/booths looked. And then picture the writing table.

Everyone had their posters and videos and audio samples—things that drew people in. And we, the writers, had paper. We did alright, though. Instead of selling our product, we had to sell ourselves. I did that by color coordinating. My business cards, resume (which I was using as my visual cue because of how nice it looked), and my outfit was all color coordinated. Even my laptop matched, although people couldn’t see it.


Things I learned from that event include but are not limited to: be alert; be first; be cunning but socially polite, and always have copies of your samples for people to take away from you. Be a shark, essentially. It was a very weird experience but I survived it. I spent two hours standing, pitching my work (thankfully not in heels) and I was actually able to pull people in. But what I realized was something I’ve known all along. Writers do not sell their work. Writers sell themselves. My writing samples speak for themselves. They show vision and the potential for further growth but it was me opening up about myself that really drew people in and made them give me more than just a complaint on whatever sample they read.

By the end of the day, I was told to apply for a few summer internships. I don’t know how they’ll pan out but I’m looking forward to whatever may come. It’s like what I said in my first blog post; 2017 is going to be great.