Somehow I can't pull myself away from this thread.
Mr. MM, can I make a suggestion? Here and over the next few years, you (and your kids) might benefit from you developing your storytelling skills. You have had some challenges in your young life -- growing up in a rough environment with a single parent, making a poor choice about where to go to school and how to finance it, buying the wrong car, etc. Those experiences have contributed to your strongly held beliefs about what kind of education track and career path your future kids should follow. You try to back it up with a bunch of talk about averages and trends, but to be honest it isn't very compelling.
Give us (and your kids) the back story. Something that will keep them on the edge of their seats, waiting to see what happens on the hero's journey. It will be more interesting, and probably more effective. For example, if you end up getting your police officer job, I can envision you driving down the highway with some kid in the back of the car who is headed down the road to trouble. A good story about how you turned your own life around that builds rapport between you and helps him see you actually care about people may help stop his slide. Maybe you become his mentor, follow up with him, make sure he stays in school. The story is the hook, not the statistics or generalizations or other forms of talking down to him (which are just more likely to make him dig his heels in).
If you want an example of how compelling a good story can be, hop over to WhiteTrashCash's journal -- I probably don't agree with him on a lot of issues, but boy, that guy has got me interested in his story/perspective because he is a master of narrative. And has a really good story to tell. I will always point anyone I run into who is struggling to his journal, because it is like a beacon that says "you can do this, you can overcome the challenges and make a better life for yourself."
Excellent post, and I can't say I disagree with any of it. I want my child to understand my story (even if it's not as great as others'), and be able to learn and grow from it.
Give it a try. I'd personally like to hear more of your back story. What was the deal with football and the student loans?
Alright. I have no problems telling my story. Long read, here it goes. Basically, had debilitating social anxiety disorder all throughout my life. Didn't really have any friends, and often skipped school just because it was so overwhelming. Football gave me a purpose. I'd go to school and suffer just so I could play football, and hopefully go to the next level. Ended becoming really good friends with a lot of the guys, and my proudest moment was when I was named the team captain my junior year. It was all great. 5 games in, and I was already locked in as the all-conference pick at my position (LG). Then suddenly, halfway through that year, I tore my left ACL and MCL. It sucked, but I came back. I worked my butt off, and moved on. Going great again. At least for me. My school hadn't won a single game the entire time I'd been there. Until the 8th game of my senior season. We were up by just 2 points late in the game, and I was playing NT. It was 4th and 3, and it was the other's team last chance. I ended up making the stop to seal the game. I felt AWESOME. Until I tried to stand up. The pain was worse than anything I've ever had in my entire life. The trainers went over to do the Lachmann test on my left knee. Nothing. Then they got a depressed look on their faces. I now did it to my other knee. Tore my right ACL, MCL, meniscus, bruised a bone, and a micro fracture of my femur. After the game, asked my coach, "I'm never going to play football again, am I?" And then coach said, "no son, I'm sorry, you're not." I cried all night, and quickly fell back into depression. Started missing school again, and my anxiety got worse than ever. I missed my final exams, and my final GPA went from being a 3.7 at the start of my senior year to a 2.3 by graduation. I went from being 5'11" 185 to 296 pounds. I sat at home and just played video games all day. Then I got a call from a powerhouse D3 college that said they'd give me a chance. I quickly got on it, and started working out again. Didn't care that it was a private uni, and didn't care about the cost. Just about football. My depression was still there, but I finally had a purpose again. I was so excited to finally get into my first college football game, it was amazing! The first play, our QB threw an INT, I, a 296 pound man, ran down the safety at the 15 yardline or so, and forced and recovered the fumble. Most important play I've ever made, even though we still won by about 50 points.
All was well the next few games, got a few plays here and there. Then, I had to make the phone call. "Mom, don't freak out..." Right knee again, cyclops lesions, torn meniscus, partially torn MCL, and developed osteoarthritis. Thought for sure my playing days were over. Quit the team, and dedicated my time to building myself back up. Ended up losing 93 pounds that year, getting all the way down to 203.
Transferred schools the next year to a D2 school, didn't play sports, and kept my head down. Did alright my first year. Second year, social anxiety was at its peak. I literally went to maybe 5 classes combined for both the Fall and Spring semesters. My college GPA was demolished, just like my HS GPA was. I dropped out, and started working full-time, having no real path or purpose.
It was at that time, I started to really discover myself. I started to be more outgoing, and I learned to communicate with people. I knew that working at a minimum wage job was not the life for me, so I decided to go back to college 2 years later. More than that, I joined their football team in 2013. At that point, it wasn't even about playing anymore, it was about proving to myself that I could still do it. I ended up making the team, and quit shortly after, as playing was never my goal. I still think about what would happen if I didn't quit, but it just wasn't what I wanted to do anymore. It was more about showing those that said I couldn't do it that I could.
Switched my major to Computer Science the next year, and that's where I'm at now. It took a lot of research, and plenty of frustrating night of wondering what my true passion was, but, needless to say, I've made the right decision. I absolutely LOVE programming. It's awesome.
Now, I have gotten back to about 285, but I'm no longer sad and depressed about it. I know quite a bit about dieting and lifting, and have begun a routine and diet plan that will have me slowly, but surely, getting back down to where I know I can be. It's not an if, it's a certainty that I'll get back down to 205.
Tell us more about your friends who ended up involved in drugs and crime -- why did they go that way and you didn't?
To be honest, I'm not quite sure. I was a pretty bad kid when I was 10 or 11, but despite all of my friends being in gangs and doing drugs, I never once had the desire to touch them. I guess it was from seeing how crazy it made my father. I think what ultimately made them flip was pressure. In south Florida, it's sort of like prison in some areas. If you're not in a gang, you at least better be friends with one. Random white boys not associated with gangs would often get jumped just for being white. That kind of pressure made a lot of kids cave. Even in a wealthy area (Palm Beach County).
What were the challenges you faced growing up with a single mom?
Not as much as many, honestly. My mom made a good living, and we had a lot of familial support. She gave us anything we ever wanted, and more.
Why are you interested in pursuing a career as a police officer, and how does your other goal of getting a computer science degree interface with that?
Seeing what gang warfare and poverty did to my friends was a real big motivating factor. Another is that I believe I'd be good at it. I can see other peoples' perspectives very well, so I can come into high-adrenaline situations, and really calm things down. Have always been able to do that. Most of all, I like the structure and rules. I like being able to make important decisions that have impacts on real people.
Computer Science doesn't really have to do with my decision to become a police officer. I want to do both, honestly. But I would not mind segueing my degree into computer forensics.