Education is one of the most important things in my life. I have always been completely enamored with learning, and I hope to one day carry that passion through a career. No matter what inconsistencies exist in your life, no one will ever be able to take away your education. The job market is so unstable that our generation is rotating through positions more than any generation ever before, and women are moving past the permanent “homemaker” label that has taken many of the women in my life as prisoner. Our type of guinea is not the kind that oozes money (those guineas are really really real), so education is pretty low on the totem pole in the eyes of my family. Blue collar, union jobs obtained right out of high school are considered the only worthwhile means of livelihood and education is a “ripoff.” True, education is VERY expensive now, but it is an investment I am willing to make EVERY time. I took advantage of whatever scholarships I earned, but outside of that? I busted my ass, working multiple jobs and taking the maximum amount of credits possible every semester and being an active member of a sorority all at the same time… and I graduated with honors. In short? I’ve EARNED it. I’ve earned every fucking thing I’ve ever had, EVER. My degrees especially… my education is my soft spot.

I’m currently in pursuit of a Master’s degree, and I will be the second person in my entire family to have obtained one. With that, I am only the third person to have obtained a Bachelor’s degree ever in my family… and that is not just inclusive of the people in my household… out of all my aunts, uncles, cousins, grandparents, parents, and siblings, I am the third.

The funny thing is… that number all depends on who you ask. As much as I love my family, they’re all a bunch of goddamn liars who will go to the ends of the earth to make sure that they cover their own asses. Me? I’m honest to a fault, so I can’t relate. All I can do is call people out on their shit, which causes a lot of problems, which is why I’m the black sheep.

When my mother graduated high school, she shared her graduation party with her two older siblings who graduated college that year. Though they were all different ages, they both somehow managed to graduate exactly at the same time. The degrees never came in the mail. Neither of them walked in the ceremony… suspicious, isn’t it?

Currently, my sister is going through something similar. She will be earning 2 Bachelors degrees and graduating with honors. She subscribes to the same ideas about education as I do, so she works hard for her grades and to be able to even ATTEND school. Neither of us received any federal or familial assistance. Good ol’ cousin Chastity got TONS of both. In addition to my grandparents putting her through 13 years of private Catholic school, the federal government hooked her up with a FULL scholarship and thousands of dollars in stipends. She’s always been a terrible student, the type who had to listen to audiobooks because reading herself “took too long,” so it always struck us as a cruel cosmic joke that we busted our backs while she got paid to go to school.

In her first semester, a hurricane displaced a lot of families in her town from their homes. The school offered a later withdrawal date than the one normally offered to those who were affected, and Chastity learned the joys of withdrawal by playing the system. She regularly withdrew from her classes, leaving her with 18 usable credits at the end of 4 semesters. She put her stipend to use after that and used the thousands in stipend money to pay others to do her papers for her. All while working 10 hours a week at a bullshit job at a rec center. Fast forward 3 years, changing her major COMPLETELY 3 times (from health science to law to liberal arts… fields with no overlap in major requirements whatsoever), and somehow was able to graduate timed perfectly with my sister completing her degrees. (?!?!?!???)

While the verdict is still out on whether or not she truly received a Bachelor’s or is finally walking for an Associate’s, I working on coming to terms with the fact that it doesn’t matter. Since the big announcement of her walking for her alleged Bachelor’s, I’ve felt cheated and robbed… I work so hard, and it comes to her for free? And for our family to celebrate her dishonesty the same way as my graduating with honors? It’s wrong, but you can’t change self-serving people. My family would rather live in a fantasy world than accept the truth, and even with factual, undisputable evidence presented to them, they would rather believe a narrative.

And shout-out to those of you who work hard at whatever it is that drives you!

Having integrity feels shitty, but it is important to shuffle through. This world needs more of it.

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