Posts Tagged With: Amish

The One Year Anniversary of the New Me

Even our Amish parents and siblings made it to our beach wedding.

Even our Amish parents and siblings made it to our beach wedding.

One year ago I was working a dead end job and “investing” in a business by going into credit card debt, I was several thousand dollars in debt, I was living in a big house with people I wasn’t getting along with anymore, I had too much stuff, I was addicted to Mountain Dew, I was struggling with personal upheavals related to a fundamental shift in my worldview, and I was dreaming of someday getting a college degree.

I had always planned on enrolling in college as soon as I was financially stable–as soon as all my debts were paid off, the business was doing well, and I could afford to take a several year sabbatical to pursue an education. Then almost exactly a year ago, I was encouraged to enroll in college despite my responsibilities. I was encouraged to enroll in college even if it was just to take one course at a time. I was persuaded to enroll in college and try it despite my constantly-changing plans for the future.

It didn’t take a lot of consideration before I decided to enroll. My life was getting stagnant, and college, it seemed, was exactly what I needed. I enrolled in college, but I did way more than that. I took the opportunity to completely reorganize my life and my priorities.

The first thing we (myself and my fiancee at the time) did was move out of the big house where we lived with 5-7 other people. We moved into my aunt’s nice vacation home and cut some of the toxic personal relationships that had been dragging us down for the past year. I quit the minimum wage dead end job that I had been using to help make ends meet until my online business brought in more sales, and I stopped deluding myself into thinking that I would be able to survive on my business income anytime soon. I quit pumping money, energy, and time into the business. Instead, I began a part-time lawn care job. The work was hard, but it paid way more than minimum wage.

By transferring my time from internet marketing and a minimum wage part-time job to lawn care, I was able to pay off several thousand dollars of debt that I had incurred over the previous three years. In fact, working only 2-3 days a week, I was able to pay off most of my debt and still have the time and money to go to college full time. The only debt I have left is a bit on my vehicle loan (which I had purchased a month before losing my internet marketing job about three years ago). To help support my addiction to higher education, I also sold most of my stuff and cut my expenses as much as I possibly could.

Because my life was changing so much, I decided it was also time to quit my excessive inhalation of Mountain Dew. I quit that without a problem and even cut down on my smoking.

The biggest change in the last year, however, was getting married. When I asked her about 9 months ago, we had been dating for more than 5 years. Why so long? First of all, we lived together for most of those 5 years, so getting married wasn’t something that seemed like too big of a lifestyle change. More importantly, much like college, I had been waiting to get married until I was “financially stable” whatever that means. Enrolling in college without that financial stability forced me to question my justification for waiting to marry. Long story short, we got engaged and had an awesome beach wedding five days ago.

That, in a nutshell, is how my life changed over the past year. Sometimes, you gotta know when to fold ’em and start fresh with a new hand, and that’s what I did a year ago. So far, life is looking much better. My only regret is that I didn’t do all of this when I first lost my job instead of wallowing around for next three years in various entrepreneurial pursuits.

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Categories: College, College Life | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Stage 3… Separation, Course Adjustment, and Acceleration

Stage three has separated... Commencing acceleration to orbit!

Stage three has separated… Commencing acceleration to orbit!

The reason I started this blog… yes, I’m finally posting the first post. Bear with me, we’ll get to the reasons, but first I’ll force you to suffer through my life history.

Stage 1

“Look it’s a little Amish baby, complete with wide-brimmed black hat, long white beard, and filled to the hat brim with dogma,” said my mother. Well, maybe she didn’t say that when I was born, but that’s how I imagine it–my placenta-encrusted hat a sharp contrast to the immaculate hospital room. Okay, that’s just gross.

As you may have gathered by now, I was born to Amish parents (whom I love dearly, by the way). We were Old Order Amish–no computers, no electricity, no cars,… the whole bag of enchiladas. As a child, I feared people with cameras. It was almost as if their verboten technology could drain the soul right out of a person. That’s basically what we thought of technology. But I have escaped, and I am safe now. Just kidding. There was no “escaping”. It’s not like I was being held against my will.

Growing up as an Amish boy is what I now consider to have been the first stage of my life.

Stage 2

The second stage of my life began when I left the Amish. That took courage, if I say so myself. I was eighteen years old and somewhat ignorant of the world that you know. Besides, from an early age, it had been drilled into us that people who leave the Amish, will probably burn in hell for all eternity. My parents weren’t quite that bad, but they’re still holding onto the hope that I’ll repent and return someday.

When I left the Amish, I moved into a mobile home with my two best friends. They were also ex-Amish. We had a big television set in no time, and in short order we learned how to pirate satellite television (by the way, what’s the statute of limitations on that?). It didn’t take long for me to buy a laptop and a truck. For several years I partied and fished and browsed the internet.

After two years, I moved to Florida. It was a completely different world for me. I was used to deciduous and coniferous forests. Palm trees were so exotic. I had no formal education, but I got lucky (job-wise). Over the next several years, I held white collar jobs (internet marketing and that sort of thing) until the economy made me poor and jobless again. Then a former colleague and I started a niche internet retail site. It is a moderately successful business, and I am still heavily involved in it, but it’s not my dream career.

In the years since I’ve left the Amish, I’ve spent a lot of time trying to figure out what I believe, what I want, and when I would ever get around to doing something worthwhile with my life. Well, I’ve cast off a lot of dogma, figured out that I want to be a scientist (or at least an engineer), and that the time is now. That brings us to…

Stage 3

Stage 3 began early this spring. There were seven of us ex-Amish youngsters living in a 5-bedroom, two-story house. Living together gave us a sense of family (sometimes), but most importantly, it kept the rent down to a reasonable level. However, as is inevitable when large egos meet immovable minds, friction developed. We ended up disbanding.

In retrospect, that was just the catalyst I needed to reinvent myself. Moving away from some of the people that I had lived with for years, was a big change. I decided that now would be the time to make other changes. I re-organized my priorities, improved my time management, changed some of my health habits–I basically began an overall self-reinvention.

It was around this time that a new acquaintance strongly encouraged that I enroll in a community college. I had always planned on enrolling eventually, but I thought I just had to wait until I saved up enough money to live comfortably and without loans while in college. Besides, I had been pouring a lot of energy and hope into various entrepreneurial pursuits in the hope that I would strike gold with one of them. It didn’t happen. I mean, I found some dust and a nugget or two–but no veins. Enrolling in college would mean exchanging those hopes for the potentially risky pursuit of more meaningful dreams.

After several weeks of metaphorically tearing my hair out, I decided to take the risk. And here I am with this blog set to chronicle the third stage of my life. Join me on this grand adventure, why don’t you? Don’t just follow along vicariously, reinvent yourself!

Image credit: NASA

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Surviving Anti-intellectualism

Empty desks...

Empty desks…

None of my old friends ever went to college. Zero! None of my extended family has ever gone to college. Zip! I don’t think I even have cousins that have gone to college, and coming from an Amish family, you know that I have a crapload of cousins. Maybe it should come as no surprise that almost everyone I interact with discourages, in one way or another, my college education.

When I first told my family that I had enrolled in college, I expected silent pride at the least. Instead, they told me that they would be proud of me if I returned to the Amish. I guess anything less wouldn’t qualify. When asked what I plan on “becoming”, I said I want to become a rocket scientist (after being unable to adequately explain what it means to be a physicist). My father suggested that scientists, are on the whole, not a very bright lot of people. After that very uncomfortable exchange, I don’t bring up the subject of education anymore.

My fiancee’s Amish family rewards our dreams of education with what appears to be barely suppressed derision or perhaps they’re just skeptical of our mental well-being. They offer all sorts of tidbits on why we should just stay where we are and keep doing what we’ve always done. My friends don’t actively discourage our dreams of education, but they will readily admit that they have no desire for one themselves.

Most Amish and ex-Amish regard higher education (anything more than 8 grades) with disdain and derision. They consider it unnecessary, impractical, and a distraction from the meaningful things in life–whatever they think those may be. I find it difficult to understand that kind of mentality. I’ve always enjoyed learning, and I have an insatiable curiosity about the mechanics of the universe. I am utterly unable to understand how some people can be anti-LEARNING.

In any case, they’re not going to change my mind about education. If anything, it’s only further cemented my urge to intellectually distinguish myself from them.

Image credit: Empty desks image copyright (c) 2007 Richard Lee and made available under Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

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