Hunger Games

Have you ever had one of those moments where you look around at your current situation and ask yourself “How the hell did I get myself into this mess?”

I’ve had that thought with an eerie frequency over the past few months. Usually at about the same time every week. Usually while I’m sitting in front of my computer at home, fighting my way through a weekly homework assignment. Always because I’m working on Applied Statistics. You can tell that’s what I’m doing by the ritual gnashing of teeth and tearing of hair.

There’s no sugar-coating it. I just have to say it. I really, really HATE statistics!

Up until this point, I have merrily sailed through my career as a grad student. After my final exams next week, I will have finally hit a tipping point, and officially be over halfway down the road to my commencement. 24 hours completed, only 18 more to go. Three semesters. A year from now, I’ll be getting ready to cross the stage.

And for the most part, I’ve really enjoyed the journey. Graduate studies demand a lot of effort. Earning an advanced degree requires skills in information-gathering, critical thinking (despite the Texas Republican Party’s insistence that critical thinking not be part of their public education platform, the colleges here are pretty adamant that you know how to think), and writing. Lots of writing. A virtual shit-ton of it, as a matter of fact. Which may be what has helped me sail along. I’ve always been able to express myself through the written word.

But this semester, there have been numbers. And there have been quasi-mathematical formulas and phrases that I have had to struggle to grasp; things like co-variants and t-tests and ANOVAs and MANCOVAs and correlation coefficients and the Solomon design. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. And if all those things weren’t bad enough, there is also a software program for dealing with them all, and I’ve been fighting with it all semester.

If it’s possible for computer software to be possessed by malevolent beings, I’m pretty sure this program is the Devil himself. It taunts me, and it mocks my inability to understand the differences in parametric and non-parametric test designs, or Type I vs. Type II errors.

My other class this semester also deals with the research process, which is a critical part of most grad school thesis work. My degree has a non-thesis option, which is for students who don’t plan to continue on to earn a doctorate, and since I have no intention of teaching at the university level (or anywhere else, unless I’m teaching little Foo Fighter kiddos how to cook), I’m not going down the road to thesis hell. I’m pretty sure there are more statistics there.

This other class has been tough, too, because while we’ve been learning about the research process, guess what? Statistics have been sneaking in to that conversation also! I don’t have to manipulate them, but I do have to talk about them. I just can’t escape the little bastards!

And yet…here I am. Book smart and tuition poor.

Why, you ask, am I putting myself through all of this work and agony (and statistics) if all I really want to do is go to work for a rock band?

I ask myself that same question sometimes. There are a few reasons.

For one, I have to face the idea that my path and the Foo Fighters’ may never cross. I try never to dwell on this possibility, but it has to be considered. Which means that even if I don’t get my dream job, at some point I will most certainly want to find a new job.  The one I have now is not a bad job, and it’s served me and mine pretty well, but I’m approaching 10 years in the same place, and I’m growing stagnant. Sooner or later, there will have to be a change. As a middle-aged woman out in a tight job market, having more education can’t hurt. That’s my pragmatist opinion, anyway.

Another reason? Completing my master’s degree is a personal point of pride for me. It’s a goal that I feel a strong need to reach. Regardless of what I do with it, or where I end up, I need to finish. Stay the course. Follow through. Don’t leave things undone. The idea of NOT finishing is unacceptable to me. Pragmatist, remember?

But finally, I took this educational journey, mostly, to help myself discover if there was a greater purpose for me in this world. And I know now that there is. Better yet, I think there is a real possibility that if I am fortunate enough to land my Fooish Mother dream job, there might be a way to put my education to use at the same time.

Because over the past year, at least, I’ve discovered a new passion, one that could work hand in hand with my wish to take care of the Foo Fighters.

My passion? I want to feed people. Not only my band of merry musicians, but other people as well. People who don’t always have the resources to feed themselves.

Think about this: One in every five children in the United States goes to bed hungry every night. One in FIVE! That’s 20% of the kids in our country. This country! The United States of America, known as one of the wealthiest countries in the world, a country with so many resources that we are the envy of others worldwide. We are a country with seemingly limitless means.  America, the land of opportunity. The land of plenty…

So how is it even possible that children in the land of plenty still go hungry? How do we justify the fact that one child in five suffers food insecurity on a regular basis? Most of all, how do we recognize this fact and continue to allow our leaders to cut funding to aid programs which poor, working families desperately need? Talk about finding yourself in a situation and wondering how you got there. This makes my struggle with statistics seem really ridiculous, doesn’t it?

I don’t have all the answers to the hunger problem in this country, but I know that the first step in solving a problem is recognizing that it exists in the first place. Hunger in America is real, and I cannot turn a blind eye to it and pretend it doesn’t happen here, in the land of plenty.

Not only do I feel that it’s my obligation to do something about this issue, but I’m going to make sure that I make others aware of it, too. I have to do something proactive. As the saying goes, if you’re not part of the solution…

I’m only one person. Just one small voice in an ocean of other voices. How can I help? How can I change things? It might be impossible.

But maybe not. Maybe I just need other voices to join with mine and speak out about this issue.

And it would be a pretty amazing thing if some of those voices could sing.


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