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Sunday, January 8, 2012

College Acceptance and Attendance: A 2011 Memoir

Chapter 18 of My Life and Times at Purdue University
Engineering Mall at Purdue University
 The following is the letter (appeal) I used to regain admittance & financial aid to Purdue University.

Satisfactory Academic Progress Appeal
In reapplying and going to Purdue, my end goal is to put right a life that has twisted down many roads and came up short of the promise I held at a younger age, when youth is potential to be mentored, educated, and directed. The hope is this letter can explain my future plans and reveal the now better character that I often did not possess from 1990-1996, when I attended and graduated with a B.S. in Industrial Engineering.

Past is not Prologue
My first trek through the university system saw me abuse alcohol, skip class, refuse to deal with personal issues (father in prison, aunt controlling), and specifically, my lukewarm feelings about my major. I liked certain things – mathematics, management, finance, economic justification, and design – just not much on the thermodynamics, statics, material science, manufacturing processing, or electrical engineering. And my grades in those latter courses were abysmal. I squeaked out a 2.07 GPA. And so, I got my money’s worth out of the eleven semesters spent at ol’ Purdue.

In my ‘professional’ career, I did well enough in three jobs to continue to get more responsibility (project management), raises (twice), and opportunities to diversify my skill sets (technical writing.) However, I was seriously flawed personally. I ran through money like a pig does slop, made relationships like Napoleon – burning bridges behind me, and otherwise, behaved as if I expected to die young. (I attempted suicide in 1999 while in the U.S. Navy as a deck seaman wannabe OCS candidate.)

These things lead one to believe craziness is a family trait; or that, I couldn’t leave the fatalistic narcissism at the check coat station of Studio 54 in my unorganized, never-far-from-a-bender life. I made a bed filled with poor choices, complained a lot, listened to no one at all, and hurt the only woman I figured to romantically love, but could not have, given what I said to her because she rejected my woe-is-me shit. That last bit garnered me a stint in prison – an apple not far from the family tree.

I can’t say I immediately whipped about to a better state. It took me several years, different readings of self-improvement books (Hill, Maxwell, Robbins, Canfield, et. al.), my own book project, a family financial crisis turned medical emergency, to change the maladaptive behaviors long engrained, but changeable via what I was ‘college taught’, but never applied personally, in industrial engineering.

From 2005 to the present, I worked on a baseball history that is up at dcfpress.com, a currently mediocre website for an LLC I formed in March 2010. (Not a web guru.) I read hundreds of books and articles on baseball, downloading vast amounts of statistics too. Contacted people for images for illustration and edited (best I could) my own 750-page plus title. I had the intent to formalize for publication Bringin’ Gas & Dialin’ 9 in late 2010, however, family matters were at a fork in the road.

A Year in the Life
Most educated people (street or formal) can handle their problems. They can see an end path long before they start the hop from one choice to the other. My prior education was about options, changes, engineering a plan, designing for contingencies, etc. However, that usually means you have some resources and team players to forge your bridge from point A to point Z. As discussed, I left the road of wellness in the early 21st century, and a lost decade of career, firm relationships, and tangible resources in a watery depth of what we’ll call Davey Jones.

These are the highlights (and it does not do proper justice to my mother, Donna Mae Powers) of my last calendar year (September 27, 2010 to September 19, 2011):

o Mom has numerous cancerous masses removed from her abdomen: Sept 27 2010.
o Late October, mom’s state alters slightly as she cannot do basic math (she was a self-employed shop owner and bookkeeper.)
o Mom has emergency brain surgery (Nov 18 – metastatic cancer) and is not given much hope by the UIC doctors.
o Received my first professional writing gig in late October – completed, but Quarasan is unlikely to rehire given these issues.
o Mom admitted to VA home in West Lafayette in December. She attempts suicide (dementia) and sleeps rarely. They suggest I move her from the facility after only a week.
o Move again, to a Value Inn kitchenette in January 2011. Mom settles down a bit. Has mood swings. Schedule MRIs to initiate radiation treatment later on at UIC.
o Apply for her Social Security and SSI in late December and January 2011.
o I transport my mom to hospital, clinic appointments, etc. at least 30 times. Once took her from West Lafayette to Chicago for emergency room admit.
o Rehabs in a 115-year old dilapidated house that is facing foreclosure, while her sister ignores the gravity of the situation, no matter what I say to create options.
o November 15, 2010: Aunt blows up at my mom while I was not around, I take her in for the altered state she is in.
o I move out on November 19, 2010 taking a beat up car and computer to a Motel 6.
o Visited mom five times from her surgery to end of November. My car overheats - $700 estimated to fix – and I also take Power of Attorney of my mom’s affairs. I ostensibly take a car away from my aunt (moms) to continue to see my mom regularly.
o I move from a Motel 6 to a kitchenette. I move my mom to this new place. She cannot be left alone – as I find out when she turns a gas stove on while I deliver papers nightly as I have for 6 ½ years.
o Two more masses found in her brain. Radiation for two weeks. I managed her diabetes, psych drugs, high BP, and other meds. We eat in and out. Watch TV. Go to bookstores. Enjoy what we can do daily. (Jan-May 2011.)

o March 2011: Mom’s parent loan is nearing default. I get two doctors to fill out forms to nix this dilemma. Sallie Mae constantly irritates about this $1,000 debt. (While a $160,000 bill is due to UIC for the surgery.)
o I move in early August 2011. My original car (that overheated) was fixed. The fix lasted two weeks. I sell it for $250 (right on the highway) as a head gasket blew.
o My 5-year old found-in-a-junk-pile computer finally crashes. Spend $450 to replace.
o Rejected for admit to Purdue. Write letter. Then accepted last week. Contact a student about apartment – must clear the rental company’s hurdles. ($300/mo.) Applied for a clerical position creating brochures via job board. All last week.
o December 2010 – June 2011: I pay the IRS (back taxes), VA, Sallie Mae, Credit Acceptance, and Speedway what is owed them by my mom. JPMorganChase pursues legal end to foreclosure. Donna’s sister attempts three contacts, but does not apologize to me, or to her sister right.
o Car (‘99 Camry) is technically owned by Credit Acceptance. I’ve use it to keep an income – but the plates expired September 14, 2011 and they want $3,147 for the payoff. They refuse to transfer title (for registration) though I pay on it for my mom for 10 months.

This is my life. Moved four times, left behind personal items (books, clothes, and worn out assets), moved my mom three times while seriously ill, took her with me on my paper route for four months nightly. (She had mild sundowners too.)

I am not complaining about it now. I lost some battles. But my mom lost the ultimate war with cancer at 59, as her parents also did at age 60, and 64. Just relates the struggle of living as my karma came back around.

And it took my mother…that really deserved a better life. She worked 40 years for $4,600 in Social Security benefits that paid her funeral. That’s all she is to her former creditors – a number, and an estate she lacked.

Her legacy is me.

A Dream Deferred or Denied?
My dream is to complete a B.A. in Economics by the fall of 2014. I have to get grades I never have at a time when people’s trust in ‘economics’ or ‘the economy’ is sorely tested. I started my preparation for this career via books by Ph.D. economists and those schooled in Wall Street (Roubini, Krugman, Skousen, Lewis, Cassidy, Lowenstein, Smick, Rubin, Posner, et. al.) To put into context, I can’t name or cite an industrial engineering book I’ve read in a decade. Shows my interest. And my inner thinking.

The rationale is simple: to overcome my past, I have to put a future together in the present. Day by day, sweat the small details, and do the work. The degree is a stepping stone which hops toward an MBA program, if allowed, and if: my relationships, my spirit, my course work warrant further  consideration toward such higher learning.

It is a risk. Risk and reward – the supply of capital for the demand of a new venture of education, achievement, and career. In these tough and never safe economic times, people worry a person won’t pay off on their debts to them. Or that their own dreams will vanish under the auspices of a foolish banker, or an irresponsible credit seeker never intent on repaying what they owe, causing billions of dollars of storm clouds to brew, like 2008. Deferring money for the future (saving) is what many are doing now. I do so also – anti-Keynesian – yet, I have to put my chips in sometime – investment in rebuilding – Keynesian. As John Maynard once said, “In the long run, we are all dead.” So, I might as well take a calculated risk; enjoy the outcome; and, work hard to create a better humanity, a better life.

I am 39. When a Missouri haberdasher in his late 30s was deeply in debt, he managed by hook (and crook) to get to the most powerful position in the land: that of President of the United States. Harry S. Truman took us out of war, and saved potentially a million American lives while trading over 100,000 Japanese souls in dropping the A-bomb. Risk and reward at its cruelest means, and end. It took ol’ Henry Ford until he was in his forties to get a car company on track. His own dad didn’t think much of Henry’s plights. Seventh grade education be damned, Henry did it. (Ignore the ‘other stuff’…)

I can’t say that I’ll achieve their heights in my plights, but I have nothing left to lose in attempting to right my ship of fools to a fortuitous course that I denied for a decade, or longer: that of using my education and experiences, gained often through failing, to achieve more in these next two years than I did in the six in the 1990s. Time waits for no one – and I got goals to accomplish.

1. Publish at least two books while at Purdue University
2. Obtain GPA honors every semester – and work on a thesis paper (if only for myself)
3. Obtain an internship – to pay for school or seed money for the publishing business
4. Successfully run a publishing business – publish other authors, employees, profit, etc.
5. Establish good working relationships with professors – and learn, adding to my knowledge base
6. Take the GMAT and obtain admittance to a top MBA program in international finance
7. Mentor someone who is either wasting their talent, or on a bad road – teaching by example

I appreciate your review of my plan of study, finances, and other documentation. These things support the picture painted, and I whether I go next semester or not, I have at least been admitted back to Purdue. Six years ago, I had neither the courage, nor the story, to tell you to get back to this point on the road.

Thank You.
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