I couldn’t sleep at all last night.
I feel like I’ve been cramming for a major final! I’ve always wanted to go back to school to advance my education from construction trades to communications infrastructure, information technology and journalism to complete a double degree in non-profit and public administration.
In a lot of realistic ways, because I couldn’t afford school beyond completing two associates, I have been conducting my own self-education. Windows of opportunity had often opened and closed so fast that I’d loss my stride and tumbled and stumbled and fumbled. I’d always pick myself up, dust myself off and get back up on the path to continue running towards my dreams.
Because of tidal social and economic forces that would undermine my footing, every time I’d overcome a challenge such as becoming homelessness at age 19, a new challenge would present itself unraveling much of the progress I had made.
I’m no stranger to pulling myself up from my bootstraps to do hard and un-glamorous work. I never had the benefits, privileges and typical supportive platforms afforded to many people on my pathway to obtaining the degrees and higher education that would result in the economic opportunity that would allow me to thrive and stay resilient and safely sheltered from the relentless waves that have led to the economic instability of entire communities. Because I was thrown out of the family household with only the clothes on my back, the change in my pocket and the sound mind in my head. I had to make almost everything happen for myself largely by myself.
I’d teach myself how to overcome the challenges and everyday obstacles that came along my pathway to today. I’d learn how to access student aid, financial resources and job opportunities to stabilize myself so that I could attempt stay in school under my own power. I’d learn basic budgeting to ensure I was eating enough so that I could stay focused in class. I’d make sacrifices and make life altering decisions to pivot away from my original educational interests in journalism and communications to strategically focus and capitalize on hobby interests in technology and network communications. I had to suspend my dreams and get real with my efforts to survive to access realistic jobs with wages that were vital to my keeping pace with a rapidly changing economy. I’d succeed.
I dropped out of San Francisco State at the end of my junior year to pursue full-time work so that I could escape homelessness and transitive housing and acquire stable permanent rental situations. I’d become an independent adult. I’d complete my last junior-year semester, find good jobs and save my money to re-acquire basic resources such as a wardrobe, a place to live. I’d have built an appropriate economic engine that would allow me access the pipeline for my eventual return to college. I’d succeed.
I’d rapidly move from temporary housing of one flavor or another and from unstable retail jobs to white collar work in Internet Communications and Information Technologies — skipping the blue collar working class experience that I’d been prepared for since high school. I’d succeed for a time and exit the struggles that have trapped so many into poverty. I obtain great job after job and move from couch surfing to rooms of my own until establishing that elusive good credit required to get my own place all in one calendar year. I’d succeed.
For a period I’d experience an economic freedom, privilege and relatively unimpeded access to jobs and progressing opportunity. So, precious few individuals who come from the various San Francisco communities where I grew up have achieved the same levels of success. I grew up, primarily, in historically low income and middle class communities in the Bayview, Mission Excelsior and Western Edition and other neighborhoods throughout the city. These same communities that overtime have been decimated by various issues in public policy, housing policy, debilitating transportation, educational and jobs stimulus deficits.
I’d find successes because, for me, complacency in fighting for survival equals death. I chose to live! I’d learn to overcome the economic collapse of the dotcom bubble pop. In two years of the California economy reconstruction that displaced thousands. Everyone was getting laid off and there were no new jobs being created.
I had to surrender everything, including again my housing, that I had worked so hard to achieve. Along with it went much of the progress I made in becoming self-sufficient. This time I’d capitalize on reinvesting in my education. I couldn’t continue where I left off but instead dug deeper into the emerging trends in our jobs local market. Because I now understood how to become successful, I hunkered down digging into the books and deeper into financial debt by grabbing two degrees in technology paying out of my own pocket. I’d succeed.
This time I’d bring experience matched with education and career certification with me as my shield and armor in battlefield that would soon become of our jobs market. As the state economy began to mend its wounds, no longer was it possible to get a great opportunity banking injustice ones existing skills and experience in the effort to attract employers paying wages above the rising tide of the cost of living. For that you needed proof of education. A proof that now bars so many from job access. This is on top of public policy which often makes job access exclusive and often virtually inaccessible to low income communities. Many of the same ones I grew up in. Yet, I still found ways to succeed.
The progress I was making would soon find new barriers to success. I reached a glass ceiling and in rebounding off the surface my economic achievement curve plateaued and had since plummeted. It’s well documented that the communities my heritage as a native of San Francisco of African descent represents — we are deadlocked in an income bracket that does not match today’s cost of living. Behind this economic barrier, we’re often trapped under various poverty lines while the tide is steadily rising.
Overtime my success became reductively limited and success pipelines became backed up for myself as it has for so many others. The progress I made to escape poverty and homelessness would temporarily be overturned at various times because of issues of race, class, privilege, workplace discrimination and job access exclusion. All together these issues have intensified the problems of displacement, our cities housing crisis, homelessness and gentrification. I understands these issues in a personal level because I have been forced to rebuild and that includes starting from repeatedly scratch to achieve progressively better credit, re-acquire resources such as progressively better housing. These achievements were made under my own economic strength and the benefits have supported myself and friends. Time and time again, because of various issues in our society which need remediation, I would be forced to surrender home after home after home and all the resources that I’d rebuild to make those houses filled with vitality, family and community.
Explicitly for the last 4–6 years I have been purposely exposing myself to city agencies and nonprofit institutions. Methodically joining certain committees, city task forces, boards and public interests’ groups. No joke, my efforts have been laser focused. Yes, like any good student with burning passion to succeed. I focused on obtaining a world class education. I targeted accessible real-world opportunities that would be on par with a 4-year university education. I have acquired much of the same fundamental experiences while simultaneously making career specific connections to accelerate the more practical applications of these experience for producing real-world impacts on our community.
It feels like I’m in that last semester before graduation, y’all, and I could not be doing any of this without you!
Thanks for all the help, support and love along the way!