I am a 49-year-old woman who needs to upskill and/or finish my bachelor’s degree. The first thing I need and want to do is finish two UX certifications (Google and The New School).
I have been raising my daughter alone since 2000, but now she is settled in her own place with a wonderful boyfriend so now it’s ok for me to resume the educational goals I had put on hold in order to be a good mother and earn our living.
I am a technical writer who works on contracts that last anywhere from 6 months to 1 1/2 years on average so I have been stuck in this circle of debt for the last 8 years. Every time I budget myself to live on bare bones and use the rest to clear my debt in just under a year, my contract ends, I’m back on unemployment, have nothing saved, then I rack my credit cards back up to live on between contracts.
I wanted to clear this myself, but now I’m 49 and I do not have much time left to upskill/go back to college and be able to work enough years to justify this.
Not having any certificates or degrees (other than high school) has always put me at the back of the line, with fierce competition. Now after COVID there are so many more qualified, younger people I compete with for a job.
The worst part of this is that I have to upskill my technology/computer science/IT skills and just do not have the time or energy to do both due to several factors, but not for lack of trying.
Software technical writers used to mean someone who writes user manuals, figures out how a system or program/app works and creates/maintains other standard documents.
In the last 4 to 5 years, companies now want tech writers to know programming languages, network engineering, how APIs work, and how to create elaborate API reference guides that include sample code in a variety of languages.
I want to learn all of this and absolutely can, but I’m stuck in this catch-22 working to pay the bills and dealing with my mental issues involving anxiety and PTSD… it is head-spinning to me.
I am now buried under $35,000 of debt without the last $5000 or so of car payments.
Every time I make a big payment of $200 or $300 across my cards, the interest comes in the next month leveling my payment down to like $50.
I am so sad, anxious, and riddled with PTSD, BUT I am a fighter and will never give up, even if I know my chances of getting to a point where I am not stressed out, worrying about debt, bills due, and how that translates to me being stuck where and as I am… for years.
I need a leg up. I envision that once I have upskilled my income will be at least 50% more than it is now and could even double after 2-4 years of nailing down UX design as a researcher or strategist.
I do not want to promise, but I do think I could even start to make payments back in a couple of years after I’m certified and/or have a degree (at least one).
I am very smart and come from a line of lawyers, surgeons, computer geeks, and generally people with high IQs… probably not a genius, but definitely well above average. I just have never had the opportunity to do anything due to an abnormal childhood stuck with my mother and stepfather who ran a cult-like business all the while my stepfather was abusing me physically and both of them mentally.
They took me out of school in 1st grade because “school was too worldly”. I was reading Dr. Seuss’s books fluently by age 3 and had gone to Montessori school. When I went to Kindergarten I was too advanced for K and 1st grade, but they just moved me up one grade to 1st for social reasons.
I write this not for pity or to feel sorry for myself or get you all to… my angle is to make you aware of my background and why I’m in this vicious circle I cannot break out of after trying on my own for the past 6 years.
I just need a break so I can actually get formal training whether it’s certifications and/or a degree, I’m hungry to learn and it’s not too late right now, but time is not my friend and I don’t have 6 more years to keep hoping I can pay off my debt so I can go back to school (I did complete 1 formal year at Washington College in MD and additional credit classes at LA Pierce College). At Pierce college, I had virtually no one to watch my daughter so I had to drop out of two of the 4 classes I had registered to take and did not make enough money to hire a sitter.
At 13 (7th grade age) I was finally allowed to go to school again, but was put in at 6th grade and browsed through 3rd, 4th, and 5th-grade books over the summer before. I did well and skipped 7th grade to join my age group, but this was a Christian school and my mother and stepfather were crazy. At 16 my brother got his girlfriend pregnant (they met at this school… my brother is 15 months older than I am). She ran away to our house, we all got kicked out of the church and school, and they flew them down to GA without her parents’ knowledge and got them married.
So… for me, this meant that after all that catching up and success I was told that 9th grade would be “home school” again (this is code for no school) and that my brother’s 16-year-old drop-out girlfriend would be my teacher.
At 14 I took 53 aspirin one night… clearly, it did not work, but that was truly how hopeless I was at 14.
After that incident, I was “counseled” by their Times Square Church preacher friend, Bob Phillips. He told them to “put her (me) in school immediately”. I remember my stepfather saying they would look into it and Bob cut him off and said “now!… Any school, tomorrow!”.
At 15 my mother and stepfather dropped me off at Springwood Psychiatric Hospital in Leesburg, VA because they suspected I was doing drugs.
After several drug tests came back clear they decided to leave me there because my stepfather had sexually abused me from 6 years old to 12 years old. Yes, that is insane, but these corrupt doctors and facility staff kept me and did not report him. Every time I was seen by the doctor on his rounds I asked him why I was there and not him. He told me “you’re here to deal with you”.
I just found out a couple of years ago after a curious Google search that the FBI raided that facility in 1993 (Washington Post article 8/27/1993, Washington Post article 1/10/1998) (formerly owned by Tenet… they still exist, just have a new name now).
This was a 32-bed hospital and there were many settlements, but I was never notified. Just last year I went through a box of my deceased mother’s items and found a letter from them sent to me that I never knew about. She was always protecting my stepfather instead of me (both of them died in 2017, separately… my mother died from mass Opioid prescriptions over 17 years. and My stepmonster died from prostate cancer a few months before she did).
I have been on my own since I was left at a Storm King boarding school in Cornwall-on-Hudson, NY in 1989. They paid for a few months, but then stopped paying and no one knew where they were and/or could not contact them. My roommates always paid for my basics (toothbrush, hair stuff, makeup). They sent me there because after the 5 weeks at Springwood I was let out with the disclaimer that “she cannot live in the same house as her stepfather”.
Boarding school is the reason why I have survived and always strive to keep improving and reaching for my full potential.
After I graduated with honors in 1991 I was handed a piece of paper with my name typed on it instead of my diploma (the Board of trustees did this to punish my mother & stepfather/monster thinking they were hiding money, but I didn’t even know where they were living or a number to call them). Several years later my diploma showed up in my Grandmother’s mailbox.
On graduation day they drove me to Nyack college where they had finagled an empty room in a girl’s dorm with the promise that they were going to rent a house in NY and would be back in a couple of weeks.
A month or more later after sitting in an empty room with no money, little food, my cat (my dorm parent let me have a cat), and no phone… no computers back then either. I finally borrowed change to call an ex-boyfriend in Virginia to come to get me, which he did. He took me back to Virginia and I stayed with my brother, his wife, and my 3-year-old niece until August when I went to college for one year.
I could not afford to go back to school and had no home, skill, or job. My grandmother allowed me to stay with her for a few months and I finally got a job at Tower Records. I worked at Tyson’s Corner, VA Tower Records then transferred to one in Yonkers, NY, to escape the nightclub scene/people.
I ended up going back to the VA/DC area at 21 and transferred to DC Tower, but then I got a job as a waitress at a nightclub and stayed there for 5 years until 1998 when I got my first office job as an administrative assistant at a coffee roasting warehouse in Alexandria, VA (Swing’s Coffee).
I was given a crash course in how to turn on a computer there and they let me stay after work for hours so I could learn MS Office and other computer programs using the F1/help button.
I started a couple of classes at NoVa Community college and was getting my life started until I found out I was pregnant in May of 1999. I’d known that boyfriend for years from the city, but only just started dating him a couple of months before that.
From 1999 to 2005 I had no one to watch my daughter for me to look for work, work, or go learn anything so I sat stuck and frowned upon by my entire family.
Once my daughter was 5 she went to Kindergarten and I finally could work, which is did and have been ever since, but I’ve had to learn everything from studying books at Borders Bookstore on the floor of the kiddie section for hours cause I couldn’t afford to buy them and my daughter was really energetic all the time.
Spring forward to now, even though so much happened during that time, my daughter moved out in Feb 2022 and just got her first apartment with her boyfriend so now I am finally able to focus on getting myself put back together physically, mentally, and educationally.
I have a great, hungry mind that is starving for information and the motivation to succeed and reach my potential, which is absolutely far greater than where I stand today as a technical writer with more gaps by the day, as the tech world keeps evolving.
I need any part of $35,000 to pay down my card debts so I can just have my car payment, have a PT job, and be able to upskill and study.
Plan part I – complete Google UX certification and The New School’s certification
Plan part II (if possible) – finish the last year of college for my Associate’s degree or preferably finish my Bachelor’s degree (3 more years) in computer science, engineering, or dual major in both.
Any help knocking down this debt would be such an incredible gift toward ramping up my life so that I can help my daughter through her life and goals.
*There is so much more detail to my life story that many have asked me to write a book, another goal of mine, but must be alongside since that may not bring in funds. It would be an interesting read for those who enjoy Lifetime movies and shows.
**I am happy to fill in the other detail and answer any questions, within reason and as related to this request for help.
Thank you for reading,