Monday, July 5, 2010

My rant.

I’ve rewritten this story something like 87 times to try and make it sound like I am being less of a bitch. I’ve developed it with flowery language and a background story, and I’ve tried to omit names but the truth is: it just sounded fake. So here it is honest and straightforward as I sit here and wonder. Why people have to question people who may live their lives different from their own?

When visiting UMKC on a grad school visit last week I had quite the up and down reaction. I liked the campus, I liked some of the program offerings, but I wasn’t a huge fan of a few of the people. Much of that came from their ability to not keep their mouths shut. I am compulsive about researching a place before I come visit or choose it as an option to apply to. With UMKC, it was no different. I’d talked to people who had affiliations directly with, or had friends who had attended UMKC. I’d talked to professors in regards to the program offerings, and I had driven around the campus and city for hours trying to get an idea on whether or not I could see myself there. The truth is, I knew from the first time I saw it, I could see myself there. I think from a far, Kansas City has always been a place that seemed so far away, yet so close. So when I went to visit UMKC, I was more than disappointed by the questioning comments I received about how I was choosing to live once I moved to Kansas City.

As anyone who knows anything about grad school knows, it’s expensive. So I knew that I would be living on a budget, depending on what program I chose. Also, I’ve lived the past few years in dive-y places, and I don’t want to do that again. If I am going to spend money, I’d rather spend it on a nice place, where I can entertain and feel comfortable inviting people over opposed to spending money on gas/sundries. So a huge choice I made when deciding where to move is that it has to be a place where I don’t have to commute. I want to be able to walk/bike/ride the bus to class and live in a moderately place NICE apartment. I want to start my finally “adult” life, right. So, to me, Kansas City seemed like the perfect choice. 2 hours from “all” my homes (Omaha, NE; Creston, IA; Manhattan, KS; etc.,) a thriving nightlife, lots of friends, seemingly great public transportation, and a combination of the program options I wanted.

So here, I was sitting in the grad school I planned on attending hearing that this wasn’t feasible? My first contact was with my middle-aged tour guide who commutes from JoCo because of a family. That’s fine, that’s the choice you made, but please DO NOT TRY AND PRESS YOUR SUBURBAN LIFESTYLE ON ME! I answered her questions regarding where I wanted to live pretty easily, “I’d like to live downtown, in a nice place and commute back and forth via bus/walking/bike/running to make more efficient use of my time and to take some of my transportation budget and place it into housing.” Her response was more condescending than I had imagined, answering with, “So… you won’t have a car? You won’t drive.” I explained that I planned to keep a car, and park it because I do have family out of state, but I would try not to drive on a regular basis, especially if gas prices achieved the $7.00 mark that was predicted. Her response was as if I told her that little green people were beginning to inhabit the Earth. She sat, almost with her jaw dropped a little, just staring. Her persuasion techniques included talking about the car pools, how taxes were supposedly cheaper in JoCo (which about made me lose it with laughter) and that there is lovely housing right across the street from campus if I NEED to live in Missouri, but mainly so I don’t have to ride the bus. I explained, I apologize, I’m not in the mood to live in campus residences because I’m a little old for that. Plus, I liked riding the bus. The fact that I liked riding the bus seemed to be her breaking point. I apologize that I can jump on a bus and read/relax for about 15 minutes instead of setting my blood pressure sky rocketing with bumper to bumper traffic on the commute. Also, one of my favorite past times is people watching and making up stories, so what better place than the bus for that! It was pretty obvious she wasn’t understanding where I was coming from so I just began to nod and smile and look at my phone for the time that I would finally be free from there. She escorted me out, we said our goodbyes and boy was I glad to be out of that situation.

That was until I started talking to the makeshift receptionist. She was a VERY sweet lady, just clueless. The first question out of her mouth was, “So where are you going to live?” *deep breath* I explained everything again. Her answer, “Oh no honey, you don’t want to live downtown and walk or run! It’s a long way, and there are areas that just aren’t safe!” Ok… well, I’ve looked at crime statistics and know there are areas that may not be the world’s safest, I also know that the downtown area has a crime rate that has dropped considerably since they began the “clean-up” or whatever it’s called. I told her I wasn’t too worried because I could handle myself and I used to go explore areas like North Omaha on my own when I was a naïve sixteen year old girl.

At this point, though, I was sick of explaining myself to everyone. Why was I being questioned for my choices repeatedly at a place that is supposed to be persuading me to spend a large sum of money with them? Why were their choices supposed to be my choices? I’d be curious to know if this was their reaction to everyone, or just to a girl from an area that could be classified as “The Country.” Analyzing it a little further, with our country’s supposed push to be more “fiscally responsible” because of the “recession” why aren’t we commending people who make these choices? Why with looking at the BP oil spill, increased environmental awareness, etc. are places not pleased to advertise they have other options in close proximity? I guess I don’t get that one federally funded institution (UMKC) encouraging their students to support another federally funded institution (public transit.) I’ve thought about writing letters, but feel it would probably be better to wait until if/when I get admitted, but it definitely has left a bad taste in mouth and the want to go up and prove to them how it can be done.

Anyway, I guess the whole point of this is to state, why is one person’s opinion expected to be that of others. Why don’t we appreciate and accept others opinions? I won’t question someone driving their car a lot, since I do now. I just know in the future, I’d like to have at least a few years where I don’t have to rely on something that may not be available to me ten years from now, with the rate of consumption our nation participates in. Why not educate on all levels, instead of just the most convenient and the one you participate in. Sorry for the randomness of this rant, I just wanted to get it out there!

1 comment:

  1. -A

    Take a deep breath. Relax. I'm from Kansas City and graduated from UMKC many years ago. BA, '73, MA, '77.

    I haven't lived in KC for 30 years, but my wife and I have family in the city and surrounding area.

    First. Do what you think is right. You've checked out your options and your thoughts are this will work for you. After all, you have to live with your decisions.

    Some thoughts from a KC native. The bus service at least from the 1960's on has been minimal (please check the current schedules to see what current service is like). So if you have to catch the bus, you might want to live some place where you only have to catch one bus and not have to transfer.

    Downtown is not at all far from UMKC. But again, check the current bus schedules to find out how long it would take you to go from there to UMKC in the morning and in the late afternoon or evening.

    Just a thought. As a grad student you might want to live as close to the university as you can. During my grad school years I found the closeness to be extremely convenient. It allows you to hop back and forth between home and campus with ease.

    Check out the areas around UMKC, the KC Art Institute, Rockhurst University, Westport, the neighborhoods between the Plaza and Westport, and the Union Hill area (around 31st and Main) for apartments to live in.

    Kansas is an interesting city, but a lot of people who live there, especially those who are from there, need to get out more.

    The comments of the two people you describe are somewhat indicative of a lot of "sheltered people" who live in metro KC. But, but..if you get out and about you'll find a lot of interesting people doing stuff that's interesting. But you'll have to get out and find them.

    Fortunately today, your generation has a lot of tech tools to help you do that.

    So go for it. Whether you choose KC or some place else, do your homework and make the best choice for you.

    One more thing. You sound like someone who likes cities. One BIG mistake I made when I went to work on my doctorate, was I chose a program at a big university in a TINY town. I was never happy there. Graduate school, much more than the undergraduate years, is about academics and your ADULT time away from class.

    So if you like cities, you'll probably want to go to graduate school in a city of some size that will give you options.

    Just my 2 cents. Hope it helps. I know the feeling.