Freedom from mental slavery

Earlier today, a friend was trying to have a conversation with me about a topic we discussed in class.  While quite a controversial topic, I definitely had a point of view that I had settled on and am quite comfortable in. This friend of mine I will describe as free-spirit.  She spoke louder than I, spoke incessantly – in fact, I had a difficult time getting a word in.  She jumps from one thing to another in a split second – honestly I can’t keep up sometimes.

However, that wasn’t exactly the issue at hand.  The issue at hand was the fact that I was not fully concentrating on what she was saying.   I was not fully invested in the conversation because I was on high alert for eavesdroppers.  I was in a classroom full of peers, many in close proximity and so, many could tune in and listen to every word we were saying.

For that reason, I was monitoring and censoring myself.  I wanted to say what I thought was a good response. I didn’t want to sound ignorant and I didn’t want to appear stupid.  And I was certain that specific people were definitely listening to us and evaluating my performance in the conversation.  I was so focused on everyone around me and on trying to find the correct words and phrasing to express myself that I have no idea how much of my mind was actually devoted to this friend of mine!

This is the most debilitating phenomenon in my life – the one thing that totally inhibits my potential from actualizing.  Why do I care so much what other people think of me?  Why am I letting other people’s thoughts of me curtail my performance?  Why do I have to be smart?  Why do I have to say the right things all the time?  Why must I be cautious?  Why am I so afraid of offending others?  How do I liberate myself from these shackles?

I want to be free, free like my friend.  She says whatever she wants whenever she wants.  She is fearless.  She is not afraid of being WRONG?  What’s wrong with being wrong?  She’s not afraid of sounding stupid? She’s not afraid of offending others?  She’s not afraid.  She uses her voice. She allows herself to be.  She doesn’t hold herself back.

Why can’t I do that?  This self-imposed constant self-censorship, editing, silencing is what is holding me back from progress in my life; it’s what is slowing down the whole process of me becoming the person I keep wanting to be!  I want to speak.

I am also having troubling thinking.  I can’t think straight.  I can’t think clearly.  I can’t accept the fact that I don’t have all the right answers – or any answers for that matter!  How did I make myself this grand, yet totally incapable??

I only have one point of view and I need to accept that.  I can never know it all.  The faster I accept that, the better off I will be.  Gosh, it’s exhausting being me, living in this body, in this mind, with these thoughts!

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Even closing on my account is restricted!

I tried to close my OSAP application, but in order to close the account I have to state a reason for closing (of course).  The reasons are already stated of course – all I had to do was pick one of four options – NONE of which fit my circumstance.

I selected the one that made me the least angry: “I need to change the information that I provided in one of my application.” I pressed submit only to have the following statement appear: “If all you want to do is make a change to the information on you application, then contact your financial aid office. It is better that they update your application instead of closing it. If you want to cancel the application, then select a different reason.” Sigh, so I really only have 3 pre-selected reasons for closure.

The following statements do not fit my circumstance:

  1. “I will not be attending this school” (Incorrect – I am currently attending school and full-time!)
  2. “I submitted multiple OSAP applications and I am closing the application for the school that I am not attending.” (Incorrect – I submitted to only one school and I am currently attending that school)
  3. “I do not need OSAP assistance. I have sufficient resources to cover my educational costs” (LOL Incorrect! – I desperately need OSAP assistance, but I have been deemed ineligible to receive OSAP assistance because of my previous student loans.* I DO NOT have sufficient resources to cover y educational costs, and am currently unsure whether or not I can complete this educational journey.)

NONE of the above fit my reason for closure. Seriously, why not just add an “other” option? I guess, for your records you don’t want statistics of people needing OSAP but having been declined?

*Let me explain my circumstance. Yes, I’ve incurred thousands of dollars worth of loans over the years. I went to university – completely a bachelors degree, went to college and completed a 2 year program-all through the support of OSAP – and yes, I am grateful for the program and would not have sought “higher” education otherwise. I just can’t believe the same program that helped me dream big is currently the same program subverting my current efforts.

I almost had a nervous breakdown going through university, but I still managed to excel and graduate with honours.  University exhibited tremendous emotional and mental toll on me that served as a great learning experience despite everything. Unfortunately I went through university never being quite certain of what it was I wanted to pursue as a career. Hence my venture towards college for some practical experience – an indeed college lived up to its reputation. Even before graduation, I already secured employment in my field of study.

I stayed in this field and continue to work in this field part-time, but I want to do more within this field and possibly earn an income that is above the poverty line. In order to do more and be more in this field, I need further training and education, and that is why I have returned to school in this mature status of 34!

I assumed OSAP would once more take me through my journey.  Turns out – in the fine print of all those documents I signed along the way- as time progresses, there is a stage of assistance (Stage 2) that restricts you from receiving further assistance from OSAP (Canada-Ontario Integrated Student Loan and ALL grants and bursaries administered by OSAP)!

All these years while earning meagre income, I have been on a federal debt reduction program that I could not progress without. I met the eligibility requirements every single year .  Yes, I have been living in poverty all this time – despite my education and despite my full-time job. I wasn’t deliberately avoiding paying my loans – I was merely poor enough for such assistance.  I have no money to my name – sure, go through my finances if you don’t believe me!

When I made the difficult decision of returning to school, I admit my research fell short. I didn’t come across the OSAP restriction until it was a bit too late. I called my school – they directed me to OSAP, I called OSAP – asked to be transferred to Canada Student Loan and asked for a clearance (as directed by the information on my account), but they (people that answered the phone calls) assure me that it was irreversible.   WHY does the option to ask for CLEARANCE even appear on my account! The least you can do is avoid giving false hope!

I thought surely with the changes announced last year regarding free tuition for low-income students that I would also benefit from this change. I continue to meet every eligibility requirement for programs designated for people living with low incomes. Will my “mature” student status prevent me from benefiting? Will my “Stage 2-status” also serve as a barrier for further assistance?

I can’t believe this is how my year is starting? I just contacted my school regarding the bursaries that I applied to, but all I got back was a robotic reply about how all the applications are being reviewed and recipients will be contacted shortly.

You know it really sucks when you apply to all these programs and services, make your case that you are indeed-needy enough, poor enough and thus, deserving enough for assistance, but still get rejected any way!

Well, my account remains open, because I don’t want to lie about my reason for closing. Let’s see if the upcoming changes make any difference to me.