In a span of a few years between the mid-70s and early-80s, our family went from upper-middle class to simply put, poor. Growing up in northwest Arkansas, at the edge of the Ozarks and Boston Mountains, we came up as one of the few old-money families in the area – and, as a kid, it was great!
In my pre-teen years, for a number of reasons, it all went away. My brother, sister and I all had to get jobs by the time I was 12 to help pay bills, buy our own coats and those kinds of things. For me, I processed the situation into a motivation to work hard, earn some money and get myself into college.
Going to and graduating from a university, for me, was one of the best/worst decisions I’ve made. It opened doors to internships and eventually one of those internships led to my first job in journalism. The downside of it all was the enormous financial stress it placed on my head for years in trying to land financial aid or get a couple of extra restaurant jobs to cover the costs of that education. At the time, I had the strange opportunity to talk to the university president one-on-one about it. I told him, “The way the system is set up makes future me regret what I’m doing here.” His response, in part, was, “It’s about the experience, Mr. Ogden.”
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