On this International Women’s Day, I can’t help but fondly *cough* recall my junior year of college; I’d just been diagnosed with debilitating endometriosis and fibroids and was unable to work a job while I had surgery and recovered.
The first counselor was a gentleman in his 60s, pleasant enough and very patient, however VERY unqualified to deal with my particular problem.
I showed up to the session wearing business casual dress and makeup — the first time I’d worn anything besides sweats (or attempted to put on makeup) in four months — in the hopes that it would make them take me more seriously.
That shit backfired.
He looked me up and down and pronounced that I “didn’t look sick enough to merit financial aid.”
I kept my cool and explained my situation thoroughly — my husband and I were both full-time students, newlyweds with less than 10 dollars in the bank, and I couldn’t pay my tuition since I’d just lost a full-ride scholarship due to my illness.
“But, Rae,” said the financial aid counselor with a quizzical brow, “it doesn’t REALLY matter if you get your degree — you’re just going to be a stay-at-home mom for the rest of your life, right?”
“Um, no,” I replied with an equally quizzical brow. “My condition makes it very unlikely that I can have children.” Not that it’s any of your business, sir.
“Oh, marvelous! You can adopt! Let me regale you with a twenty minute story on how my son adopted a bunch of kids. And then I’ll tell you some more about how you don’t qualify for financial aid because of your lady problems.”
Yeah. It went on like this for about an hour. I left in tears.
After sending a scathing letter to his superiors, I made an appointment with a different counselor, a fabulous Tongan woman named Kalisi Palu.
About five minutes into my session with Kalisi, the first counselor busted in. Yes, he actually OPENED THE CLOSED DOOR and entered my private session.
“Rae, dearest,” he stated, “you’re one of MY students. You should be in a session with me.”
“No, sir,” said I with a voice like icicles. “I am not. Get the f*ck out of my session.” (Okay, it was BYU, so there was no swearing. But I sure thought it.)
It took a few minutes, but he finally left. I was shaking.
Kalisi listened to my story, even teared up a few times, and swore she’d do everything in her power to help me. She sent me out with a list of materials she’d need from me and a huge hug.
Less than two weeks later, she emailed me with the news: she’d presented my case to the panel of financial aid people . . . and managed to secure me a full scholarship.
When I graduated, the first thing I did was pick up a huge bouquet of flowers for that woman.
Dearest, darlingest Kalisi, I never would have made it through college without you.
Oh, and stupid financial aid counselor #1? I’ll be thinking about you when I get my hysterectomy next month. Hugs and kisses, boo.