For Christmas this year, I have decided to start a charity in the name of my grandfather, Charles Mason Parsons. The Charles M. Parsons Scholarship Fund will provide small scholarships ($100-$1000) to community and junior college students facing adversity, so they may continue their education uninterrupted. This cause is deeply important to me, not only because I am naming it for my grandfather, but because I was a community college student who faced adversity and had an interrupted education.
I am now much better off than I was back then. I am happily married to a very successful, loving, caring woman. I have two wonderful, beautiful sons. I am still working on my education, but now at the doctoral level. I am now a Freemason and have been trying to embody those principles inculcated in our degrees. The three core principles of Freemasonry are Brotherly Love, Relief, and Truth, but most important is Relief or Charity, as each of the other principles cultivate that principle. In truth, charity is brotherly love in action.
Because I want this relief effort to succeed, I am going to be as transparent as possible for my motives and goals. Basically, I am now in a position to provide relief, and I feel the best way to do that is by starting a charity for people who were in a similar position as I was in my youth. To understand where I come from, I will tell you my story here in detail and publicly for the first time.
Please help me raise funds for this worthy cause. I am launching a Booster T-shirt campaign with a distressed, vintage logo of Parsons Ranch design inspired by my grandfather. Please help me choose which color T-shirt to use. I can only choose one.
My grandfather told me (and others confirmed) that the day I was born, I rolled over, perched up on one arm, and looked up at him. They had never seen a newborn so strong to be able to do such a thing. They thought it was a sign from God that I would be a preacher. Before my fifth month on Earth, I completely bypassed crawling and stood up, walking around with the aid of fixtures around me. Four months later, I let go completely and walked on my own. I was physically strong indeed. My Uncle tells a story (and other confirm) that at around 2- or 3-years-old, I sought attention from the adults sitting in a living room ignoring me, so I ran into the room and picked up the coffee table, throwing it up in the air, and running under it. This sounds far-fetched to me. It must have been light plastic or wood, because I’m pretty sure I was not a Hulk baby.
Shortly after learning to talk I began to lose my hearing. My mother would get upset with me for not listening, moving to close to the TV, and turning the volume all the way up. She realized one day that my hearing was nearly gone when she yelled at me and I yelled back saying, “I can’t hear you!” Luckily, I could talk already before that happened. A cousin of mine and my son both had the same problem as I, but it occurred prior or during the beginning of their speech development. I underwent surgery and had tubes put into my ears to drain the fluid blocking my ability to hear.
Around that time, we moved from Bakersfield, California to Calgary, Alberta, and after a year or so, my parents divorced. My mother, younger sister, and I moved into a trailer on my grandfather’s cotton farm in Buttonwillow, California. My mother found work and we soon moved into Bakersfield again. Not long after that, she remarried. At first everything seemed okay, but later he began to physically and emotionally abuse us. When I was ten, I helped her leave him, but I was afraid she was working things out with him to return, so I asked my father if I could live with him in Lloydminster, Alberta.
I lived with my father, step-mother, and two younger half-sisters for two wonderful years. Unfortunately, my father did not do well with marriage it seemed, as his fourth one was now over. After the divorce, he sold off his company and we moved to Banff and then Red Deer while he looked for work. My eighth grade year did not go so well. I rarely went to school. I got busted shop-lifting at the mall and had to do community service at the SPCA. I spent time with friends that I should not have had and my father was rarely around. If he was not working, he was at the bar. That summer, we moved back to California. Unfortunately, we did not make it before his mother, my Nonnie, died. We returned within days of her funeral. I did not think I could live with my father any longer, as he seemed to be unable to care for me due to all of the stuff he was dealing with. My mother, however, moved back in with my step-father, so I could not live there. Luckily, my aunt and uncle took me in.
Because I did so poorly my eighth grade year in Canada, I was not ready for high school in California and I chose to repeat eighth grade. I was able to attend school with my cousins and younger sister, which made my transition from Canada much easier. Later that year, my mother finally left my step-father and we eventually moved into a house together. Unfortunately, I had difficulty transitioning into high school anyway and performed very poorly. I ditched often and was eventually kicked out for a GPA of .73. I was put in community school, but rarely went. My mother was a single mom, working full-time, and she was not able to control me. She and I had a terrible falling out and I was told to leave.
For two weeks, I traded between sleeping under a bridge and at friends’ houses until my older half-sister learned about my plight. She was recently married and had a six-month old. She and her husband took me in. Because she was home all day and he worked, she could keep an eye on me. I ended up doing better at school, becoming more interested, and even tried my hand at Football (Tehachapi Varsity ’95). Unfortunately, we had our disagreements and by the end of my junior year, they kicked me out. That summer, I couch-surfed at friends’ houses until my grandfather took me in. I moved into his farm house in Buttonwillow.
I struggled that year to complete high school with the requirements necessary to graduate, because of my previous difficulties. I was 19 by the end of the year and the school did not want to keep me around another year, so I was passed on the remedial level. That was fine with me. It did not say remedial on the diploma. That summer, I spent a lot of the time couch-surfing or sleeping in the car my grandfather gave me (a 1977 Chevy Impala called the Blue Bomber). I started Bakersfield College the same way, as I looked for a job and a place to live in Bakersfield. After finding the job, it turned into full-time day work and I dropped all my classes. The next semester, I took classes to work around my school schedule. I was limited to the classes I could take due to my schedule, so my progression was very slow. Then, I found a pimple-looking thing on my right index finger.
The next day that pimple grew to the size of a strawberry on my finger, and by the third day, it had spread across my whole hand. I was working the whole time and it throbbed. I had to keep it elevated. At that point, my employer pushed me to go to the hospital. I did not have insurance, so I did not want to go. The doctors had no clue what it was, so they asked me if I wanted to be on an experimental drug trial. They said it would pay for my medicine, so I agreed. After they cut open my finger and examined the sample they took, I was quarantined. They called it as Staph Anomaly Infection. The doctor told me that they may have to remove my arm to stop the infection. That was unbearable. I just recently realized that I wanted to be a writer, and they wanted to take my right hand. Luckily, the experimental drug I was on that was not FDA approved yet actually killed the infection, and it cleared up my acne too.
Being off for so long to recover, I lost my job and home. I moved in with a childhood friend for a few months, as I tried to get my life back in order. I was broke, jobless, and my car needed work. Around this time, I changed enough that my mother allowed me to move back in with her. I found a job I could walk to from her home, and eventually she allowed me to drive my sister’s car while she was away at school. Within months, I started training as a manager, so I stopped taking classes again, as I was too busy with work. Just as I seemed to be making moves, I was setback when I got a terrible case of pneumonia. Again, I did not have insurance and was forced to go to the hospital. The X-ray revealed that I had one lung completely full of fluid and the other was three-quarters. The doctor said that if I had waited any longer to come in, I would have died.
Recovery again took some time and when I returned to work all the momentum I had built up was lost. Someone else had taken my place. I grew frustrated and looked for other work. I thought I found something and quit my management position to do door-to-door sales. After a few months, I realized it was a scam and decided to go back to school. I got a job working part-time graveyard shifts at a gas station. The graveyard shifts worked at first, because I could do my homework while at work, but I really wanted to move closer to school and work normal hours. My cousin and I moved into an apartment near the Bakersfield College and I started working part-time close by.
College seemed to be difficult for me and I had no idea why. I would do well on homework and papers, if I gave myself enough time to work on them, but I bombed on tests. I kept dropping classes because I was doing poorly in them and did not want them affecting my GPA. I only discovered a few years ago that I have a social anxiety disorder that affects my learning, manifesting ADD like symptoms, which makes college difficult. It took me a long time to figure out how to learn. Eventually, I did and was on trajectory to complete my AA degree, five years after graduating high school.
At first, I wanted to be a teacher. I decided to get my CBEST so I could start substitute teaching, but I eventually realized how difficult college was for me. I decided not to continue toward my BA. Instead, I found “good” employment, got married, and started a family. Three years after starting my family, I was fired from my “good” job, because my supervisor threw me under the bus for a decision he made. They tried to stop me from getting unemployment, but I fought and won. I took that opportunity to go back to school. I finished the credits I needed to transfer to California State University, Bakersfield with the intention of becoming a social studies teacher. I took psychology, religious studies, and anthropology courses.
I caught the eye of several professors and they mentored me. I became a double-major in both psychology and religious studies. I worked part-time at a group home and as a substitute teacher. I became a McNair Scholar and a CSU Pre-Doctoral Scholar. At this same time, my marriage had been falling apart for years and my wife left me, taking my kids and moving to her parents. She did not support my decision to go back to school and resented me for my success. She did not work and did not like that we had to live with my mother. Even though my children no longer lived with me, I made sure that I saw them as often as possible.
I graduated from CSUB with awards from both my majors and the McNair program. That summer, I interned at UMASS-Amherst and took my wife and children with me, hoping we could work things out. When we returned, she went back to her mom’s. I began working on my new goal of becoming a social psychology professor, starting the CSUB graduate program in experimental psychology. By the end of the first semester, my marriage was over for good. Even though I worked two to three jobs and went to graduate school, I made time for my sons. I applied for doctoral schools and was accepted to Claremont Graduate University, but I deferred a year to spend more time with my sons.
The second year of my graduate program at CSUB, I was awarded the CSU William Randolph Hearst Award for overcoming adversity, which is given to one student from each CSU each year. One of my jobs turned into a full-time job and things with my children got demanding. I did not complete my Master’s thesis at CSUB in time to graduate. I promised I would complete it over the summer, but instead I spent time with my children. I thought I could complete it during the first semester at CGU, but the classes were so demanding and every other weekend was spent with my kids. I knew that my acceptance to CGU was not contingent on me having my Masters from CSUB and I knew I could earn my Masters at CGU along the way to my Ph.D., so I just gave up on it. That is a decision I regret to this day.
I eventually did earn my Master’s degree at CGU in applied social psychology and completed my coursework. The grueling three years it took to get there left me spent, and I took some time off. I took a course on directing at Pitzer College and made a few short films. I took them to festivals and attempted to make a career in film. I always had dreams of becoming a writer and a filmmaker. I gave myself a year. In that time, I began dating my wife and we moved in together. A year later, my sons moved in with us. They were 8 and 10 and demanded a lot of my time. I had difficulty getting back into the swing of things with school.
I worked as a research assistant for one of the grad programs at CGU and struggled to continue my research, complete my portfolio, and finish my doctorate. One year turned into two and three. Now my children are old enough to be independent and I can finally work on completing my degree. My story is truly one of an education interrupted. Even so, it would not have been possible without the love and support of so many. My mother and grandfather both helped me monetarily, providing a place to live and car to drive on multiple occasions. Many people may not have those people in their lives to help them when they face adversity. I am hoping that the Charles M. Parsons Scholarship Fund will be there for those people.