Kristin Ayer, 18, a senior at Kirksville Senior High School, will be “almost the first” in her family to get a college degree. Her grandparents never went to college. Her mother went to community college for a couple of semesters, but then she dropped out because she got pregnant. Her father returned to college in midlife in order to get a degree and a promotion at his job. And her older sister Sara, 20, mother of two, went to community college for a semester.
It’s supposed to be different for Kristin.
“It’s never really been a question of whether or not I would go to college,” she said. “It was always ‘You’re going to college. You have to, there’s no option here. If you want to make anything of yourself in life, then you have to further your education.’”
In the fall, Ayer will be starting her freshman year at MU, studying conference and event planning at the College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources. She wants to become a wedding planner because weddings are supposedly the happiest days in people’s lives, and she wants to be a part of that. And also because it sounds like a lot of fun.
As for her own wedding, Ayer hopes it will happen in the next five years or so, after she is well set up and capable to provide for her family.
“I always thought that I just go to college and then meet somebody there, but it’s hard to tell,” she said. “The older I get, the more I think you really don’t know, it’s so unpredictable the way things work out. My sister got pregnant when she was 15, she had my nephew, and then she just had my second nephew in January. We never thought that that would happen with her. You just have to be ready for anything.”
When big expectations go unmet, it makes people unhappy, Ayer said. That’s what happens with the American Dream: people expect a perfect family and a “perfect little house in a perfect little world.” For her, the American Dream is to be happy with what you have, to appreciate the “imperfectness of life.”
This story is part of the American Next, a special project exploring the hopes, fears and changing expectations of Missouri's next generation in challenging times.