††† My name is Candace Cooksey Fulton. Iím a college graduate, and I donít make $57,000 a year. In fact, according to the chart I saw Thursday at the Texas Scholars luncheon, I make a few carts of groceries, two average cell phone bills and a half a tank of gas more than any typical high school graduate is making this year.

††† Now, let me explain. Iím not saying Iím underpaid. Iím not saying the figures were wrong. Iíd hoped that by the time I got to this point, I would have figured out what I was saying. Iím about to get there, so, if youíre with me so far, donít give up now.

††† I want to be careful with what I do say. While I didnít agree with a lot of what the luncheon speaker said, and could cite numerous examples that would contradict several of the statements he made, that would not make the things he said necessarily wrong, or the opinions Iím going to offer absolutely right.

††† We agreed, I think, that college is a good choice. We disagree, I believe, that itís the only good choice. One of the speakerís points to the senior scholars was that they should not ďjustĒ plan to go to college, they should plan to ďfinishĒ college, and I certainly see the logic in that assertion. But on the speakerís take that if you quit in the middle, you never go back, maybe heíd like to meet my brother Ė who graduated high school in 1968; started college; quit; had a successful career as a musician; then graduated college in 1994 and has been a happy and successful music teacher.

††† Well, maybe not successful by the speakerís standards. I donít think college-educated music teachers make $57,000 a year either.

††† A lot of the focus of the speech on Thursday was on the amount of money one can make with a degree.

††† And Iíll admit, seeing the numbers on the larger-than-life screen in the Power Point presentation bothered me, because I couldnít reconcile them in my own life. I happened to be sitting at the luncheon with a principal and several high school counselors who seemed also to have a problem with some of the same things I did.

††† I wondered, if Iíd heard those things in 1970, if it would have made a difference in my choices. But I knew before I finished the thought, it wouldnít. I was blessed throughout my school days with teachers who encouraged me to pursue writing as a career, and I did, never considering the money.

††† Since graduating from college, actually, Iíve had a couple of† fairly high-paying jobs and Iíve left them, simply because the hours, travel and dedication it took to earn that high salary left me without the quality of life I wanted more, which was time to be a mother.

††† Financially, there isnít a lower paying job than motherhood, and Iíve never Ė not in the 30 years that Iíve been a mother Ė had the option of ďgiving up my day job.Ē Iíve compromised a lot, and Ė perhaps, even Ė sacrificed greatly. But the rewards have been so much more wonderful.

††† A dozen years ago, I interviewed a spur-maker whoíd given up a high-paying job behind a desk in the Metroplex to move to West Texas and ďjust make spurs.Ē

††† ďIf you make a lot of money doing something you donít like to do, you spend every penny you make trying to find something to make you happy,Ē he told me. ďIf you find what you like to do, and donít mind doing it every day, whatever money you get will be enough.Ē

††† That made sense to me then, and Iíve remembered it since. I donít make $57,000 a year. Some weeks, itís pretty lean around my place. But, truth is, I donít mind at all. Iím pretty happy with the fortune I have.

Candace Cooksey Fultonís column is in the Brownwood Bulletin on Sundays. She may be reached at candace.fulton@brownwood†bulletin.com.