I was never cool in school. I lived in a constant state of fear. I, like so many other children of this Generation Cusp (as I am calling it), where we are neither X nor Y, and certainly not cool enough to be apart of Generation Me, was told that in order to succeed, we had to go to college.
If you did not go to college, it seemed, you might as well apply at McDonald's, because that would be all you could hope for. No one mentioned learning trades, or perhaps testing the waters by working part-time and actually enjoy being eighteen instead of crying into a phone-book sized college application and trying to decide what crappy essay prompt you would respond to. College was my only way out of my mundane town, and on to a more "intelligent" form of life, or so my teachers told me. I had to go.
I had to go to Pepperdine. I'm not really sure why. My mother worked with someone whose daughter had gone there. He spoke of the place like it was Disneyland. It looked a lot more like 90210, and felt much more like 24 Hour Party People, but it was where I was going to go. We toured other schools, I remember me liking UC San Diego and then all of a sudden there I was, in a dorm room with someone who had intense body odor and a boyfriend that looked like Rumpelstiltskin.
Oh, and did I mention I didn't realize how insane the Christian element is there? I knew it was private but I was unaware I would be required to attend "convocation" a.k.a. church, where I would hear guest speakers wax poetic on such ridiculous topics as, "recovering from homosexuality" and "reformed prostitute shares her story with God." We were graded on our attendance. I took four "F"s, one for each year it was required. I could not get out of there fast enough.
Almost eleven years and two bachelors' degrees later, I am unemployed. I have never been able to reach this echelon promised to me as I signed those Stafford Loan documents, so many years ago. I have never worked above a mid-management job, and for most of my adult life I have been a waitress. That's right, I paid ninety thousand dollars to wait tables.
It's not for lack of trying either. I interviewed with many "big companies" and was even offered an art direction job with Forever 21 and Urban Outfitters...until they ran my credit and background. Of course I had a lot of debt, I had just graduated from college. Of course I got in trouble for vandalism, I am a GRAFFITI ARTIST, that's why you wanted to hire me...because I was "edgy"? Well sadly, apparently your credit and a misdemeanor arrest from fifteen years ago can effect your job performance, or so they told me.
So explain this to me. I can't get a "better" job until I am more qualified. I cannot become more qualified without experience, and as an adult I can't AFFORD the time for an unpaid internship. I can't pay for graduate school, and the idea of incurring more debt just to reach out to this further dangling carrot seems futile.
I cannot work somewhere to gain this experience or these illusive "qualifications" without clearing my background, again, which costs money I don't have. I want to better myself, but the loans I took out to do so keep me from ever being able to save any money to further my path. What do I do?
Well, I did what everyone seems to be doing: I worked just to get by. I waited tables for almost eight years, because no matter how I did the math, that job was more lucrative than any 9 to 5 I was offered. I worked all day and all night, something I was told I would never have to do, if only I made the right choices. Well, I have made a few new choices.
I walked out of my job as a waitress I am not looking back. I am not going to "fall back on" what I believe is a mere crutch. I am not cleaning up one more pile of mashed crackers ground into a cheaply made carpet.
I have decided to freelance full-time, and I am going to get my teaching credential. There are no certainties to life, and I think that is a lesson that needs to be taught.
I want to educate our youth, especially our young women. I am afraid that this "path to success" is not a guarantee. I want to make sure they know no one is going to hand them a job when they walk off that college graduation platform. I want them to think for themselves, and pursue their dreams, whether they include college or not. I want them to see all the options of this beautiful world, and perhaps dabble in a few before committing to a life lead by defaulted loans and "what ifs."
Most of all, I want them to make sure they go through a screening process before choosing a college roommate. I can still smell mine to this day, hoping it's not the lingering air of my own disappointment.