May 15, 2015

I Graduated From College, Now What?

On June 22, 2005, my senior class at Trumbull High school graduated. I wasn’t there. My carelessness and lack of focus landed me a spot in summer school. My home was down the road from school, so I spent the afternoon at a park across town to avoid hearing the outdoor ceremony. That Wednesday was the perfect summer day; the sky was void of clouds with just the right amount of breeze. It was also my 18th birthday.

I had always rebelled against education. Instead, I spent my time superficially: gossip, boys, partying. I couldn’t break free from a trend most teens balance with responsibility in their academics.

17 years-old in my first car.

17 years-old in my first car

While my former classmates were preparing themselves for college life, I continued working at a Subway in town. I worked my ass off, bringing in minimum wage paychecks just to piss them away in one visit to the mall.

It took me a while to realize that I wasn’t going to be young forever, and soon enough, $250 dollars a week wouldn’t be enough to do any of the things I dreamed for myself. Because in between parties and hangovers, I did dream. I wanted to write. I wanted to travel. But most of all, I wanted to give my parents a reason to be proud of their daughter.

A few years later, I enrolled in classes at a community college and quickly saw myself thriving in the arts. I wrote and edited for the school newspaper and graduated two years later with an Associates in Fine Arts. I credit every ounce of my love for education to that 2 year experience, to the professors who took genuine interest in my thoughts, and especially to the community of students and friends who wanted a clean slate, too.

Earning my associates represented a rebirth. I always hated school: math, science, gym, teachers, math, science. It always seemed so technical, and technical isn’t me. Technical isn’t my hometown, it isn’t America, and it isn’t the world we live in. Creativity is what has expanded humankind into a beautiful, sad, true thing.

Everyone has a specialty, and I was looking to make something of mine. I started my undergraduate at Southern Connecticut State University in 2011 and graduated two weeks ago. I made a few switches with my major before settling for liberal arts only two semesters before graduation. The decision was made out of fear. I was too afraid to continue taking required courses with the looming threat of student loan debt. As if the pressures of finishing a degree weren’t enough, Sallie Mae took obvious pleasure in mailing me statements. “This is NOT a bill” they’d say, but it would be soon. I decided to pack up the credits I already earned and call it a day. I have a Bachelors of Science with three minors: journalism, communications, and public health.

I’m now have $45,000 dollars owed to student loans. I also happen to live in one of the richest counties in the country, but my daddy still can’t get me a job at a hedge fund to pay that off. Being blue-collar in Connecticut doesn’t get you far, and I have seen my parents struggle with constant tax increases and the high cost of living for too long. Woe is me.

When people ask me what I plan to do with my degree, my skills learned in college, my future, I stumble over my thoughts. “I don’t know,” I tell them, only to get looks of confusion and oddly enough, disappointment.

I walked though, I walked up those steps and across the stage and received my degree in front of a crowd of thousands. My parents and sister were there to cheer me on, and for now, that’s enough.

Until my first Sallie Mae bill comes through the mail.

May 15, 2015

May 15, 2015