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.
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.