Sometimes it just doesn’t pay to work hard, and this is a painful realization to make.
For most of my adult life I have been struggling to make enough money to be self-sufficient, but I have always been determined to do so. But after several years of a small hourly paycheck (that my retail-employed sister nearly matched), I told myself that I do not have to settle for being somebody’s peon forever. I do not have to settle for not having nice things forever. I do not have to settle for wasting away pushing paper and never being challenged, always being talked down to like an ignorant child forever.
All of this is why I decided to go back to school, convinced that a lack of Bachelor’s Degree was all that held me back.
I have been attending classes at UC again for over an academic year and a half. I have earned a 4.0. I have carried full time twice on an evening-only schedule. I received letters in the mail from Senators congratulating me on making the Dean’s List. I have applied for at least twenty-five scholarships awarded solely to students on my two-year campus, and I have won zero. Next Friday, my school is honoring the scholarship winners and the Dean’s List recipients with a three-course meal and a banquet, but I have to go alone because if I wanted to take a date, they would have had to pay for their meal.
I rely 100% on federal student loans. I wish I did not, but my family has never had the resources to help me. I don’t fault them for it, that’s just the way it is. I’m a big girl, and I will pay it back. But because I have a full-time job, when I filled out my FAFSA this spring, they believed I was capable of contributing $6,000 to my own education yearly. What my FAFSA does not take into consideration are my living expenses – my apartment, my electric bill, my car payment, my car insurance – it is not free for most of us to live. I live a frugal life. We don’t buy name brand groceries, we don’t have cable, we rarely go out to eat, and we almost never go out. Where does the Office of Financial Aid think I am going to produce $6,000 to pay for school? I could sell my car, turn the electricity off, and not eat, but then I wouldn’t be getting a lot of studying or working done, would I?
Why does it feel like I am being punished for being a working adult? Should I have a couple of children? Should I quit my job so I can get a pell grant, but be homeless? Why do I keep hitting roadblocks? Why does nobody want to help somebody who wants to help themselves? Too many other people who don’t care are getting a free ride. I’ve been accepted to four different universities to study business and I’m only two years away from that unicorn of a dream I’ve been chasing my whole life – that piece of paper that says I’m worth something and will be an asset to someone – but all I’m getting is static.