Sunday, February 04, 2007

Knowledge is power and poverty-inducing

When the new year began, I had every intention of writing on a daily or at least every other day basis--and then life revealed alternative plans. Planning for Africa, starting my Library Science program, continuing at my job, mourning the loss of a friend and thinking about the future of my relationship all at the same time makes a girl just a bit crazy. Sometimes writing helps me deal with the stresses and thoughts that crowd my mind and other times those same stresses and thoughts create a log jam. The thing that jams me up most is money....the saddest but truest thing I have admitted of late.

Starting school on January 29th was a wonderful and horrible thing. I love it! I love the subject of my courses, the professors are cool and my classmates seem lovely. The downside is watching my debt grow by a large amount. When will the bleeding stop? People keep saying I should put it out of my mind and just focus on getting through the program. While I admire, and somewhat worry about, people who can just go into denial about the massive amounts they will owe six months post graduation, I am not one of those people. The weight of it almost drowns me and I feel totally overwhelmed by the fact that I may struggle to make ends meet when I graduate. Shadows of debt will follow me for many, many years because I am not going into a field that pays lots but I am at a school that takes lots. It is so very frustrating to work hard, to be frugal and to still feel behind the eight ball. Will I ever be able to pay my bills without concern? Will I be able to own a house, buy a car or go on vacation (without freaking out)?

I feel whiny because I have so many gifts like shelter, clothing, loved ones, and so many more, but this money thing plagues me. It sits in the back of my mind and in the pit of my stomach weighing me down. Is there a better way? If I go part-time and perhaps got a job at the school for full reimbursement, then I will not graduate for about 4 to 5 years. That would be 4 or 5 years doing work that is not the work I want to do. If I go full-time, I accrue a greater amount of debt but will finish in 2 years allowing me to begin my career much, much sooner. It's a conundrum and I am not the only one trying to figure it out.

So many in my generation struggle financially because these days it takes a graduate degree to get a "good" job, but the cost of education has skyrocketed and the "good" jobs don't really pay well enough to counteract that debt. To some, it may seem that my generation is obsessed with money and, in a way, we are, but not for the reasons it may seem. Many of us are constantly doing math, checking and double checking that if we take job x, we can afford to pay our debts and afford the necessities. Parents of my generation who choose to assist the children are also experiencing a financial drain. They are still financially supporting their 28 year old children, who are working hard but cannot seem to make ends meet, sometimes instead of saving for retirement. Struggle is not a new phenomena, and I don't mean to suggest it is, but this particular struggle between education and cost of living seems more pronounced in the 21st century. Hopefully, Congress will address this issue for future generations, but for mine, I think we are on our own.