I got to chatting with a Young Person, who is in the early laps of a Master of Social Work program. This person has an AA degree and a BSW, and has worked at least part-time for the duration of her higher education years. She’s been married and divorced, moved six times (that I know of), and never had more than a speeding-ticket brush with the law. She manages at least three pretty serious mental health issues, and is conscientious about physical fitness.
But she’s not happy with herself because she isn’t financially self-sufficient.
I want to shake her, or hug her, or lecture her at length. My darling brothers and my father, when they slogged through grad school, were PAID to attend to their studies with assistantships. Yes, they also taught–in their field, entry-level courses, without much accountability for the results. But mostly, they hung out in seminars and procrastinated writing papers. And my dad at least didn’t have to bother with any pesky old master’s degree. He went from undergrad to PhD in three years, and then a fairy god-father got him a tenure track position right out of the gate.
What my young friend has had to pay for her education is least five times what I was charged, and she’s not attending fancy schools. Her student loans carry at least three times the interest rate I was charged, and on much harsher repayment terms. She hasn’t a prayer of scoring any employer assistance with tuition, which I could do with a few law school courses.
I feel like I’m watching somebody carry two cinder blocks at all times, while berating herself for not being a better high-jumper. And what’s more, this person is physically self-sufficient. She has never asked for any help with activities of daily living. Not ever.
She’s emotionally self-sufficient, acting as her own case manager when the mental health issues flare (which they do). She’s also morally self-sufficient. She doesn’t need any accountability group, regulatory oversight, or external consequences to inspire her to make responsible choices or treat her fellow creatures well. In almost every regard–physically, emotionally, morally, spiritually, and socially–she’s self-sufficient.
But because she’s not earning more money than she’s spending (yet), she struggles to think well of herself. Maybe it’s a good thing she’s going into social work, because issues of self-worth will dog her clientele, no matter where in that field she practices.
And this just frosts my cookie, friends. I worked for and with any number of lying, lazy, self-important bums in suits, who were making plenty of money, but they were disgraceful people. They at least seemed to have good opinions of themselves because they had “healthy” bottom lines.
I know which kind of person I’d rather share a hurting planet with, and it’s not the bums in suits, but what would you say to that young person, trying to make something of herself, and feeling like a failure every time she looks at her bank statement?