was talking to a friend of mine who goes to Drexel
; sitting in the living room, we found his roommate's paystub
. Out of curiousity, we looked at it to see how much he makes at his co-op
. "$20? An hour
"Well, yeah, I guess that's pretty decent for a co-op," my friend said.
"What do you mean, 'decent'?--he makes twice what I make!"
"You should've been an engineer," he said. (Pause) "Wait--how much do you make a week?"
"On a good week? I take home $350."
"Wanna know how much I made at Barnes & Noble? If I was lucky and they let me work a full week, I made about $250. IF I was lucky."
Suddenly I realized how much he must be making at his coöp--and he's not even out of college, he hasn't even graduated. Suddenly I understand why he can go to so many concerts, buy so many cds and DVDs, why he can go out to dinner or to the bar. And suddenly I realize why he doesn't understand why I worry about money.
My cousin just graduated from college with her BSN--Bachelors of Science in Nursing. She starts at $23/hr. That's twice what I'm making. My mother--a nurse--says to me, "Now, don't you want to go into nursing?" No. I can't stand blood. I can't stand needles. And I'm a hypochondriac to boot. But even if I did decide to become a nurse, it would mean quitting my job and going back to school. Frankly, I can't afford that.
And that's my problem. I can barely afford to live. I stupidly signed a lease for an apartment that costs $550/mo. This is more than a third of my monthly pay. This DOES include heat, water, and gas. This DOES NOT include electricity, food, phone, cable, car, internet and other living expenses I can't think of right now. SO! Goodbye cable (no big loss), DSL (no small loss--and I'm even thinking of getting rid of the internet all together), going out with friends, going to shows, going to the movies, buying CDs and DVDs. I will eat generic food (no big deal), walk everywhere (actually better for me), and try to live without air conditioning in a third floor, one room apartment in a very hot brownstone. I will--I guess--eschew the middle class comforts I grew up with so that I can pay the necessary bills and pay off my credit cards.
Yes, I know, quit whining.
But what angers me is that I make so little. That after four years of college and a semester of grad school, that after graduating summa cum laude, I've come to the realization that I wasted my time. That I studied English, which was fine when I wanted to teach, but now that I know I have no desire to, I have no practical skills. I'm competing against a lot of other English majors who DIDN'T go to a state school (i.e., the lowest of the colleges), who DID work on the student paper or who DID have internships, while I worked a part-time job through college instead. These people are much better prepared, they have better connections, they went to better schools--not even ivy league! They could've gone to Swathmore, or less, Villanova, or less, Penn State, or even less, Temple, and they're still better off than me. And all I know how to do is type fast. Big fucking deal.
I have no skills or connections which will get me a job that's better than a clerk in a library. I can't even afford to go back to school and get a masters in... well, what? I don't know what I want to do with my life. Or, well, I do, but I can't, because I don't have either the foot in the door or the talent to keep me there if I did.
So I better get used to living paycheck to paycheck, because that's what you do when you've got nothing you can do except for little monkey jobs like this. Maybe I'll get a second job. Maybe I can get Barnes & Noble to give me some part-time work; I left them on good terms. Temple is talking about outsourcing my job, too. Maybe I'll end up at B&N permanently, if I can't get a job with whoever they outsource to.
And I watch my younger sister--who has no debt, who is living with our parents--go back to school to study to be a veternary technician. I don't want to know how much she'll make. I don't want to know if she goes on to become a vet. I don't want to know how much more she's getting out of her job than I'll ever get out of mine.
Yesterday I was listening to Studio 360, a magazine program on NPR. The show was about the shore, and they were at Coney Island with They Might Be Giants, talking about the shore, and what it means, especially on the East Coast, to go down the shore. See, it's different, I guess, from California, especially if you're from the Northeast. To go down the shore, well, it's temporary, and so the trip is usually tinged like a Sunday, knowing that the fun is transitory, and will end very soon. They talked about sandcastles, and how creating a sandcastle is a sort of intense art that is ultimately doomed. It isn't semi-permanent, like a painting, like a record, and so there's something sad, something transitory, like the shore.
And the shore has all these associations (especially for myself) with trying to recapture something. Maybe reliving your childhood. Maybe reliving something that's gone from the very fast, cellphone and email lifestyle back in the city.
And so I'm listening, and the band does this version of the Beach Boys' "Caroline, No" that just about stops me in my car. And I'm holding back, trying not to cry. Which is strange. Maybe it's because my mom loves the Beach Boys, maybe it's because I react kinda strongly to music, maybe it's because I'm just really frustrated right now, but all I wanted to do--all I ever seem to want to do--is just turn my car around and head for the shore. Live off of crabs and clams I dig out of the bay. Maybe sleep with the foxes in the wildlife preserve on Ocean City, where the lifeguards and cops aren't crawling around, looking for people to bust. I could just live on the beach, by myself, and not have to worry anymore. I could dream about pirates, like I did as a kid. I could look for Blackbeard's lost treasure in Cape May.
But I know I won't. Just like I won't be a writer, or an actor, or a musician. Just like I won't make more than the $350/wk that I make now.
So there it is. I think it's time I accept my fate. Get it over with. And stop whining.