Up@dawn 2.0

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

The Ballad of a College Student by Brian Hester- Final

I have sat here now at my computer staring aimlessly into the dark outside of my window debating what to write this on. I have been wondering what is worth my time writing and worth your time reading... but this entire time I keep coming back to the horrific thought...that ....we are living the American Dream. Spastic? maybe. ADD? Maybe still this is what is on my mind...so I have decided to put it on yours.

"The Dream"....

From an early age I can remember being told, " son you do right in life and you can grow up to be anyone". Now to me at the time this filled me with wonder and excitement. I could be ANYTHING! an astronaut, a plumber, a pilot....my options were limitless! ....but then the time came to go to college, not because I necessarily wanted to, but it was made clear that it was what I was expected to do. Now it seemed strange  and with time it gets stranger, but I thought it odd that from birth I had been told almost down to the T what do to and when, now all of a sudden I needed to pick a degree and a career!? How could I be ready for this decision? The only decisions I had been making this far in life was what to wear to school and what to do on the weekends with my little spare time. (Now I know there are many people who would willing take my place and anyone else reading this who feels the same way about making that decision, but that is not the point)

 Well now I am 4 years into college and am only a junior....why because as it turned out I had no clue what I wanted to spend forever doing so I picked an easy major and ended up having to change it.  This pales in comparison to the 22 years I have successfully lived/not died but still it is more time spent a broke college student then I had ever desired......

 This is the dream, I have started a child born into a family below the poverty line now I am a successful college student, but why is it I don't feel a sense of pride connected to my accomplishments thus far? It could be the constant struggle for money and the living pay check to pay check to pay rent and gas to drive to school. It could be the minimum wage job I work at 22 years old and am expected to be thankful and happy I have that 20 hours a week ( 20 because they wont hire a student full time).

I understand that as a student you are going to have to work lower end jobs. But lets take this into consideration. Minimum wage is $7.25. Now that comes out to a little over $15,000 a year BEFORE taxes working a full forty hours a week. Now lets say rent is $450 that comes out to about $5,000 a year in rent...then add gas...plus utilities ...plus food...you see where this is going? The math does not add up. Us living the dream going to school and working jobs are some how expected to operate on at the MOST $15,000 a year..... Oh and I did not add the cost of tuition and books because we can get loans for that...of course that means graduating and going into a career with a debt...but that is okay too...all part of the dream...no worries.

So I like many others will eventually graduate, having no job experience except how to sack groceries and acquire debt. Then we are faced with the burden of finding a job in a time when there are as many college grads going out into the world as ever and the economy, all though getting better, is in no shape to be handing out jobs. So, lets be honest, not everyone graduating is going to get a job anytime soon. So what does that do? that means college grads are working the jobs that are part time and full time that traditionally non college grads would work meaning everyone basically goes down a step. Take my brother for instance has two degrees from Mtsu both BAS and he works as the lead stocker  at wall mart for about $10.50 an hour. Meaning the person who originally would have worked that job is probably back up front running a register and getting buggies. So you end up with this cycle of demotion and poverty. We as students are getting deeper into debt as the semesters go by then going out in to the world taking the jobs traditionally given to non college students like " Lead Stocker" meaning no one is really any better of or as good as they had worked for.

Now I know this comes across as a bit whiny ,but it is the truth. All of use lower to middle class Americans live in circumstances like this and yet we are told " you should just be happy to have a job" or " you should be happy you get to go to school". Why? who says we should settle with our circumstances ? was that not the point of the American dream in the first place? to not become complacent and work your way up? yet the first time it questions the system we revert back to " uhhh don't ask questions just do"...it all seems a little "iffy" to me at best.  Now of course I am not saying college is bad in fact I think everyone should receive some amount of higher education just for the sake of our society. I am just saying the method about which we do things to follow this dream are bogus. As always there is the chance that I hit it big one day in the job field and look back on this and laugh, but chances are that wont be so. Chances are I will end up working to pay off a $15,000+ degree working for $10 dollars an hour and then be expected to smile while I do so.

I am not even saying there is a solution, I am just saying there is a problem. The problem is you have to work for minimum wage while you go into debt earning a degree then come out and make about three to four more dollars an hour then you previously were making before you wasted $15 grand and 5 years of your life chasing that American Dream of success.

I think they suck us in on this dream with the prospect of maybe. Maybe we all will land jobs that put us above our current means. Maybe we will find a job in our degree field in the first place. Maybe you will pay the debt off before the interest bug flies into your eyes. All of those maybes seem like good chances compared to the alternative such as factory jobs and flipping burgers forever. So it seems this American Dream is bitter sweet instead of glorious like we all have been told our entire lives.

Where does Philosophy come into this? Well it is in every aspect of this. It is a part of the hunt to gain more knowledge and better ourselves. It is a part of how we live in this unfavorable circumstances and still don't quit. It is that lust for more that keeps us moving. It pushes us as life flashes bye...and that is the Real American Dream. To follow through with something even when the odds are against you.....

Now that my rant is over, I want to say I enjoyed this class and this semester and take these words of wisdom with you as you go....

“Life should not be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside in a cloud of smoke, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming "Wow! What a Ride!”
Hunter S. Thompson

1 comment:

  1. Brian,

    I can't quite endorse Hunter's self-destructive hedonism, but I totally empathize with your situation. The American Dream is built on the shaky foundation of material abundance without end and without consequence... but we now know the consequence of unbridled materialism to be something less than a dream. That won't stop the corporate world from pushing it, but knowledge is power. Your power lies in the ability to re-frame your own dream. Get off the treadmill, chart a different path.

    That sounds glib, and I don't mean to minimize your (and your generation's) frustration. But you don't have to buy into the old dream. Less might in fact be more, if it leads you to question old notions of "success" defined in strictly material terms. A college education should never have been about vocational reward in the first place, but about expanded horizons of thought and feeling and expression.

    That said... good luck! And thanks for the candor of this essay.

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