diptych: two b&w self portraits – And a speech about paying back student loans and the job myth.

Since we’re looking at photos of me in my home with those ugly frickin’ rolly chairs in the background, I thought I would also give you guys another picture of me. A financial picture. Nice segue right? No, not really. Anyway, moving on.
My money situation is, and always has been … well I don’t want to say grim, but it’s definitely tight. It’s not that my job doesn’t pay enough to live off of, or that I’m living wildly beyond my means, it’s completely due to the fact that I have too much debt. 
I use half my income on student loan payments every month, and have two credit cards I haven’t used in probably a year, but am paying tons on to make just barely over the minimum payments. 
I’ve actually just been thinking about getting another one day a week job to put a real dent in those credit cards and save up to be able to do something fun for my birthday in October. Because I have literally zero extra to save as it is now. 

So how did I get here?

I flew through my early twenties treading a thin line between actual poverty and hilarious, fashionable student-style near poverty. Student loans were my main motivation for finishing my degree, if I can be frank with you all. I just really liked not having to worry about getting a real job or taking myself seriously. I never really wanted to attend university, but I did want to be a success in my life and was convinced that just having a fancy degree would make that happen. It didn’t. 
While I was in school I chose to follow that path anyway, chasing the carrot piece of paper to the end. It was pretty easy. I could hold part-time jobs in grocery stores I didn’t really care about and every six months, after some crazy bureaucratic running around, I’d get a gigantic cheque in the mail. 
Of course I knew that I’d eventually have to pay back the $20 000$30 000, $40 000 $50 000 (!!!). But what I didn’t know is that this magical piece of paper is absolutely not a guarantee of landing a good paying job that would allow for paying that sum off easily. 
Hey students out there, don’t fool yourself. Unless you do practicums, work experience, make contacts, volunteer in your field and make a good impression on someone important before you graduate, you WILL (almost definitley) NOT get a job in your field. 
Maybe you’ll get lucky and the stars will align and you’ll meet a genie in a bottle and you wish for the loch ness monster to hold a party where you meet bigfoot and he introduces you to your future boss. But probably the other thing.
And seriously, you will probably not even get a job that you can stand that will pay your minimum student loan payments and have health benefits. You will struggle. And worst of all? You will be behind the people who didn’t go to school for four eight years, because they’ve been spending all this time working their way up the corporate ladder. Or learning a trade. Oh hell, if I could do it over again I’d learn a trade right out of high school. That’s the way to make a decent living. 
I don’t exactly regret my schooling but I do regret my passivity in the learning process. I just assumed success would happen to me if I got good grades and finished each class.
“An education is only what you make it.” – Degrassi Junior High dad whose name I can’t remember.
 I know the college lifestyle sounds glamorous from the outside and some of you might just want to jump right in so you can look down upon all the fast-food restaurant staff or other low-paid people at terrible jobs because you’re “going to school full time”. Guess what? This winter? That aquarium job I held for like two weeks? Minimum wage. Because I couldn’t find anything else. With a degree and over ten years working experience.
That’s actually why I got my tattoo that says C’s Get Degrees when I graduated. No, I didn’t get all C’s, it’s more of a “who cares who has a degree and who doesn’t? It doesn’t mean you’re smarter or better than anyone else” thing.
Anyway I just really want to put it out there that I am completely disillusioned with the job market, and most of all the weird myth that a degree will get you somewhere in life. 
And I’d like to throw a little unsolicited advice out there to anybody just starting out in school or thinking about going down that path: 
It is a good idea to get an education, if you have a clear goal in mind. I think the best way to approach schooing is to not go at all until you’ve narrowed down your interests. Don’t waste valuable time and money on figuring it out. Instead, work at some places you think you might like or that might give you some insight on the field you are interested in, and save up for school in the process. 

Volunteering at places is like a free education. So is Googling career choices and taking free online courses. (Yes, sometimes they exist.) Same with language learning…you can learn faster, easier, and more authentically if you just go spend some time immersed in a culture that speaks the language than sitting in an expensive classroom. 

I don’t know, I guess I’m just saying think outside the box. College and University doesn’t work for everybody. I hope I’m wrong about this and just writing out of bitterness of a ten-year student loan hangover, but I doubt it. 
Do any of you have any success stories? Anyone care to comisserate? Tell me in the comments.

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