Photo and Art Cred: Dorothy Attakora-Gyan
As all this dialogue and debate goes on around student loan "forgiveness", I was reminded today, as I had my intake for welfare/Ontario Works, that I reached my maximum years of study and was not eligible for student loans this year. I had studied so long, and taken out so many student loans, that I had maxed out and was no longer eligible for them. True story.
I still remember in September of 2003, waking up early in the morning to get ahead of the others in line at the student loans office. I still stood in line for hours during my first year at WLU, where I did my undergrad in Sociology and Global Studies. I went to university straight after high school. I could not afford it then, and neither could my parents. Not then. Or 19 years later in 2022 as I graduate at 37 with a Ph.D.
With the exception of a few years during my Master's, I have never been able to afford tuition and always took out student loans. I worked too. Make no mistake. I worked during my undergrad, on winter and summer breaks, and on some weekends when I'd visit home. (Now that I have language and more knowledge around neurodiversity, I understand why I got overwhelmed trying to fit a job in my schedule, with varsity rugby and campus clubs). I worked full-time during my Master's and ran a side hustle as a business owner. I worked as a TA and RA during my Ph.D., until they would no longer hire me. I'm sure you know more about that than I do.
Today I met with an employment counselor at the YMCA. I'm waiting to get a package on how to write a customer service resume so I can apply to "survival jobs." After 18 years of studying in higher education, almost 80k worth of student debt loans later, I'm back to square one. Applying for jobs I worked at in high school. This is not to say I can't or shouldn't or that I'm above it. I said nothing today when I heard the definition of survival jobs being seen as unprofessional or equated with low standards. Those are the jobs that we all need for survival. They are essential workers. I'd be lucky to even get something there and be able to keep up at this point. My body has changed. I doubt my back could even stand on my feet for 8 hours right now, never mind double shifts like I used to. That's actually very professional in my opinion.
I grew up in a family that also looked down on working-class people. Even though my father had to work as a dishwasher and security guard at one point to make ends meet. He still turned around and taught me to look down at his sibling who was a janitor at a university. It's strange how we look down on what we once were once we no longer are in this position.
I said nothing because I can't afford to be the killjoy, I need their help finding a job. They know better than I do.
I'd like to say I'd take any job at this point, but in 2022, I said I'd refuse to operate from scarcity and desperation. The idea of finding a 125k job is a pipe dream at this point.
*cue pity party*
Most of us are resilient and keep finding a way. Making it work. Trying new things, until something sticks.
I got a rejection letter today too for a writing contest I applied to. I wasn't expecting to win. I applied because it helps me to get my writing out. It gives me experience. I turned down a job I applied to before I even got a 2nd interview because I cannot relocate right now and remote work would be the most ideal. I look at my last 4 blog posts and they have 1 view each, or 2, both of which are me refreshing my own posts. I look at my ETSY store which I had to shut down. I think of my clothing line which I had to shut down. I look at the photography I've taken. The art I've drawn. And think, lazy where? Lazy who?
People watch my life unfold like it's a bad Tyler Perry movie. Eat up the trauma porn. Then act like they watch, or read anything I write or listen to any audio. (I pray daily for that level of invisibility). You pretend I don't exist, don't contribute a dime, nor am I entitled to it. That is labor though. As a writer, a performer, and an artist, that is all labor that goes unpaid. Remember that.
And still, I apply for jobs (barely, compared to others). Meanwhile, no one will hire me. And likely, due to my own errors and mistakes in the past. I'd have an easier time if I hadn't burned necessary bridges. I'd have something by now if I networked or was nicer and more likable. Shoulda. Coulda. Woulda.
I'll keep trying. Until my last breath, I'll keep trying.
For now, I'm not as pressed as I thought I'd be. Beyoncé's Renaissance is keeping my spirits up. I trust the process. Am humbled and grateful for the humility. I have immense gratitude for what I do have. I have company in the sweetest animals. I have housing at the moment. My bills are paid. I have food in my belly. A roof over my head. I get to sleep in and move slowly. I have access to health care, access to a cellphone, and the internet. I'm one of the lucky ones. I still have many privileges.
I'm not bitter about others getting 10k taken off their loans. I understand that when 1 of us wins, all of us win. I hope the money being taken off helps people elevate in some way. I say, cancel them all. Paying for education is strange. It only helps the economy once we can utilize the information.
But, what do I know? I have $17 in my account and am about to go on welfare. Don't take any advise from me.
Until next time, in solidarity.