Squeezing three people with lots of clothes and not-so-necessary but totally necessary items into one dorm room can be a little tough. But, it definitely helps when the two other people turn out to be your best friends. All of the sudden, you know how everyone operates and the little questions become a part of normal conversation. You also know that, if anyone ever heard all three of you in a conversation, they'd totally think you're a little out there.
I grew up poor.
There, I said it. It's out in the open now—I don't come from a family that has a bunch of money. In fact, my family doesn't have much money at all. My single mother works in fast food and does a DAMN good job trying to support herself and the rest of us. A lot of the food my family gets comes from food pantries. We have received government assistance before. I grew up poor, but I haven't let that define me.
Especially when it came to going to college.
I didn't want to let my economic background hold me back from my potential. I wanted to be the first person on both sides of my family to receive my college degree. I wanted to get a better paying job and moving up in socioeconomic status so I don't have to be the "poor" girl with the "poor" family all my life. I'm not really ashamed of coming from a poor family, but I also don't want to be poor my entire life.
For a majority of my college career, I wondered why there weren't many poor students around me at college. I go to a public university, and it's just the same price as any other state school really. Coming from a lower income home, I did receive a lot of assistance, and without it, there's no way in hell I could be here. I know that many other lower-income students can get this same assistance, which really made me wonder why there was such a lack of other poor kids around me.
I mean, everyone posts videos from their nice, upper-middle-class homes on Snapchat over holiday breaks while I go back home to the trailer park.
Everyone can call mom or dad and ask for money when things get rough while I pay for 100% of the things I own because my mother simply cannot afford it.
Everyone walks around in their name-brand clothes while I'm rocking Walmart knockoffs. It's not something I thought about for a couple years in college, but once I noticed it, I couldn't think of anything else.
It took me nearly all four years of college to realize why there's such a lack of poor students at my average, public university. Poor students are set up for failure in college. It's almost designed to be a survival of the fittest when it comes to us lower-income students, and those of us who are deemed the fittest and do make it to graduation day are typically stuck with a lot of debt that we don't have the financial intelligence or support to even think about paying off.
Poor students are in the minority in college, and when you're in a minority anywhere, surviving can be difficult. When it costs $100 just for a 5-digit code to do your homework, it can be hard to stay in school. When the cost of living on campus is $10,000 or rent for an apartment is nearly $500 a month, it can be hard to stay in school. When you don't have a car because you can't save up the money for one and your parents can't help you, it can be hard to stay in school. When you're forced to get a minimum wage, on-campus job that limits your to twenty hours a week, it can be hard to stay in school. When all of your friends don't understand why you can't go out to eat or to the bar every weekend, it can be hard to stay in school. All of these reasons add up to the main reason why poor kids don't go to college—the odds are stacked against us.
I never had shame in my socioeconomic status until I went to college. In my hometown, I wasn't much less than the norm. Now, my home life is drastically different than that of all of my friends. I know that this is something that is never going to change because when I enter the workforce in less than a year, I'll be going in as the first member of my family with a college degree. People will treat me differently when I tell them this, even if I don't want them to. People will treat me differently when they ask where my parents work and I tell them McDonald's. It's an unfortunate reality that I cannot control.
It took me nearly all four years to realize why poor kids don't go to college, but now that I know, I can't get it off my mind.
I thought I had my entire life figured out; career, graduate school, moving. All of it. But maybe I was wrong. I have already been accepted to graduate school, have my internship/capstone figured out but then I was given an opportunity of a lifetime to do a different internship that made me question if my plan was the right plan for me. It was terrifying, stressful and difficult to figure out what to do because it affects the rest of my life. But there are some tips you can do to keep your cool.
1. PLAN PLAN PLANGiphy
Write that shit down. Take a piece of paper and plan out where each path could take you and the steps you need to take to get to each goal on the path. Seeing it all on paper will slow you down and help determine if what you're thinking is even an option.
2. Talk to peopleGiphy
Talk it out, talk to your friends, your family, your advisor. Talk to anyone you can about your plan. You will hear other people's opinions and thoughts. They may have thought of a factor that you didn't. It will help you better understand your thoughts when you explain your tornado brain to someone else.
3. Be OpenGiphy
This was REALLY hard for me. I talked to probably five different people about the change in life choices and heard both positive and negative thoughts. It is important to be open and listen to the negative idea even if it seems like you're being attacked. It will make you think, are you really prepared for 4-8 more years of school (or whatever else it may be).
4. Breathe and Stress RelieveGiphy
YES, this is 100% one of the biggest most stressful decision you have to make but it is also incredibly important that you are patient, and calm throughout the entire process. It is easier said than done, trust me but take five steps back, seven deep breaths and 20 minutes to relieve the built-up stress. Go to the gym, listen to music, paint, do whatever is going to put a smile on your face and calm you. Then come back to the problem with a clear head to think and process all the options.
5. Don’t be afraidGiphy
It is literally terrifying when you feel lost, and unsure of what to do with your life. Especially if your family is super strict and you want to keep everyone happy. But REMEMBER it is YOUR life. YOUR future. You have to worry about what is the best option for you and what will make you happy in the long run. Even if it is harder and going to take longer. Be concerned about YOURSELF and not what anyone else thinks of you.
Quarter life crises are totally normal and not fun. Don't feel like you're alone or a failure for being unsure. It is good to explore all your options and be the happiest you can be. If that takes a little freak out and some stress so is it. Just use these steps to make the best of it.