Up, down, up, down, I tried to keep myself distracted with the noise my bike made so I would not think about how scared I was. The streets were so dark and lonely. I would occasionally bump into my homeless friend that I would give the leftover pizza to, but it was up, down, up, down, all the way home. Every Saturday, I told myself, “I will quit tomorrow.” Every week, it was the same thing. I had to ride my bike home from the bar I worked at. It started on Thursday—I would go in to work at 10pm, deal with the drunk, hungry people, and I wouldn’t be done until 4:30a.m., sometimes 6. That was my Friday and Saturday too. I never actually quit—I couldn’t afford to. I dealt with the harassment of employees and drunk customers, but it was the only work place that would average out to a decent pay and was within biking distance. Even with scholarships and loans, I still did not have enough money to make it through college without working. At one point I had three jobs. It was a punch in the gut when I was reminded to study more or that I needed to get involved in more extracurricular activities. It would hurt because I knew I didn’t have time for all of that. The only time I had was to put in more hours at the bar. It consumed me.
As if I didn’t have it hard enough, I decided to go on to graduate school. Here I am, states away from my family, and I find myself still having to fend for myself. I’ve just come to terms with the fact that I will be owing more money than what it takes to buy a brand new car. It’s an investment, people say—knowledge is power. In the career path I aspire to, I will be able to pay off all my loans, but it is not the case for everyone. Many people are going into debt only to find a job that will not easily allow them to pay off their loans. Education has become such a privilege. To be poor and forego all the money you could be making (as opposed to accumulating negative money), you have to be crazy like me to continue. It seems with all the personal and societal benefits we get from education that it should be more accessible for those who seek it. You want people to rise from the bottom up through education, but how can you? It seems counterintuitive that such a good thing would be out of reach for so many, and so extremely difficult. We need to re-evaluate the importance of education and put it in reach for those who want it, so students won’t have to deal with the up, down, up, down of their jobs and will be able to focus on school.