An American’s Dream

This is in response to the Daily Prompt: Keeping up with the Jones’

Tell us about the one luxury item you wish you could afford, in as much detail as you can. Paint a picture for us.

I try my best to live a minimalist lifestyle. My last 8 years have been spent living in tiny spaces: sublets, my tent, people’s couches, my car, a house with 10 other people. For a recent background check I had to list all the places I’d lived within the last 5 years; despite over a dozen omissions my list was at 13. One thing traveling teaches you is that possessions slow you down. Experiences mean more to me than possessions.

I have always wanted to get a college degree. I am interested in so many things, but since there are no degrees in Ecobuilding or Holistic Nutrition I would probably get a degree in Environmental Conservation. When I was 19 I went to college full time for one year. I enjoyed the classes and living at campus exposed me to something that would forever change my life. I won’t get into the specifics, but it has to do with the diversity that all kids are exposed to when they start seeing the world as a much larger place.

After that year the reality hit me that full time studies were just too expensive. I would spend the next 5 years working while attending 4 different community colleges part time in New Hampshire, Southern California, Northern California, and Oregon. I’m proud to say that I never made the stupid mistake again of going to university as I did that first year, which meant that the bulk of my student loans ($10,000 USD) was from those first 2 semesters in 2007.

My mom got her Master’s Degree in teaching and was able to pay for it by working during the summers and doing part time jobs during the school year. That is not possible for my generation. The wages are too poor and the privatized education system has exorbitant costs. My mom did not realize this, and thus neither did I. I’d grown up with a love of learning and had been taught that one must get a college education for a secure future.

The sad fact is that in the United States no one has a secure future. When my mother with a Master’s Degree and 30 years of full time teaching under her belt took sick she had to watch as everything slowly got taken away. Her modest living situation became unaffordable, her health benefits got cut, and her overall support system dwindled. She went from a secure salaried teaching job to living below the poverty line. So much for the American Dream.

It took a very long time but poverty taught me to accept that a college education was simply not worth it if it put me in insurmountable debt. I’m happy to say that after 8 years of working (and with the help of my partner and his country’s higher wages) I have finally put the last $6000 USD into my American bank account to pay my remaining debt. It’s been in there for 6 months and we haven’t been able to bring ourselves to pay off the debt in full yet. It’s so nonchalant when you pay off a student loan online. There’s a screen where you select the amount you want to pay off, choose which bank account to pay it with, and then you hit enter. There is absolutely nothing celebratory or worthy that appears after you completely deplete your bank account. The hours of your life wasted in what was very likely menial work vanish before your eyes and you are left with nothing but a scar. The scar is the only good part. It reminds you to take American rhetoric with a grain of salt.

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