Wednesday, 12 October 2011

"Higher" Education

I'm not myself lately. It's not an accident, but it's definitely not much fun.

The reason I'm not myself lately is because of school. School + my full-time job = no time to be myself. This means no time to go skating. No time to read anything extra-curricular. No time to have fun. No time to really relax. No time to make presents for the people I love. No time to write, good GOD no chance in hell of that. All because of school.

Here's a secret: I hate school. There, I said it. I. HATE. SCHOOL. Don't misunderstand me: I love learning, I love reading, I LOVE writing, I love education, and I love keeping my brain nimble, but I really, really hate school these days.

I ran into an old friend last night who laughed when I admitted this. "You're almost done your BA, then," he laughed. I told him I didn't believe in the education system anymore. He repeated himself and I had to laugh because he's right in a way. I am so, so sick of school. I am so, so sick of the stupid writing assignments and the idiots who say the STUPIDEST things and having to write things that are the academic equivalent to beating the dead horse.

I don't even really believe that university educates most people. I know I've learned a lot, but most people seem to have simply acquired more information they can freely regurgitate. It's like their human computers that just got more RAM instead of updating their processor. What's the point of that? The point of 'higher' education is supposed to be about learning how to learn. So you can learn indefinitely. Isn't it?

Maybe I've got it all wrong. Maybe I'm applying my normative understanding of education to reality. Pardon my mistake?


Back to me though... school makes me miserable. School makes it impossible for me to be myself, my REAL self, the self that a few of you know all too well (and haven't seen in over a year since I decided to finish university). I don't regret the decision to hunker down and get my degree, but I do miss myself. I miss the freedom to WRITE, REALLLY WRITE. None of this jot-down-a-few-random-ideas-between-classes-and-work shit, either. REALLY WRITE. I miss that more than I can articulate.

Thing is, I would never feel entirely comfortable letting myself just write until I finished this stupid, blasted degree so I decided to just get it over with. I'm glad I got back when I did, and I'm glad I'll be done all this in less than a year, but I am feeling it very acutely. I miss my creative brain, and the ability to travel, and not having to work multiple jobs so I can afford tuition ON TOP OF all my expenses. I miss being able to turn off my phone and just write for three days straight. I miss being able to read what I like. I miss being free.

This is worth it, right?

I can't help wondering if it is. The number of people I know with degrees (even multiple degrees, and masters degrees) who can't find a job in their field is staggering. Good thing I'm not looking for a job in my field... Seriously though, I'm not. I'm still worried. A friend of mine told me last week that her biggest fear about unemployment is not having health insurance. She's American, and I'm not as screwed if I get sick because Canadian health care is way more subsidized, but it got me thinking about the fact that my health insurance is through school and my job (which I want to quit as soon as humanly possible). The job I think I'd like to have instead is not very well paid. It's not a "career" job. It's not salaried. It's also not (necessarily) full time. And the health plan only kicks in after 6 months.

So do I risk it or do I have a 6-month overlap of the job I have (which is 37.5 hours a week) and the job I'd like to have (which only guarantees 15 hours a week for part-time) for six months? While taking 12 upper-level polisci and history credits next term.

I don't even know what to do.

I just know that I have to do something so that I can just be done with this degree and never have to pay tuition ever again. Now that I've got a bit of my frustration out of my system, maybe I'll be able to focus on those papers about ethnic conflict I need to read and respond to...

Wednesday, 5 October 2011

I am the 1%

In the wake of the "We Are The 99%" movement the past few weeks, I had been thinking about this a lot anyways. I'd been mulling over the sob-stories on the wearethe99percent, some of which are tragic, but some of which I felt were a bit whiny, and realized that, as much as I agree that the financial system in the United States is an abomination and that the debt-culture is positively unsustainable, and many of the people posting are in similar situations to my own, I have a fundamental problem with self-pity. Perhaps it is more that I just have a bit of perspective. I've always been very aware of global politics and of how fortunate I am. Then wearethe99percent posted this:


This is something I actively think about every single day. I have thought about this on a daily basis for over a decade - ever since my mother and my sister both died and, for a while, I fell into a trap pitying myself because my life was “so hard”. Then one day, a voice in the back of my head reminded me of something: I am part of the luckiest 1%.

In a way, it’s a kind of prayer for me. I know how lucky I am and I refuse to let myself forget it in the midst of the frustrating minutiae of everyday life. Sometimes it has been what keeps me going, knowing how much worse it could be.


I AM THE 1%:

I live in a safe, developed social democracy where I have never had to fight for my right to vote in an election (even if I hate my current conservative Prime Minister’s political agenda);

I am relatively healthy (and I have two medical plans and government-subsidized health-care when I’m not);

I am a semester and a half from graduating from a good university (even if I do have 15K in debt and it’s taken me seven years to graduate because I have to work in order to afford tuition);

I have a full-time job and a part-time job that both pay above minimum-wage (even minimum wage is 8$/hr and a “living wage” in Vancouver is 18$/hr, neither of my jobs is in ANY way glamourous, and having two jobs exhausts me some weeks);

I have an affordable apartment in a decent neighbourhood steps away from public transit and 8 minutes from my university campus and my job (even if it is only really ‘affordable’ because I rent out two of the three bedrooms);

I have an amazing family who live modestly (like I do), share my values, and who have helped me out more times than I can count when I couldn’t figure out how to balance my life properly;

I do not live my life in fear of being shot at, mugged, robbed, gang-raped, or otherwise violated by LRA militia-members, gangs, government-sponsored Janjawid or any violent legitimate government;

I am a Canadian citizen;

I am literate;

I had a free primary and secondary education;

I can afford rent, hydro, groceries, my phone bill, AND tuition and books all in the same month because I work my ass off, I budget my money strictly, I only have one credit card (with a 1000$ limit), and I refuse to accrue more debt than I already have;

I have three savings accounts;

I am a 28 year-old woman and I have never been robbed, raped, shot (or shot at), or beaten.

All of this makes me part of a very lucky 1%.


STOP THINKING ABOUT THE PROBLEM (EVEN IF IT IS A BIG ONE) AND START THINKING ABOUT THE SOLUTION.

Be productive. Be radical. Be the change you wish to see in the world.