Whoever Told You College Would Cure You of Brokeness Lied
I was 16 when I decided that I was going to college. My mother was disabled, and my father worked trying to make ends meet as a transporter at the local hospital. When I told him we were poor, he would say, "you don't know what poor is," "no, we are not." It was like, our experience having the lights cut off, going without food for excessive periods at a time, and trying to get assistance did not define us as poor. Who wants to be labeled poor when society attacks and exploits people in poverty? Who wants to be called the help? I guess I get it.
The only two things I could conceptualize about my experience is that my parents both didn't have a degree and for grownups in my life who did, life appeared less stressful. My father's longtime friend, my siblings and I referred to an uncle, was the best example of this. He and his wife were college-educated, she a registered nurse, he a government employee who lived in the suburbs with three children and rarely displayed financial challenges.
Hell, they often bragged about having access to the more beautiful things in life being able to go on family vacations and eating lobster. Their family home sat on the corner of the street in a Suburban neighborhood that screamed of comfort and prosperity very different from the turfs of where we lived. As kids, we noticed the difference in our lifestyles too. My sister and I never felt comfortable in their space because it didn't feel like we could be 100% ourselves. I'm sure their kids noticed it. Our "cousins" often would make a scene about how horrible it was to visit our house missing all the amenities that came with being middle class.
Again, I felt the only thing that separated our two families at the time was class at and access. Can you imagine your "cousin" fussing with their dad outside of your house because your home was too dull and didn't fulfill his standards? Yeah, Ouch.
Although it hurt, this experience furthered the idea in my head that college was the route that was going to save me and disrupt the continual experiences of poverty that I faced. It was going to be my gateway to gettingsuccess, and somehow, I was going to happen as soon as possible.
In my four years as a First Generation student, I was the privilege poor. I had access to a prestigious institution of learning and also having pockets that said: "your kind doesn't belong here." My experience in school was one combating the status quo of a University that upheld the erasure of Black bodies, silenced our traumatic experiences unless those traumas could be relevant to the voice of our oppressors. It was the typical PWI bullshit.
I found myself traversing between two worlds; operating as a student starting a new beginning for herself and one foot back in her experiences in poverty. Although college was my escape and my experiences in poverty shaped me as a broke college student.
My first bed and consistent meals were in college. My freshman 15 existed because it was the first time I consistently had access to food, and I kept eating. When you fear to be hungry, you try to keep yourself full.
Going from poverty to being broke didn't make sense for me because I was supposed to already be sucessful. College was the window that showed I was a level up but down at the same damn time. Although my mama would say things like "my baby is gonna have a good job and be rich," the idea was that I was already successful. It was like my financial troubles didn't exist because I had my education. To my mother, I had already broken the mold of poverty.
That one level up from poverty is a bitch, especially when you take on roles to be supportive of others, but you need to support yourself. When poverty's annoying ass cousin broke as a joke, follows you, you start to look at your experiences like what’s going on.
After graduating from college, this idea of "success" and "riches" didn't wane. Straight out of graduation, this was a reminder for me because I worked a $12 hr job and had a Bachelors Degree. I found myself maneuvering existential questions of Brokeness. It wasn't about what I majored in because my degree was profitable. Post graduation I landed in a pool of powerhouses seeking advice from people in my industry. I, however, couldn't make things move for me #thanksuniverse.
When I went to graduate school, I became older, wiser, and motivated but also removing the notion that being broke here would end too. I learned that your 20s are a time to exist and learn. It's not meant to be perfect, and college is not the end all be all.
Although graduate school allotted me a different earning potential and power to negotiate, post-grad school came with its own set of troubles.
Like any student I knew I had broke moments.
With each broke moment that occurred I ranted “I hate adulting” and consistently asked my mother to shove me in her womb. It was asked with the fierceness of a child who wants to start over. Every now and then I feel the same.
College may have yet to give me my six-figure dream job (I'm working on it), but, it has allowed me to see it is not the end all be all to success. If I have gotten anything out of it, it's a transparent lens to call bullshit when I see it.