I didn’t do the college thing right out of high school. I was smart enough, but I wasn’t ready. I wanted to go out and have adventures. So I did. A little political protesting, a couple different cities, a couple dysfunctional guys – like that. I spent a couple of years going to chef school, a couple of years taking care of my grandmother as she drifted away with Alzheimer’s, a couple of years travelling the country with a travelling youth ministry team. It was a good time. Then I found something worth taking out the student loans, and at the ripe old age of 29 I found myself a Freshman at my local Catholic university, sitting in class with all the kids ten years younger than me.
Soon after I started back to school, I started working my current job. I’m a student assistant at the engineering research institute attached to my university. This means that I do all the jobs that the real secretary doesn’t want to do. It’s a good job. My boss loves me, they’re flexible about my schedule and taking time off for exams and things. It doesn’t pay much, but then it doesn’t require me to use my brain cells much either.
Recently, however, a friend challenged me on whether having this job is really worth it. I’m stressed all the time, she said, and having to get extensions on papers. The job doesn’t pay all my expenses, so I have to take out student loans anyway. Wouldn’t it be smarter to take out slightly larger loans and use the 15 or 20 hours a week to get my schoolwork done on time? It might even make financial sense. When I’m paying off these loans, after all, I’ll be making a lot more than $8 an hour.
And… I don’t know. I’ve been working full time since I graduated from high school. I’ve never not had a job. And it’s odd enough to be a 30-something college undergraduate. I see the looks on peoples’ faces when I tell them I’m a student. It’s more acceptable to be both working and going to school – taps into the good old American dream stuff about pulling yourself up by your bootstraps. But gosh, it would be nice to sometimes have a little space to, I dunno, breathe.
So – I don’t know. I’m researching my options. We’ll see what happens.