On Finances and Life Lessons

It’s a topic that generally can be found milling about dinner tables and schoolbooks and student discount rates.

So here I am, in this limbo between childhood and adulthood.  No longer young enough to freeload off society’s understanding, yet not even able to purchase alcohol in the United States of America.  I can sign a legally binding contract, but don’t have the credit history nor the funds that tends to accumulate with years lived, to permanently displace myself from a suburb that I have hated from I day I arrived.

Childhood pales by comparison now, it seems.  I work anytime I am not in school (25 – 30 hours/week), earning minimum wage (at Starbucks, no less) making 4 dollar lattes for wealthier demographics, and blending 5 dollar frappucinos for these kids my own age whose parents pay for every breath they take – that shiny new car sitting outside included.

It frustrates me sometimes.  I am barely paying my rent, and tuition and schoolbooks are getting more and more expensive, and even the price of groceries is rising.  Sometimes I try to tell myself that education is worth the struggle; that it’ll pay off someday when I find a job that suits my level of education and interests…but even that is starting to look like a very slim opportunity for all of us graduating into adulthood during a time of economic turmoil.

I purchase expired produce to cut the costs, I steal dishwashing soap from my roommates, I attend every meeting with free food on campus, I recycle tea bags to avoid paying $1.68 for a cup of hot water, I do my laundry in the sink because the laundry facilities cost $1.50 for every half-load, I turn off my cell-phone so people will email me because email is free, I buy my textbooks a week before exams and then return them, I skip meals to reduce my grocery bill, I take vitamins because they’re more cost-efficient than fresh fruit, I steal truckloads of salt and ketchup from the cafeteria, I pilfer packs of sugar and honey from coffee shops, I never go to social events that involve money, I never go out for dinner, I never spend money on anything other than school and food, I don’t go shopping, I only purchase used items, I scrounge and I save and I penny-pinch and as I’m doing it I keep telling myself it’ll pay off one day.

Sometimes I’ll be in a good mood because I added extra cream to my tea in the morning which means I can skip lunch, but then as I walk by Starbucks I see a girl my age slap down $3.89 for a latte and $3.95 for a quarter cup of orange juice, and another girl I know pay $7.25 for a simple sandwich, wearing her $95 designer pants and $125 designer bag and $130 designer shoes and professionally done hair and talking on her iPhone.  And then I look closer and realize that I know her, and that her parents have just purchased her a $2500/month condo in the urban heart of downtown Vancouver that she only lives in 4 nights a week, and that her parents pay for all her school expenses, including groceries, parking pass, car, utilities, rent, textbooks, tuition, and spending money for her to party with friends and go to movies and head to Europe over the summer.

Sometimes I get up on Saturday mornings and as I put on my work clothes, I am so tempted to pack it all up and maybe be able to live rent-free for at least a few months at my parents’ home.  But then I remember where I came from, and that I am so certain I would rather struggle here than go back, because at least what I endure here I can recover from with enough hope and hard work.

I had a conversation with a co-worker the other day in regards to the difference of lifestyle between those who were born with silver spoons in their mouths, and those who were not.  People constantly reassure me that I have it better, really, because then I learn how incredibly valuable a dollar is, and I learn how to endure, and I learn how to budget, and I learn humility.  But really?  Very often the individuals who speak these words don’t actually know that the $7.25 spent on a small sandwich is equivalent to a week’s worth of groceries.

Sometimes the individuals who say this are like myself; who say it but only half-believe it, because if given the opportunity to live a life where everything was provided for, would take it in a heartbeat.

What can I say?  Growing up sucks.

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