Life Rants

Forever a Loan: Reflections on Higher Ed and Debt

As a librarian in higher ed, the cost of college has been on my mind a lot lately.  In his Netflix series Patriot Act, Hasan Minhaj recently did a really great episode about the awful business of student loans and those who profit from them.

Because my student loan payments are set to increase another $50/month soon, I do admit my feelings of anxiety and resentment are amplified just thinking about it. And it does make me sad that I may not be able to buy a house or feel confident that I can retire comfortably in part because of student loans (and partly because our world is so fucked).  It’s frustrating (not to mention unsustainable) that it’s become accepted and expected to take out hundreds of thousands of dollars in loans for an education.  It holds back progress in so many ways when talented, passionate graduates have trouble making a living wage or even finding a job at all–not to mention sending an incredibly damaging message about who deserves to learn and succeed in our world.

I have a friend on another social media platform who regularly rants about how people who can’t afford college shouldn’t take out loans, and it drives me up the wall.  To give you some context, this is also a person who says fat people should be kicked off of health insurance to make it more affordable for everyone else…

And I absolutely urge people taking out private loans to consider how unforgiving debt collectors are in that arena—the government as a lender is bad enough, yet it doesn’t engage in some of the more extreme practices of predatory private lenders.

It’s helped me immensely to think about student loans as medicine; like all meds, there will be side effects, but sometimes you need to take them.  Even with the cost and the side effects, ask yourself what you gain by taking them, and whether those benefits outweigh the negative consequences.

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Photo by Kyle Glenn on Unsplash

I do find it frustrating that 5 years after earning my master’s degree, I still don’t have a long-term contract.  I’m not sure what I’m doing after July of this year.  But I love the profession of librarianship, and I love the number of thoughtful, caring, social justice-oriented colleagues I’ve met.  I should have perhaps waited to have more experience before pursuing my master’s degree, and I don’t love the amount of money it cost me.  But I do love this profession, and I love the path that earning my master’s degree has led me on.  I know librarians are stereotyped as joyless authorities who demand complete silence—and I’ll be honest, we generally do like rules.  However, just mention banning a book or the profession’s problem with race or demonstrators protesting drag queen story hour and you’ll see there is a solid foundation of strong convictions behind the work we do.

I have seen the emotional and financial burden student loans have placed on current students, and I bitterly regret that.  And college isn’t for everyone, and it shouldn’t be expected that everyone attend college–though this is really a problem with the fucked up ways that we value different kinds of work.

But honestly telling people not to pursue college because they can’t afford it is another way of saying “I have very much bought into our current social order and am committed to maintaining it.”  The problem is not with the students taking out loans—it’s with the entire higher ed system and the business of student loans now inseparable from everyday college functions.  And, more broadly, it’s a problem with a capitalist society that commodifies education and undervalues the work of the public service sectors.

I do wish I could be more financially stable, even as I acknowledge I enjoy an amount of financial stability that places me in an extremely privileged position.  And there’s a lot of BS in higher ed, I fully recognize that.  But I would never work on Wall Street or as a part of the military industrial complex or in any number of jobs that benefit a small group of people while actively making the world a worse place for everyone else.  I wouldn’t change where I am or how I’ve gotten here.  And it will be people who push the boundaries, who reach for things that they cannot afford, that were never meant for them—they will be the ones to show that they are not wrong, that they do not need to change, but it’s the world around them that needs to change so it can catch up to them.

That being said–sign me the fuck up for free college if I ever live to see it happen.

Header image by Good Free Photos on Unsplash
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Collaborative Blogging, Film Reviews

Yes or No, or: Honestly, Just Make a Decision

Pick a film about young love, they said.  It will be a refreshing romp with no cringey stereotypes about Mexican-Americans, they said (looking at you, Peppermint).  This is how we ended up with a film with significantly fewer racist vibes, but with way more indecision, teen angst, and heavy-handed gender norms.  Don’t get me wrong–there are some sweet moments in this week’s film, but I also would’ve welcomed just a touch of Jennifer Garner’s take-no-prisoners decisiveness for our leads here.

The Film:

Yes or No

The Premise:

A college student who is initially horrible to her tomboyish roommate is conflicted when she begins to develop romantic feelings for her.

The Ramble:

Pie is a college student who wears a lot of cute skirts, is close with her mom, and cares for a pet fish (named “Really” for some inexplicable reason).  Though she has a fun group of friends she rolls with, Pie can’t keep a roommate–she’s constantly annoyed by lights, sounds, and the lifestyles of her roomies.

When Pie meets her new roommate Kim, their relationship seems doomed to go from bad to worse.  Kim is a tomboy, and is very masculine in dress and appearance.  A true Millennial, Kim doesn’t like to label herself and has varied interests:  she cooks, plays ukulele, and grows plants in the dorm.

a woman sits at a desk writing while a woman in the background looks up at her from a book she's reading

Though Kim is a laid-back and considerate roommate, Pie is uncomfortable with her appearance and non-traditional gender norms in general.  Pie is super rude, making obnoxious comments about Kim looking like a boy and even drawing a dividing line in their shared room to keep their spaces separate.  But is Pie’s strong reaction to Kim’s style really about an extremely repressed attraction to her roomie?  Spoiler:  YES.

In return, Kim is basically the sweetest human being to live and too pure for this world.  Kim constantly brings Pie desserts from her aunt’s restaurant, shares the food she makes in the dorm, and even tidies up Pie’s side of the room.  When Kim sees Pie’s friend Jane crying in class after being dumped, she offers her a handkerchief.  This causes an aggravating love triangle that continues throughout the film, but is still a nice gesture.

a woman holding a pink pillow looks into a room while another girl watches her in irritation

Kim and Pie’s relationship finally reaches a turning point when Pie’s side of the dorm floods in a storm.  To make matters worse, the power goes out–and Kim is incredibly afraid of the dark.  While Kim bunks down on the floor and lets Pie sleep in her bed, Pie lights so many candles that it’s a fire hazard and distracts Kim from the dark.

two women dressed in white sit on the floor in front of a bedframe that holds many candles

Just as Pie and Kim are getting close, Pie’s boyfriend Van shows up out of the blue.  Or, rather, a boy Pie insists isn’t her boyfriend but effectively is.  Pie repeatedly dodges plans to go out with Van in favor of Kim, but before you feel too bad for him…he later manages to lose all sympathy when he says some nasty things to Kim about the natural order.

Meanwhile, Jane is increasingly attracted to Kim–a feeling which is very much unreciprocated.  It’s so awkward to watch, and there are times when I wanted to scream at Kim to just tell the poor girl she’s just not into her.  At all.

After an incredibly uncomfortable double date with Pie/Van and Kim/Jane, our two leading ladies get into a major fight.  You’d better believe there’s a really sweet make-up scene and FINALLY some action.

two women with wet hair hold each other's faces

Though Pie is ready to call Kim her girlfriend in secret, she’s not ready to make their relationship public.  When Pie’s mother comes to visit, she’s keen to hide her romantic feelings for Kim and doesn’t respond at all when her mother goes off about women who dress like men.  Hurt, Kim abruptly leaves, returning to her family’s farm.  Will Pie embrace her love for Kim or is it too late for this romance to blossom?

The Rating:

3/5 Pink Panther Heads

OH MY GAWD, the angst.  The ANGST in this film.  It gets so tiresome watching Pie act like an asshole, be conflicted about her feelings, hurt Kim, and then make up with her.  I tried so hard to be sympathetic to Pie as she was experiencing feelings for the first time that her horrible mother told her were unnatural.  And I acknowledge that I am a shallow, food-motivated human, but Kim did nothing but give her cake–doesn’t that deserve at least a basic level of courtesy?

Also, poor Jane!  It hurts to see her throw herself at Kim all the damn time and, while obviously Kim doesn’t owe her affection, it would have saved a lot of pain if she’d just been upfront that she isn’t attracted to Jane.  There’s even a joke(?) about Jane’s suicide in this film, which is in extremely poor taste IMHO.

However, Kim as a character is everything (minus the whole Jane situation).  She’s so sweet and has not a malicious bone in her body even though people are pretty shitty to her throughout.  While she admits she’s attracted to Pie eventually, she doesn’t expect her to reciprocate.  She continues to do nice things for Pie because they’re friends and she’s, IDK, a nice human being.  Taking notes, bros of the world?

And I will admit the chemistry between our two leads is so good, and the sexual tension is intense.  This film seems to take a lot of cues from a K drama, drawing out the romance in those subtle touches and significant stares.  Effective this may be, but at a certain point I just wanted our leads to hook up already.

Would my blog wife bring this one slices of cake or move on with a firm no?  Read her review here to find out!

Life Rants

Advice from the Bard

“The sins of the father are to be laid upon the children.” –William Shakespeare, The Merchant of Venice

May I suggest this thought applies so very well to that noble profession, that (and I quote) “work of heart,” also known as teaching?  Though lacking in the poetic elegance of Shakespeare, I stand by my statement.

With a new job this year, a large percentage of my responsibilities has involved teaching those tenderest of college students who (among other gender identities) are not girls, not yet women:  first years.

And I barely remember being a freshman–not, as you may imagine, because I spent the year on a months-long bender, but because I spent that year (as I spent all of my college years) intensely ignoring my symptoms of social anxiety and depression.

I can remember my poor, poor college instructors who tried so hard to encourage me to participate, recommended me for a job at the writing center, held one-on-one conferences outlining plans for me to speak up in class.  And those who, perhaps simply to move discussion along or out of their own discomfort, called on me in class without knowing the immediate panic I would feel as I strung together an incoherent jumble of words.  It was so much easier for me to write, to take tests, to read chapter after chapter, than to learn to speak in class or make small talk with my peers (which I of course had no idea I was supposed to be learning).

Now this is the kind of thing students can get support for, and I’m sure it was then.  But I wasn’t going to do that most shameful of all step that akin to a confession that I wasn’t really supposed to be there:  ask for help.

For a long time, I thought things would have been different if just one instructor showed some compassion.  They did–but I didn’t recognize it because I needed to show compassion to myself.  I did eventually go to the counseling center, and I learned what a gift it was to enter a space where I always had an attentive listener, where what I said mattered.

Another piece of my college experience that affected me unexpectedly was my campus job, which I still wish I had gotten sooner.  Rejection’s a bitch at any age, isn’t it?

I had always wanted to work in libraries, so it perhaps wasn’t too much of a shock that I loved my job in the library.  Beyond the work that I did and the slightly stern but calm environment of the 7-story building, the job was much more than the shelving or pamphlet binding I did.  It was a place where people were happy to see me, grateful for my help, and always said thank you (if you ever supervise college students, the extreme gratitude for common courtesies will make so much more sense).

Now that my job is at least to some extent being an instructor, I can appreciate how those silences in class can be crushing.  I understand how frustrating it can be when those really smart students with a lot to say refuse to utter a goddamn word (a lot of them women, first-generation college students, of racial minorities).  And I really, really get how making a mistake can be such a great learning experience, though it may not feel like it at the time.

I don’t have words of wisdom for students, and I definitely don’t have advice for teachers.  The only thing I can say is if you’re in college, go to that fucking counseling center.  You have no idea what a beautiful thing it is to be able to take those services for granted until you’re paying $50 or more every time you want to speak to a counselor or how difficult it can be to schedule those sessions when you’re working full-time.

As for teaching…there’s a reason this meme was created.

Featured image by Marco Secchi on Unsplash