Great post on being working-class and middle-class at Harvard from the Awl. Long read but so worth it.
arrrrgghhhhhh. i know both these writers, i graduated with them, i share almost all opinions they express, i did similar work while there, and yet still im having trouble giving a fuck today.
Let me tell you about class at a state school. While in college I worked at the computer science dept’s copy center and drove a van around campus delivering big print jobs. I also worked at a car wash. It was awesome.
Let me tell you about class at a glorified state school in New York City:
“I’ll have the mac & cheese, please. Oh the side portion. It’s like big right?”
“Anything to drink?”
“Tap water’s fine..”
The round table of friends glare at their menus, and subsequently order $30 salads. Then one of them compliments your watch. She studies Wine & the Art of Happiness.
“What an interesting watch! So… vintage!”
“It was my grandmother’s, thanks.”
“Oh! Where’s it from?”
“Oh, um, Bulova? Ya know, they were the first watch makers to switch to elec..”
“Huh, never heard of them!”
With one of her Mary Kate Olsen tipped fingers she polishes the silver Rolex she got for graduating highschool. In the top 30th percentile (“But my high school was like, really hard even for a public school in Connecticut”).
Look into your wallet to make sure you have enough cash. $10 bill. Need an ATM. Slip out to “find the bathroom” and head to the deli across the street. $2.50 surcharge. Fuck you! Okay, whatever.
A guy gets in line behind you, he’s young, he probably goes to your school, you are in the West Village. You’ve seen that plaid shirt before. You probably own it. No you don’t want a receipt, waste of paper and also a physical acknowledgement of your premature dept spiral.
Transaction complete. Hit Enter to Exit Screen. Enter. Fucking Enter! Balance: $47.56. When am I getting paid again? Count on fingers. Look at probable class-mate. Suddenly recognize him as that kid from your class on Sexual Perversion who volunteers at that roof top garden and lives in TriBeCa. Volunteers his spare time. Fucking Enter!
Return to round-table. Enjoy the mac & cheese. It has truffles and bacon. It is decadent and has been written about by Frank Bruni or Adam Platt or something, so you’re told, as if their adjectives transmogrify into physical taste-enhancers. You have a sip of your friend’s pomegranate cucumber martini. You wanted just a sip of it anyway.
Scrape every last bit of truffle-cheese goodness. “So we can just all split the check right? I hate math. Hahaha!”
That entire last post! Except it’s a (frankly) glorified private school for me. Plus the $120k+ of debt that I’ll be paying forEVER because I’m overqualified for jobs but don’t have the right connections. Sigh. The price you pay for attending your dream school but not being able to afford it in the first place is unbelievable.
And don’t tell me I could have gone to a state school and had only a fraction of that debt to pay. When your ambition and the memory of all the hard work you did in public high school—all the weekend nights you could have spent hanging out with your friends and being a dumb teenager but instead were spent studying for your seven AP tests and SATs and ACTs because you wanted to supersede your lower-middle class living situation to attend the school of your childhood dreams and do something with yourself so that you could potentially make a significant impact on the lives of your loved ones because that’s all that matters to you—trump the primary question of cost so fast that signing your name on the dotted line below your freshman housing license/$300-$1,000 deposit/contract to sell your soul to Satan himself becomes a moment that you barely remember at all.
So while many of the friends I’ve made here have made a killing at a Wall Street internship and many others have made a killing of mere experience (read: working for zero pay), I put myself past my first two years juggling two jobs, babysitting, depression, and a bad roommate situation. I still don’t have a steady means of making decent money. Tell me that $120k+ dual-degree was worth it? Probably. Another $100k of law school debt will probably be worth it, too. The name of the origin of my diploma alone will say it all. Hopefully.
(Source: journalofajournalist, via nyulocal)