Saturday, May 26, 2007

Poverty Can Be Fun

I went to my professor's office hours to discuss a term paper. After he'd looked it over, told me it was crap, and explained exactly what he wanted me to write about (the easiest way to an A), we got to talking about real life. One of the great things he told me was, "When you move out, you'll likely find yourself having a hard time making ends meet. Just remember this: poverty can be fun." I blew him off completely after the term ended, and have only talked to him once since. Poverty can be fun? I laughed. It takes money to have fun.

A few months later, I found myself living on my own with two wonderful girls. We rented a house in Corvallis while we endured the last eighteen months of college together. One of the girls did not work, nor did she pay for her schooling. One of the girls worked occasionally, and she definitely knows how to work hard, but her parents helped her out with college as well. I can't find a way to say this without sounding bitter, but I worked two jobs throughout college and paid my own way all four years. I only needed student loans the last three years, and my loans only covered tuition. My parents did help me out, $100 or $200 when I absolutely needed money for food or gas, and they paid my car insurance while I was living on my own. The key part of their loan was that I'd have to pay them back as soon as I got out of college. Last month, I was finally able to do that. :)

Our combined income (excluding what our parents helped us with) was less than $10,000/year. People have told me that 'college students can't live in poverty.' That's like saying 'college students can't be alcoholics.' I assure you, they can. I was living on about $700/month, and my rent and utilities took up a good $450. After food, gas, books, and other necessities, I had about $25 to myself each month if nothing went wrong. Something usually did.

I didn't eat out very much... come to think of it, I didn't eat much at all. Emily and I would eat ice cream and pop tarts for dinner, or we'd share a box of mac and cheese. Rachel and I dined on home-canned vegetables some evenings. My parents were considerate enough to supply me with my waffles from Costco (I'd grab a package every weekend when I went home, because I didn't have a freezer big enough for the whole box at once). Luckily, boys and other friends kept us supplied with chocolate and alcohol, otherwise we probably would have gone broke on those. We threw some awesome parties on $10, and Rachel hosted several dinners where we made the main dish and everyone else brought a side dish or something.

Our house wasn't grand by any means, and our couches were so hideously ugly that I nearly cried the first time I saw them (but now I miss them!). The TV was so old, it took twenty minutes to have a clear picture on it, and even that was pretty bad. Our walls were covered in pictures of us doing silly things, and we even had an empty heart-shaped box of chocolates on the hallway wall as decoration. You know what? People constantly told us that our house didn't feel like a college house when they visited. For all of it's misgivings, our house was clean, tidy, and had a lot of laughter in it. It felt like a home.

We didn't have a lot of money, and I certainly wasn't afloat several months. But those eighteen months were the best months of my life. I forged life-long friendships, had awesome adventures (yes, Mr. Guy, I mean awesome), and grew up in ways I know I haven't realized yet.

Poverty, indeed, can be so much fun.

1 comment:

nina said...

it's easy to find the fun when you're young and living in poverty. however, when you're older, it's mostly a huge energy drain.