Saturday, February 03, 2007

An American Fairy Tale

Once upon a time, in a place not far from you, there was a little girl whose family was worried about MONEY. One day the girl’s father died, and MONEY became a very big problem for the family. The girl’s mother worried about money. The little girl worried about money, and it made her stomach hurt. As she grew up, she decided that she would go to college and get an Advanced Degree so that she would have some security in her life and so she could stop being scared about MONEY all the time.

The girl, now a woman, could not afford college. She could barely support herself working full-time at her minimum-wage job. People seemed to understand that it was hard to pay tuition, but no one seemed to grasp that it was impossible to support yourself while going to school if you were on your own. The woman worked one full-time job and one part-time job, and attended night school for four years. Then she went to school full-time, and worked two part-time jobs. She had to apply for LOAN after LOAN to stay in school. She beat the worries down with thoughts of her Advanced Degree. She felt guilty about worrying, since she had it so much better than so many other people.

The woman was working on the beloved Advanced Degree when she became very, very sick, and could not work. Her Evil Advisor said “Depressives don’t belong in research!” and kicked her out of graduate school with a lowly Masters Degree, an inferior type of Advanced Degree. The woman had to resort to using credit cards to pay for her health insurance, visits to the doctor, and medication. The credit card balances mushroomed and the student loans came due!

With time, the woman recovered, and was able to work hard. The credit card balances were paid off eventually, and the woman accepted that the student loans were going to be part of her life for a long time. The anxiety fed on this, but that was ok, since she had lived with her friend, anxiety, for a long time. The woman’s inferior Advanced Degree qualified her to work in a job she loved. All was well.

Alas, the woman became sick again. Her brain was sick, her immune system was sick, and all of her joints and muscles were sick. These conditions were permanent and she had to face the fact that she might not ever work again. The woman had to resort to using credit cards to pay for her health insurance, visits to the doctor, and medication. The credit card balances mushroomed and the student loan payments kept coming. The woman watched all of her hard work evaporate, and the debt monster grew bigger by the day. She started wondering about which she should do first: default on her student loans, or cancel her health insurance.

People said she was very Stupid, Irresponsible, and Selfish. They succeeded at life, why couldn’t she? The woman agreed with them. She had been Stupid to pursue an education when it meant mortgaging her future. She had been Irresponsible to get sick with so many different health problems. Finally, she had been Selfish to try to take care of herself and to seek medical help-those resources were only for the rich.

The moral of the story: Don’t try to stay alive, let alone succeed, in America unless an accident of birth makes you wealthy.

Alternate moral: Don’t get sick.

16 comments:

Amy's Brain Today said...

Oh honey. I've been wondering how you are. Not so good, sounds like. Sometimes the shittiest days make for the best writing, though, and this is a marvelous case in point.

Lots of love to you and the bunny.

sparkleMatrix said...

Give that girl a (((hug)))

spotted elephant said...

Thank you both!

Just to be clear, this post wasn't supposed to be a "poor me" post, it was intended as a "look at the ugliness of America".

msliberty said...

America IS ugly, and your post so eloquently describes what is wrong.

I am so sorry that you are going through these struggles. I am also deeply saddened that ANYONE has to experience any of this in the richest country of the planet.

Education and Health Insurance SHOULD NOT be reserved for the elite.

Faith said...

S.E.,

((hugs))

spotted elephant said...

msliberty-That's exactly it. Government exists to provide services and to focus necessary regulations. Health care and education should be available to everyone, not just those with enough money.

Laura said...

((((SE)))))

American dream my arse.

AradhanaD said...

Big hugs your way spotted ele. Health and education should be free.
Sadly things are getting worse up north too. If you want to be a doc/lawyer/MBA expect to pay through your nose for a degree. We've already got more than a few private clinics too.
Take good care
AD

Pippa said...

Hey you! I'm missing my internet and borrowing my Dad's computer so I missed your recent posts...I have such a similar story...I just put in for ANOTHER extension (because of my ills etc) so that I will be able to finish my PhD. I have loans coming out of my ass! Actually, I consider you and I to be both able and brilliant. We are far from selfish; education and healthcare are essential needs. Write your way through all this, let the world know how shitty all of it is. I support you, I care about you and when I get a job I'll send you money. So there. You may hold me to that. X

The Goldfish said...

I get frustrated with many of the systems we have here in the UK, but despite knowing the way it is over there, it is always a shock to read about it. That health, and therefore life itself, actually has a price-tag. :-(

Thirza said...

I know what you mean. It's so stressful to try and figure out how to learn and live while having a disability no one really understands or wants to understand. Once I told a prof I had a mental illness because I wanted to talk about accommodations, but they got so freaked out they didn't listen to me say I wasn't able to participate in class the same way as others, so I got a crap mark. But you know, we just have to keep giving each other support, advice. Figure out how to create jobs and places for ourselves that let us achieve our fullest potential. Not to be Pollyanna about it though, for sure it's hard work, especially in a world designed for one kind of person that most of us can't ever fit in with.

Zan said...

I've given up on getting my Ph.d due to my illness. Stress just pushes me over the edge and well, grad school is stressful.

I'm mostly okay with that idea now, because I finally have a job that I like that makes use of my MA and has plenty of room for advancement. (Working for the state. Almost feel like a traitor, but since it's a civil service position, they can't just kick me out because I get sick. And the retirement is out of this world.)

But I'll be paying student loans until I'm 60. It's just a fact of my life and well, what can I do? My credit cards will be paid off in a month or two and then I'm never getting another one, because I don't want to go into that kind of debt again.

belledame222 said...

((SE))

Her Evil Advisor said “Depressives don’t belong in research!”

What the FUCK? whoever it is, i hope it burns when they pee from now till eternity.

and yeah, this is fucked. "free market" myass. people need certain basic things in place, ffs; this is how -society- works (which does exist, no matter what fucking Maggie Thatcher says).

anyway, i hope today is going a bit better, and i really hope you do not still believe those awful people; bad enough that this completely fucked system is the way it is (yes, U.K. people, it -is- shocking, isn't it? WE'RE NUMBER ONE!, though! BOO YA!!!), they don't need any room in your head. shoo, awful internal messages. shoo.

you are compassionate, smart, hardworking, and more responsible in many ways than a lot of people i know.

xox

belledame222 said...

zan: you do what you gotta do, is all. you're hardly a "traitor." you're a survivor.

spotted elephant said...

Pippa, don't send me money, but maybe someday we can be roomies, huh?

Goldfish-
That health, and therefore life itself, actually has a price-tag. :-(

How sick is that? And it really is a simple fact of life for many Americans, not to mention people around the planet.

thirza-Disclose with extreme caution! :(

zan-It sounds like we react to graduate school the same way. I'm glad you're using your masters, though. But don't feel like a traitor-you've gotta eat! I'm hoping to get to the point where I really accept that the loans are here to stay, but their presence still causes me to panic every now and then.

belledame-Thanks for the kind words, and especially thanks for the curse on my advisor. The real irony is that I was in a psychology department and got that reaction to my mental illness. The whole department was that clueless.

I almost never believe the awful messages anymore, but when I have a bad day, it's a doozy. :(

seahorse said...

Your perseverence is what i admire the most, and amy's right. The shittiest days make for the best writing. I really like your blog btw, having found it through Thirza and Goldfish. Will link to you. Take good care in the meantime