Reflections on the College Experience: Responsibility and the Hesitation to ‘Grow Up’

Perspectives

By Cooper-John Trapp, Staff Writer

Sitting at home this past December, I came to what I had long put aside: paying for the semester. I had money in my savings (not much), money in my safe from summer tips (even less), and money in my wallet (insert laugh/cry emoji here). Money my parents had put away for me was long gone. I blame 7/11 for overpricing their salads.

My blatant disregard for financial seriousness frustrated my family, especially such phrases as (and I quote myself liberally here): “Yanno, I really don’t care about getting a job when I graduate,” and, “Don’t worry mom, Jesus Christ I’ll figure out the money.” I rested with incredible confidence in the existence of a currently unknown load Easter Bunny.

Panic struck me as the piper demanded to be paid, and I had to scramble. My younger brother had money to lend me but wanted a guarantee I wouldn’t default and screw him over.

Okay, fine, I thought. I’ll go phone the older, richer brother.

Same answer. “How am I gonna guarantee you don’t skip town and bail with the cash?”

Gotta love the trust in this family.

My older brother continued telling me (lecturing is how I took it) if I can’t guarantee paying him back, his conditions were that I get a second job.

This really smacked of paternalistic judgement (people talking down to me) so naturally I told him it was stupid. But, I would think about it. His advice was that, “I have a lot of time on my hands,” (doesn’t feel like it to me, but the multiple occasions laying on my floor staring at the wall would probably weaken my case). He said I had, “already had the first two year’s experience having fun” and, “at some point you have to find a way to balance that with reality.”

I didn’t necessarily disagree with him, but it’s frustrating to have to… grow up.

Grow up. It’s the term, I think. It’s the way that I’ve heard it used throughout my life, as some moral imperative I obviously had failed at or was at risk of doing so. I thoroughly resist ‘growing up’ for many reasons. I resist it at college because I want to be free. I don’t want to be shackled down to a job.

I did let the conversation sit though, for a while.

Here’s what I came away with:

First, at USM almost everyone I know has jobs and takes classes.

Second, my paralyzing fear of losing my Friday and Saturday nights possibly is overblown. It’s my FOMO, of missing out on an experience I should have had; that I would miss out on some essential bonding time that would make me feel outside the social network and that is just, simply, unacceptable.

Third, my brother advising me to get a job ruffled my feathers because it felt like someone was trying to control me.

But.

A job would lend me financial freedom, and I hadn’t thought about that.

I might feel like I’m growing instead of stagnating. Sometimes at school it feels like I just don’t really care. Part of that might be that I’m going to college with no clue what I’m doing and feeling like I’m not getting anywhere except further into debt. Formal employment provides assurance of structure, repetition and predictability. I would own the means of production of my own capital, as opposed to relying on, and knowing I rely on, others, which stunts my initiative.

~ ~  

Update: I interviewed to wait tables at Texas Roadhouse. Unfortunately, I didn’t get the job. My summer plans are in the air, and it wouldn’t make sense to train me for such a short period during the semester. I understood their reasoning completely, but I drove back to campus with an emptiness in my stomach.

That’s part of growing up, too. Taking a risk knowing full well you cannot control the outcome. Growing up is accepting the fact that life doesn’t always go the way you planned, and you have to get up and brush the dirt off your shoulders. God, I’m starting to sound just like my brother.

Today I continue the hunt, just like so many others at USM. Thank you, bro, for getting the ball rolling.   

Cooper is a sophomore Social and Behavioral Sciences major from Piermont, NH who has been with the Free Press since January 2018. He seeks out the big pictures questions, and professes no real knowledge of the content material. He can be reached at [email protected].

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