I try to start off every school semester by getting as far ahead of my school work as I can. It’s an insane dream that lasts for only the first few days of classes before the dead weight of reality smacks me full in the face. That reality being rent, utilities, food, and gas for the car. I now need to pay for all of these things or else it’s bye-bye NAU and hello to living under my parents’ roof once again. Not that going back to my folks’ place would be all that terrible, but to give up the freedom that comes with being on one’s own in Uni is undesirable. FASFA only covers school-related expenses and getting another loan is out of the question (being already at 20k in the hole, I don’t wish to dig myself any deeper into debt). So I did what any other normal human would do in face of this dilemma: I got a part-time job.
Now, working part-time isn’t all bad. The money left after paying all of the bills usually goes to fun nights out on the town, day trips around Arizona, and materials for art projects. However, with the current minimum wage here in Flagstaff and my current class schedule, the amount of time that I need to spend at my part-time job in order to facilitate the funds necessary to live here clocks in at around twenty to thirty hours a week (starting Thursday after school and lasting through Sunday). It’s a good chunk of time dedicated to an activity not focused on my future career. It would feel completely pointless if it weren’t for the people I meet while working. I’m not talking about the random people that I interact with, but rather the people I work alongside with. They are an interesting group of people; most of my co-workers are around my age with some outliers in the forty to sixty age range. They provide creative inspiration (for the characters I write; either for their name or for their quirky personality) and wonderful outlets for complaints against the weird and wild customers that would filter through work everyday. However, this one benefit (which I believe is solely for the writers of creative fiction) doesn’t suit everyone.
The two most recent jobs I have held were cashier at Marshalls and a canvasser for Grand Canyon State Voters. Cashiering for Marshalls was mindless for the most part; scan the items, fold the clothes, wrap the more fragile items, and offer the customer ten percent off the entire purchase upon opening a T.J.Maxx Rewards Card. I even had a script that I partially memorized to regurgitate to every customer (I only ever changed it up to keep from feeling too much like a robot (let’s be honest here, that cashier/customer service job is slowly getting taken over by robots anyway, Target and Walmart’s self-checkout being prime examples)). It was an easy job that required little to no brain power.
Canvassing, on the other hand, took slightly more brain power and a lot more effort on my part. Here’s what I’m talking about: as a canvasser I had to go up to anyone and everyone I could to find out whether or not each and every person was registered to vote. (I even had a tiny script to help me out; Hello! My name is Lexi, I’m with Grand Canyon State voters. When was the last time you voted?) With each person I approached, I had to assess their personality to determine how much pizzazz to put behind those words. It worked about eighty percent of the time for me to get people to stop and about twelve percent of the time it got people to actually talk to me. It was heartbreaking to realize how many people just didn’t care or were rude to me just for going up and talking to them. I was just doing my job by making sure everyone was ready for voting season (Because really, this is a HUGE election year. Wouldn’t it have been absolutely terrible if on election day you went to the polls thinking you were all set and ready to go only to discover that some minor thing changed and it made you ineligible to vote? Wouldn’t that suck?). Another real bummer about this job was that if I wasn’t there for the entire shift—either four, six, or eight hours—then I wouldn’t get paid at all because I was an independent contractor. Meaning, they were under no obligation to pay me if I felt that I couldn’t finish a shift. So if I wanted any money at all, I would need to stay and deal, no matter how much homework needed to be done that day or any household chores I needed to be complete—this job took top priority. It paid good money however, which is what encouraged me to stay, because honestly I needed the money more than anything else.
Needing money has overshadowed the need for a good education. Minimum wage in the expensive city of Flag is not adequate to cover all the expenses that come with living on one’s own and school. It’s just nowhere near enough and it has me thinking: Should I even want to stay?