Markus was writing me love poems every day and continued this for a month. He e-mailed them to me. I finally gave in and told him I would be his girlfriend, and that was the beginning of a two year long relationship. He was a highschool-drop-out. He also did not have a job or any plans to have one. He just stayed home all day and played video games on the computer while his family members had gone to work or school. His family welcomed me with open arms. Maybe they thought I would knock some sense into him, and force him to do something productive with his life. Unfortunately I didn't know how to. Come to think of it, I didn't care. I was just satisfied to come over to his place everyday, lie in bed with him, and watch TV. This was a very nice break for me. A lot of the time I just didn't bother to go to school. I would tell my mom I was going to University, leave the apartment and catch the bus to Markus' place, where he would welcome me with kisses. And I was happy.
On top of it I was passing all of my classes. I wrote essays on time and life was good. The mentality of everyone seemed to be, "You're already paying thousands of dollars for University. You might as well attend your classes." That was the "normal mentality." Mine was not like that at all. The way I looked at it was this; I'm already paying thousands of dollars for University, so why pay more for transportation to get there and waste time being there?
I was taking all English classes. All we did in class was discuss the book we were reading ad nauseam. I saw absolutely no point to sit through this. I knew what the book was about. I read it. I read opinions and reviews online and refused to waste any more time attending classes where we would sit around talking.
Months went by, and I found that I was now in love with Markus. Because he lived in the same apartment as Loupe, I would often come by to visit her. In time she had grown more and more distant. This was understandable considering those highschool days were long gone, and she now had a child, and a job to concentrate on. We still remained on good terms and in touch.
I took summer school throughout, what I felt was a miserable unfortunate stay in University, so this way it would take me 4 and not 5 years to earn enough credits and get an Honours Bachelor of Arts degree. I did not have a solid plan as to what career I would have after graduation. It was obvious that my flight attendant dream was now dead to me. I figured I would try to go into teaching. I did have a slight fear when it came to public speaking. A fear I developed a few years back. When I was younger I had won several public speaking awards in elementary school. Now when I delivered class presentations I found myself nervous and my hands would shake. I decided I would get used to it, and at the end of summer 2007 I went to the University's career counselor to get help deciding what I needed to take if I wanted to pursue a career in teaching. I cannot say I was surprised by what the counselor had to tell me. I would naturally have to go to "Teachers College," for a couple of years. It would cost me around $15, 000. So basically the prospect was this;
When I finally finished school I would be 26, with a student loan of just under $60,000 attempting to make a name for myself as a teacher. Nothing about this seemed pleasing. So I decided to just graduate school and take any job I could get.
My last year of University began, and my relationship with Markus became rocky. He began to grow more and more distant. He always seemed to be too busy for me. Not because he was busy trying to find a job or receive an education. Oh no, nothing like that. His video games came first. There were so many times I would call him only to hear, "Karina, I'm in the middle of a tournament. People are depending on me here! We'll talk tomorrow." Sometimes 'tomorrow' never came, and after 2 years the decision I would have to make became obvious. It was time to leave Markus. I broke things off and he let me. He had been anticipating it.
I felt empty but my love life was not a concern at that point in time. School was taking over everything. I became a desperate and nervous wreck attempting to have grades high enough to pass all of my classes, and finally graduate this University, and just never look back. Now when people ask me what my major in University was I sometimes reply, "I don't have a major, I have a specialist degree in English. Specialist is higher then a Major." It's really unnecessary, but I have a need to point out to people that I have a Specialist Degree simply because I had a hellish time achieving it. I'll probably point that out until the day I die. And that's that. Kind of like when you call someone a Mister or Misses, and have them correct you and tell you that they are a 'Doctor' and should be referred to as Doctor. I felt relatively the same even though I know becoming a Doctor takes even more work then what I was doing.
One day Markus called me. He spilled his guts and told me that he loved me still and that he missed me. He seemed very upset. Weeks passed since we had broken up and he missed me and loved me... but I on the other hand had no feelings left for him. A very attractive boy named Jeremy had taken a liking to me in school, and I had every intention of pursuing this. I tried to let Markus down easy, and told him that we could still be friends. I told him the usual lines anyone would use after a breakup. I suggested that I could come by some day and speak to him in person and see what solution we could both come to. He told me he loved me over and over, and assured me that he would do whatever I wanted if I'd come back. I wasn't very open to the idea, but I must say, I entertained the thought.
Just under a week after this conversation, I received a short text message on my cell phone from Loupe. Now her and I had, over time, grown distant. Simply put, we lived very separate lives now. So at first I was pleasantly surprised that she had sent me a text. That is until I read it.
"Kary, I'm sorry you found out about me an Markus like this."
This of course confused the crap out of me, so I responded with,
"I actually have no idea what you're talking about here." I was very puzzled.
"Markus said he had a long talk with you," she replied.
"Yeah. We talked for a couple of hours. He wants me back. I told him I'd think about it, and maybe meet up with him one day and see where things go..." Her response to that left me surprised and annoyed.
"He told me that he told you that we were dating! We have been dating for 3 weeks."
"Does he know this? Because he gave me a very different impression."
"I'm gonna talk to him about this."
"Yeah you should. Because both people in a relationship should know that they are in a relationship in order for it to be successful , otherwise it doesn't tend to work..."
The next day Markus called me.
"Thanks to you, Loupe was mad as all hell at me yesterday! She yelled at me for about 4 hours because of what you said to her! Thank you!"
"How is this my fault? Huh? What are you doing asking me to come back when you're in a relationship with my friend?"
"Cause I want you back! I love you."
"What the hell's the matter with you? Go fix shit with her and leave me alone."
Years would pass until we finally spoke again.
Markus and Loupe's relationship only lasted a couple of months. I was surprised it lasted that long and that they dated at all. Loupe's brother Eduardo would tell me about this since they all lived in the same apartment, and Markus would often come over to visit Loupe. Eduardo felt awkward that someone he referred to as his closest friend was dating his sister. And so as a result of this 'romantic' relationship, Markus and Eduardo's friendship disintegrated. Eduardo and I were disappointed by the Loupe and Markus 'love affair', so we did what any two reasonable adults would do. We'd hang out and make out whenever we got the chance.
There were only 3 months of University left for me. My marks were bearable. Not high, but decent enough to allow me to graduate. This is all I cared about. It was a few months before school was over, that Jeremy finally worked up the courage to ask me out on a date. I was already in love with him by this time, so I absolutely jumped at the chance. We had our first date. I now have no recollection of what we actually did, but I remember he promptly asked me to be his girlfriend. I only needed to be asked once.
In time he did prove to be quite different than my past boyfriends. He hardly payed any attention to me. I would only see him two days a week, which were days we had the same class. The relationship was somewhat nonexistent, and when I brought up my concerns, Jeremy would tell me he was just stressed about school, and that things would be different when we graduated. So I held out.
Graduation finally came. I promised myself that I would never walk through those dreaded hallways ever again. After all, this school had caused me so much misery. I breathed a huge sigh of relief. I did not even bother to attend the blasted graduation ceremony. I wasn't wasting any more travel time or money on this school. I requested that my Honours Bachelor of Arts Diploma and paperwork be sent to me via 'Canada Post', promptly framed it, and attached it to a wall in my room. All I wanted to do was to forget how miserable the University experience was for me. All I wanted to do was just put it behind me, and I could do this to some degree, but not completely considering I had now accumulated a 39,500 dollar dept.
I began to look for work. In University, representatives would gather to tell students about different career options. I had already looked into becoming a teacher and decided against it because I would sink even further into dept. I found a booth with a representative from a local newspaper company. After all I did take English, and I Specialized in it. I could write for a newspaper. Right? Wrong! I went to speak to the representative and was asked that one question we all love so well when we are looking for work.
"What experience do you have?"
"What do you mean exactly? You see, I have an Honours Bachelor of Arts Degree. I'm an English Specialist."
"Oh, well that's good. I mean what newspaper have you written for and for how long?"
"Well none. I was in school writing essays. I didn't have the opportunity to work because I was focusing on my education."
"Oh... Well you need at least one year of experience writing for a newspaper to apply for a job here."
"Where do you suggest I get this 'experience'?"
"Well... I can talk to some people and they may allow you to volunteer and then think about hiring you after a year."
I walked away. I did not have time to volunteer. I needed the money now. I was in dept. I still had some of my scholarship money, so at least I had that to pay for rent and bus fare for a few months. After that ran out, I'd be screwed. And OSAP did warn me that they would take out $470 each and every month for 10 years right out of my bank account. They would begin this process 6 months after my graduation, so time was ticking.
I began to look for work. I did not know where to begin so I went to speak to a counselor about what my options could be. I went to the YMCA. There was a free program I could take advantage of until I turned 25, and luckily I still had time. I was very hopeful.
I liked the counselor who was assigned to me. I summarized the problem I was facing. How I never had a job as my parents saw that it was very important for me to focus on school, and having a job would most likely interfere with my education. Therefore I technically had no job experience except for when I volunteered at Fair Salvation a few years ago, due to a new implemented highschool rule forcing every student to perform 40 hours of community service in order to graduate.
I still remember when I told my father back in highschool that I did have to work in order to graduate.
"What do you mean? Your mother and I want you to focus on your education Karina. After you graduate you can go work anywhere you want to work. Okay? But after."
"No dad you don't understand. There is a new rule in school. Everyone has to perform 40 hours of community service in order to get a highschool diploma."
"You can't be serious... Even if you have really high marks, you still have to work to get a diploma?"
"Yeah, this is the first year this rule is effective. I just have to find where I can volunteer. I don't think McDonald's would be interested. Plus I need some place near here, because none of us drive, and I will need to get there without wasting time."
"Well that's something. I guess you'll just have to take the bus."
"That's gonna end up costing us a lot of money, so it's not an option. I have to find something close-by."
"What are you talking about? Are you telling me they expect you to work for free, but on top of that money has to come out of your pocket in order to get to work?"
"Yeah, that's exactly what I'm saying."
"That's like... free child labor? You're not even an adult. So they are upset that there is a high rate of dropouts here and there, therefore decide to make getting a highschool diploma even harder?"
"It seems to be so. I guess they think it will be good for us to get the job experience."
"You are forced to work for free! Because you want a good education you have to put in free labor. Something is very wrong with that. If you want to work and have work experience that should be your choice as an individual. You should not be forced to do this for an education. And on top of that pay for bus fare."
So in the end I found the closest place I could volunteer at. Fair Salvation. It was only a 35 minute walk away from home. No bus fare money was needed. The women there were very nice. Hardly spoke any English, but I could understand them okay. Whenever they found that someone had donated a very nice article of clothing they would put it aside for me. I could see how much their faces would brighten when they presented it to me. Some of the clothing still had price tags on it, and was obviously never worn, and they would give it to me. I could see it brought them joy to see me smile. After all I could rarely afford new clothing, just wore my school uniform mostly. It helped out and I was happy when my 40 hours of free work was over. I didn't feel like I was 'volunteering' because I felt obligated. Although it was okay because the women there were nice. I didn't get paid but at least I got some free clothing out of it. That was a benefit. Unfortunately that was the first and last benefit. I got it out of the way as quickly as possible so I could move on and focus on my education. Technically focusing on my education is something I was supposed to be doing in highschool. If I had been placed in a higher grade like I should have been considering my age, I would not have been required to follow this new rule. I wouldn't feel like a guinea pig which at that moment I did.
So at the YMCA I told the counselor that I had volunteered at Fair Salvation. I had work experience.
"Well, honestly that's really not gonna count for much." I completely expected this. I'm sure for some highschool students performing volunteer work paid off well. Years later it would not do much in helping me find work.
"It is a decent thing to put on a resume that you worked as a volunteer, but it wasn't an actual job you were paid for, and some employers may look down on it. Saying you volunteered does not mean you have actual skills to keep a job, it just says you are willing to do a job and not be paid. Employers will see that now you want to be paid and question what skills you have that would deserve to be paid for. Don't get me wrong. It's good that you volunteered."
"I completely expected this."
"Put it on your resume anyways. At least it's something and some employers may be happy to see it. But it looks like you will have to start from the very beginning when it comes to finding work."
"Doesn't it mean anything that I have a University degree?" I asked.
"Unfortunately ... and I really sympathize with you here Karina, employers are a lot more concerned about your job experience. University hasn't prepared you for an actual career. If you want to train for a specific career you would have to attend college. If money is an issue you can sign up for OSAP and go to college. Did you use OSAP to pay off your University tuition?"
"Well that's great. You're familiar with it."
"Well... it's not great because I am familiar with it. It would take me several years just to pay off the interest before I even begin to pay off the actual loan. They give me 6 months after graduation to find work and then I'm expected to start making payments each month. I am over 39 thousand dollars in dept, and interest began to accumulate as soon as I graduated. And for the careers I want to pursue I need a college education. With this university education I'm already expected to pay $470 a month. I'm afraid that if I take out a loan for a college education those monthly payments will increase to $600 a month. That alone would put a tremendous amount of pressure on me. What if I don't find a job that will pay me enough that I can give $600 away every month without it having a huge effect on me?"
"You have a very valid point. But without particular job experience, you will have to start at the very bottom. Finding a job as a waitress would be a very good place to start, and then you can work your way up. Unfortunately Karina, I'm very sorry to say this, but you don't have many other options right now."
As much as I had been expecting this, hearing it said out loud felt like a slap on the face. I had despised attending university. I was terrified of failing a class because such a large amount of money was involved. Money that I would probably be paying off for the rest of my life. All of my stress and anxiety associated with university only resulted in a degree, that without job experience, meant jack shit in the real world. I will forever remember a fellow student say, "university is meant for rich people." I could not have agreed more.
Jeremy faced the exact same problem. He had a job at a grocery store. He stocked shelves. He got the university degree to get his father off his back. I remember he held his diploma in his hands and said, "Finally. I'm gonna give it to my dad. Most expensive piece of paper ever. He can have it and admire it. This was for him, not for me."
Initially my mother had been completely against me becoming a flight attendant. She suggested I try applying to college after I struggled through my first year of university. I didn't feel like it anymore. I had no strength to go over the whole application process the third time. I guess if anything my actions could be seen as spiteful. I was given permission to do what I wanted to, but stayed in university. Maybe I was still hoping that something good would come out of it. I told my parents that applying to college was not an option at that moment, I didn't want to spend even more money on school, to which my father replied,
"But you have a University degree Karina. You're obviously not too stupid to be a flight attendant. Just go there and tell them you have a University degree and they should hire you. You're probably smarter than the other flight attendants."
It was then that I realized there was absolutely no point to continue to explain to my parents how things worked when it came to college and university educations. Jeremy had at least understood me in that respect, as the only person he was attaining his university degree for was his father. Not for himself. It became obvious that the older generation believed that a university education opened every door, and would allow an individual to go into any profession. That was the older generation's mentality, and it probably worked like this when they where kids. Now however, it seemed that every place that was hiring was interested in 'experience.' Only thing I 'experienced' in university was mindless boredom listening to class lectures, followed by overwhelming stress as I tried to finish assignments on time. I pictured myself going to the airport, and trying to find a job. I thought about the conversation I would have with someone in charge, and played it out in my mind.
"I'm interested in becoming a flight attendant."
"Okay. What qualifications do you have?"
"I have a university degree."
"Okay... that's good. But what job experience do you have?"
"I realize I have absolutely no experience or know the first thing about being a flight attendant, but I have something a lot more important. I have an Honours Bachelor of Arts Degree. I specialized in English at the university of Toronto."
"Okay... we'll call you."
I was happy with the help I received from the YMCA. Although it didn't seem very promising, a job as a waitress would be a perfect place to start. I did not feel I was too good to be a waitress. The problem for me was that waitressing seemed to demand very good balancing skills. I did not have these at all, and felt then that becoming a waitress was out of the question.
Now and again I would discuss this with my boyfriend. He was in a very similar situation. He framed his university degree and gave it to his father saying, "Here. This is what you wanted." After graduation he still worked as a stock boy in a grocery store by day, and in a warehouse at night, 4 times a week. He could find nothing better.