Low Income, High Expectations

Vox posted an article about how universities discriminate against students that come from lower-income families. Being a student who has lived on government welfare for the majority of my life to-date, I relate to this article. Particularly the part that mentions that lower-income students had the tendency to want to help out their families after college.

This manifested itself for me in an immense change of life aspirations directly before I went to college. I intended to go to an art school to become a sort of “traveling artist” with the desire to draw everything I came across. I had this dream for the first 15 years of my life. I then realized that I wouldn’t be able to provide for my family on the wages of an artist. Maybe not even if I was incredibly talented.

This is what catalyzed The Chain of “Suitable” Fields. Naive Kaitlyn thought that a teacher would be paid buckoo bucks for educating the youth of America. Obviously, this is not the case. I nixed that dream pretty quickly. I also thought about being a nurse, a vet, a professor of any field. To me, these aspirations were all the things that would save my family from the position they were in.

Eventually, I settled on the field of wildlife biology after taking a million career tests. I stuck around the biology department for three years, nearly failing all of my classes and dropping below Ball State University’s Good Standing measures. All of my peers seemed to have time for an actual life, while I never felt comfortable actually leaving the study tables. They still seemed to know more than I did, even though I would spend 5 hours a night at the library.

The fact of the matter: I didn’t fit in. I felt out of place entirely in the biology field. The further I drove myself in, the less of a future I saw for myself. I didn’t really connect with any of my peers. I couldn’t figure out the material, no matter how hard I studied. I couldn’t find my purpose.

Despite my being completely miserable, I stayed. Keep in mind, there were people that told me I wouldn’t work out in the biology field. I refused to listen to them. This desire to have a well-paying job out of college stuck to my brain. I would be capable of not only taking care of myself, but taking care of my family, too. I told myself this constantly.

However, I didn’t completely forget about their words. At the time, I thought that they were doubting my ability to succeed. I suppose that some of them might have even been (honestly, it was totally fair; I was literally on the path to failure in biology). Even though I still felt like I had to be a biologist, I did heed their advice. Their words rang true, deep down in my brain. They opened something up: possibility.

When I was studying biology, I felt like I was trapped in the middle of an ocean. The waves were constantly crashing down. Every time I swam in one direction, the waves brought me right back to where I was. Their words of reality was a lifesaver being thrown in my direction, but I was determined to swim on to shore by myself. I didn’t like having help, because I always thought I had to help my family. Particularly when I got to college.

Switching to English Studies was the best decision I have made in a long time. I enjoy school now. I find myself more suited to creating things, which is what – I realize now – I should have been doing all along. I have a lot of potential careers that I’m interested in pursuing after school. I may not be able to take care of my family, but I will be able to for sure take care of myself. And frankly, I think that’s totally fine.


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