An excerpt from “Too Busy Being Poor (To Be Creative)” by Ayla-Monic McKay:
[P]oor kids don’t usually get to be tortured artists—there is no realistic opportunity to do so. I found my first job at 14 so I could help my single mother pay the power bill. I babysat my little brothers because child care was unaffordable. I worked two jobs while taking out as many student loans as I could so that I could maybe, just maybe, get a degree that would move me up the food chain just enough so that life might not be a permanent struggle.
Jane says: Yas! As a thirty-something woman with a BA and an MFA, this essay gets me. As McKay stated, “That first degree I got while working and digging myself into debt didn’t exactly move me up the food chain as much as I had hoped.” Some days I flirt with the idea of a third degree, then I quake the thought away and return to hustling. But going back to school is a very real back-up plan tucked in my dress pocket so that maybe, one day, I can pay for piano or ukulele or hula lessons.
In undergrad, I remember choosing between attending my Art History night class at CC or picking up a waitressing shift to pay the rent for my subsidized apartment. Now, I pay my bills then write, minus random chunks of minutes. (Note: Writing is not something I dabble in; I write to breathe and hope, some day, to make art all day, every day.) Just the fact that I get to pay my bills and write, even if I am only typing what color the sky is and something I overheard in the bathroom for a half-hour a day and singing No to all of the things that I want on Sephora.com, makes me feel rich. You can take the kid out of the last tax bracket, but the memories.
Btw, what human says “various etceteras”with a stone face?