Thursday, September 8, 2011

Tough Times & an Unexpected Letter

I moved to San Jose with about $1400 of (borrowed) money. I figured it would last until I got my financial aid check. Turns out I underestimated a few things: 1) the cost of living in a large city, and 2) the length of time it would take to get my check.
It didn't take long to realize I needed a job, and fast. I sniffed around the English Department for available positions, but-- no dice. Time to hit the streets, then. Here's where being a graduate student is a disadvantage. On campus, most jobs are geared towards "work study" credit for undergrads. Off campus, most employers don't want to hire me because of the assumption (and it's a good one) that I would only be a short hire as I'd always have my eye out for a better opportunity somewhere else.
So, over a month in SJ and I have yet to find a job. Times are tough. Luckily, my family in the East Bay have had a few get togethers on weekends for birthdays and whatnot. Not only do I get some company, but... there is always tons of FREE FOOD at my disposal! However, since I'm hardly eating well during the week, I tend to GORGE myself once I get to the party. I wonder what this is doing to my stomach.
To eat better, I know all I'd really have to do is drive down to the East Bay on a more consistent basis, but there are a few things standing in my way: 1) pride-- I came to SJ to be independent, after all, and I don't want to bug my aunts and uncles for money or food, and 2) pure distance-- I live 25 miles away, and fuel costs more than I can currently afford.
Every day I had constantly wondered why my financial aid check was taking so long to reach me, especially since my online status showed that everything was in order. I finally decided to go to the financial aid office to see what was going on. I found the person behind the counter annoying and defensive, like he was taking my concerns personally. Anyway, it turned out that I needed to "complete financial aid counseling online" before my check could be sent, and I was upset because no one contacted me about it. I explained that my online status did not mention any counseling, and since my money was delayed I haven't been able to buy any books yet, was running out of grocery money, etc. The guy didn't care at all, didn't show any empathy. He was probably thinking about his lunch break. Meanwhile, broke as I was, I wasn't very happy upon knowing my check would be delayed ever further.
There was nothing I could do except go home and do the "financial aid counseling." This consisted  of going online, reading a couple of paragraphs and clicking a button that said I understood everything. No humanity to it at all, just a silly computer screen and me clicking buttons with my mouse. The money I so desperately needed was delayed because of THIS? I was finally on the brink. My cash was down to single digits.
Afterwards, I decided to take a hour-long walk in the city. It was free, and it would help clear my head. When I got back home, I decided to check the mailbox. To my surprise, there sat a letter from my friend Joe.

Happy to hear news from my friend, I read the letter quickly. Then I saw the check. A lot of emotions came to me upon seeing the it nestled in the envelope. Surprised, humbled, moved. The check will help hold me over until my financial aid arrives.
I will use the money wisely. Thanks, Joe. Your kindness won't be forgotten.

Now, don't send me any more money. I'm supposed to be on my own, dammit!    :)

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