A choice or a necessity?

Erica Desjardins holding a picture frame that reads I am First Gen.
Posted by Erica DesJardins on

“You’re choosing to be here.”

This sentence has been said to me many times, particularly when discussing the barriers in not only getting access to education but also the barriers attached with actually reaching the end - earning a degree. This semester, it was said to me in a bio lab that I was taking as a requirement for my degree.

The table was discussing the usefulness of having students take a course that relates nothing to their choice of major. Almost everyone was in agreement that it usually isn’t helpful to students and is especially frustrating when a professor is not making an effort to teach while students are paying hundreds for the course. But, there was one who didn’t understand my point of view. This is of course understandable, but what isn’t understandable is making all assuming statements because privilege is being remembered instead of a fact: everyone has a story, a unique story with different twists and turns.

On a technicality, yes, I am choosing to pursue a degree. Where the discrepancy lies is whether or not it’s really a choice for some people, those like me, to try at earning a degree beyond a high school diploma.

Growing up, I witnessed my mother struggle to pay bills, feed my siblings and I, and actually do something she enjoyed instead of working multiple jobs to try and support all of us. I do believe if somewhere, someone along the line had gotten the chance to pursue and then earn a higher education things could’ve turned out differently. There may not have been multi-generational abuse, poverty, and hardship. But, they did not get that chance, that privilege.

Instead, I am fighting to break those said curses and forging my path to be the first in generations to earn a degree.

To have a reason for employers to have to pay me a livable wage, for a chance at working my way above the poverty line, and for my future children filling out paperwork to be able to choose the box of ‘bachelors or higher.’

So, yes I am wanting to be here but it is not wholeheartedly a choice.

Without the housing that being a student offers, I would have nowhere to go. Without the on-campus jobs I work, I would most likely not be making more than minimum wage or doing something I enjoy.

It is, though, a wholehearted necessity. A bachelor’s degree (and one day above that too) means a chance at a safe, successful, and fulfilling life.