The summer after my senior year of high school, my father told me, “Chris, get the hell up off that couch, put some goddamn pants on and get a job.”
I tried to drown him out by turning up the volume on “Family Feud,” but it was during a prolonged period of silence due to a reference to the judges. The question was “name an excuse for not getting a job,” and the arbiters were debating whether “sloth” was a close enough answer to “privilege.”
I forget how they ruled.
The extended suspense allowed my father to add, “You’re going to have to chip in for your tuition, you know.”
“How much?” I asked.
“How does $2,000 sound?”
“$2,000 it is then.”
So I picked up some work boots, a helmet and a lunch pail and went to work. A friend’s father said he’d pay me 10 bucks an hour to be a bitch on a construction site. I negotiated a little bit and we settled on the name “laborer” instead of “bitch.” At first it wasn’t that bad. I met a born-again Christian named Animal, a Southerner with a two-pound cell phone and about 35 Mexicans. One of them was another 18-year-old who went by the name Guapo. Guapo and I were more or less the same, except that he had a 2-year-old boy and I had a 2-year-old parakeet.
After he told me about his predicament, I told him about mine.
“Going to college, huh? You better not blow that.” He said it with such conviction that I decided to register the words. “I guess you’d be really stupid to screw around though if you’re paying for some of it.”
Four years later, my stake in my education remains the same, only now I insist I pay. There have been times, usually around the last midterm or final, when reminding myself of my own investment was my sole motivational factor.
It seems to follow conventional logic that one would be more motivated with an ante in his education. Privatizing the individual’s educational process, or having financial interest in your own future, must be the best way to achieve that ever-fleeting notion of success. If I’m going to spend 200 bucks on a Kama Sutra class, you can bet I’ll be the first one spreading eagle.
OK, bad example. But you get my drift.
With age has come a greater appreciation for knowledge, and now I have other reasons for waking up for that dreadful 11 a.m. class. It’s actually interesting. Even the trivial seems worthwhile, but only because someday, knowing the difference D-Day and VE Day may land me a job.
If I had been living entirely off the parents’ dime though, I just can’t be sure that I’d still even be in school. Sure, there’s a level of appreciation to be had, but when you’ve been spoon-fed everything you’re entire life, you’re bound to bite.
While many students receive student loans, myself included, I have a hard time believing this has the same motivational effect as paying for an education in advance. We all have a delusional notion of the future. Some may think that they better try hard now because they’re going to have to be able to land a well-paying job once they graduate, but most of us believe everything will just work out. Maybe it will.
So, in closing, I’d like to say thanks Guapo and I hope you’re doing well. And Dad, thanks for making me put my pants on. I would have looked real silly in college without them.
Daily Nexus opinion editor Chris Trenchard also believes you should have a steak in your education.