Education Will Save My Life

In the past few weeks, I have been celebrating the rite of passage of higher education, but more importantly, I have been trying to project what my future would look like if I had not gone back to school in 2016. These musings mostly come to mind when I scan the headlines related to COVID-19, which has been especially poorly handled in the state of Texas, where I lived from 2009 to 2016.

Pessimism

The parallel universe I inhabit looks bleak at best and catastrophic at worst.

Trading unemployment for high-risk essential worker positions which pay minimum wage. Trying to pay rent ($725 at my last Texas residence), buy groceries, and get gas for the car with unemployment benefits of $2731 per week, or $2902 per week if working. Watching the ruthlessly penny-pinched savings balance from better days ($15/hour) evaporate. Fitfully reaching for breathing techniques, YouTube yoga, anything to relieve the continuous crescendo from anxiety to panic.

Grieving the transition from being housing-insecure to a new inevitability: homelessness.

For millions of people across the US, this is not a dystopic dream. It is a true crisis, as inescapable as the labor culture that brought this reality to bear.

Optimism

For folks in high technology, it is probably hard to appreciate the urgency of this situation, and I am beginning to understand why.

I start a new job in three weeks. I will be a software engineer at Google. I will make more money in the next four months than I have in the past two years. I will have health benefits, excellent health benefits, for the first time in two years. Saving for retirement, or a down payment on a house, is no longer a dream; it is a goal.

Humility

A few weeks ago, I met up with some friends to walk through SLU and catch up (masks on, 6 foot bubbles in attendance). K asked me about the new job, and I immediately started talking about savings goals, finally going to the dentist, relocation plans. Offhandedly, I said, “I realized a few days ago that I could save 100 grand in 4 years.” T stared at me, and the ice bath of realization washed over me.

My friend T, the artist and photographer with a wicked sense of humor, is suffering. They are one of the most vulnerable people in our circle of friends. They have not been able to work in months. They have channeled their time, creativity, and energy to shed light on BLM in Seattle because, as a POC, they have suffered racial profiling and police brutality their entire lives.

And I, a white woman of privilege and education, am immune to their problems.

My immunity will become a problem.

Futures

I feel the fear and hopelessness that is pervasive. In the face of a global health crisis, we feel small and ineffective. But I believe, now more than ever, leveraging our own resources to protect each other is the responsible thing to do.

Donating:

Obviously, this is not an inclusive list. If you cannot donate money, it is possible to donate time, blood, plasma, and food. Most importantly, we can all hold space for each other: provide an emotional refuge so that we all feel less alone and live a shared experience.

Last, but not least: wear a mask. Wash your hands.

:dart:

  1. Based on TWC’s estimated benefits calculator using biweekly pre-tax income and a wage of $15 per hour with a 35-hour work week. 

  2. Pre-tax income for 40-hour work weeks at federal minimum wage. Add 25% if working as a grocery store cashier ($9/hour).