Confessions of a Charity Case

The process of financing my education has always been a point of contention between my mother and I. We’ve spent every year since I’ve entered college bickering over whose responsibility it is to figure out FAFSA, or who should be the one emailing my advisor about all of the tax discrepancies we somehow have. For the most part we’ve always managed to navigate the messy process without killing each other, but this year things went way worse than expected. Things got so bad that we actually stopped talking to each for two full days, and for a moment, I thought for good.

Now to better understand how we got to this point, there are a few things you need to know about my upbringing. For starters, I grew up “comfortably.” My dad worked for Bank of America making a great salary and my mom was a stay-at-home mom and part time realtor. I got everything I could have possibly wanted as a child; I received the newest gaming console every Christmas, and treated the games I was gifted as poorly as Naomi Campbell treated her assistants. I attended private school from the fourth grade on, bought instruments that I never actually learned how to play, and attended an obscenely expensive theatre camp every summer. Both of my older siblings got their own cars, my sister graduated from college debt-free, and I just assumed that I’d always get whatever I wanted. I became accustomed to the materialism that surrounded me, and conditioned myself to believe that the key to good parenting was providing a child with as much as possible. Effectively I became an entitled lil’ bitch.

Things changed one day. My Dad came home and announced to the family that he quit his job. I couldn’t understand for the life of me why he had done such a thing and because I was so young I couldn’t comprehend the mental health reasons behind his decision. I just felt betrayed, I felt like my Dad was not fulfilling his parental duties, and it became quite clear that I really only saw him as a walking ATM. My Dad’s mental health issues and addiction made it difficult for him to hold down a job, so my mother was forced to start working full time, and it was then that I realized that we had financial troubles. My Dad’s uncle and brother started picking up our bills and I began attending a private Catholic high school on their dime. It was at this moment that my opinion of my parents forever changed. I no longer saw them as my providers, but as failures that stopped fulfilling their parental obligations.

In school it was difficult for me to reconcile my parent’s financial woes with the immense privileges I had. I felt like an impostor walking the halls of my eighteen thousand dollar a year high school; I felt ashamed and embarrassed because I thought I was a charity case. I was angry because I had to deal with financial anxieties the kids in my classes would never have to experience. Every privilege I had was entirely dependent upon my uncle and great uncle and I began to panic because I was afraid that they’d one day stop being generous. I started trying to impress them whenever possible to prove that I was worth their financial investment, and while it helped me get further ahead, I couldn’t help but feel that my future was contingent upon being who they wanted me to be. Eventually all the anxiety inside me turned to resentment, and I lost every bit of respect for my parents.

I graduated high school and set my sights on Emerson College. My dream at the time was to study theatre or screenwriting, and I thought Emerson would be the perfect place to explore that. I was thrilled when I was accepted. I was less thrilled when my Dad told me that I wouldn’t be going there because my great uncle would never support me studying at such a place. I ended up going to Northeastern, a place I’ve grown to love, but the anger I felt because of my powerlessness and my parents’ refusal to go to bat for me was something that stuck with me.

So what does this have to do with this summer? Well, my uncle is the one who cuts all of the tuition checks. My mother sends him the bill, he writes us a check, we give it to Northeastern, and I get to go to college relatively debt free. This year, however, things went awry when my uncle wrote a check that differed from what the actual balance was. A miscommunication had occurred between him and my mother, and she tasked me with not only explaining the discrepancy of my bill but my brother’s as well. It’s also important to note that my financial aid advisor was up my ass because my mother kept fucking up her tax transcripts, which resulted in my financial aid award being incredibly delayed. On top of that I was told if I didn’t immediately pay my bill that all of my classes would be dropped. The stress of not knowing my aid, the fear of losing my course schedule, and the immense discomfort I felt toward “begging” for money, led to a complete meltdown on my part.I completely ripped into my mother, calling her a failure as a parent and pathetic for not being able to support her own children. I let lose all of the venom that I’d been holding onto for the past ten years and made my greed and entitlement abundantly clear. I pushed her to the point of tears and then announced that upon graduating I would never set foot in our house again.

A few days later my uncle and I sorted out the tuition bill and I received my financial aid award for the year. None of my classes were dropped. I felt a weight lifted off my shoulders and apologized to my mother for all the awful things I said. It’s strange knowing that my period of being financially dependent upon my family members is almost over. I’ve saved enough money that I will be able to get an apartment upon graduating regardless of whether or not I’ve gotten a job yet and I secretly feel good knowing I have an escape plan. I will finally be able to live my life as I want, without worrying about whether or not I was a worthy investment for my great uncle. I will start having new financial burdens of my own, and deal with them in the ways I see fit. But I have to remind myself of the obscene privileges and opportunities I’ve had since birth, and how those things will shape the rest of my life whether I want them to or not. I sincerely hope that I’ll be able to fully reconcile my relationships with my parents and that being on my own will make me less of an entitled douchebag. It’s always been so easy finding faults in my parents, but I hope I am able to fully embrace everything they sacrificed for me. I pray that if I have a child one day that I will be able to give him or her everything he or she wants, but I pray even harder that they will love and respect me if I’m not able to.

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