“you’ll never have to worry,” my uncle said upon my responding to his question of what I might do once I finished my phd in biochemistry.
Worry about rent money, about buying enough food for the week, gas money, car payment, bus change, electricity, diapers, taxes, phone, heat, shoes. Worry about how do I get the money for this thing I need when I already don’t have the money for these other things I need.
But I do worry. What if I got sick? What if I couldn’t work for a little while? How would I make it?
Not to mention… so many things. Not to mention my family. And the world. And that worry.
That worry that never goes away.
Seeing that worry in my mother’s face as she calculated up our cartload of groceries before getting to the register so she would never have to put something back that we couldn’t afford with the food stamps she had.
That worry as the bills lay spread out on the kitchen table, her checkbook by her side, her notepad scratched with 10 for this, 20 for this.
Consternation at the idea of another field trip at school: could she afford to send me? Should I ask, dare I ask when there is so much we already don’t have? When I already take so much?
Worrying at school about my second hand clothes, my salvation army clothes, my lack of toys and stuff to list off as christmas presents. How do I get money to go to the movies or mcdonald’s with my friends? How do I pretend I’m not poor?
Worrying about getting into a college we could “afford”. Worrying about affording the colleges I got into. Worrying about what to do with my life, picking a career that would be financially stable but that I could get to being poor. You dismiss the idea of med school because being $150,000 in debt is unimaginable. How do you think about going to a school which costs more than your mother makes in a year? Calculating how many hours I need to work to pay for school books, phone, bus tickets home, and everything else one needs for college life?
But I made it through. I made it up. I made it out. Supposedly. According to people still on the inside, I have nothing to worry about. and they're right. i can't dismiss that they are right.
Being a grad student is certainly not a wealthy lifestyle, by any means. But I am stable and I don’t struggle to pay my bills. I don’t have to think about every dollar I spend on groceries, and if it’s going to come from somewhere else. And, moreover, I’ve learned very well how to “pretend I’m not poor”—how to interact and dress in ways that belie my origins. In those things, I do not have to worry.
After grad school I should be able to get a job which will be able to more than supply the necessities. In that, I do not have to worry. And yet I will. I will feel that, carry that anxiety with me. I will always struggle over whether I really need something before spending my money. Agonize and then regret the purchase if I think I could have done without it.
Despite my uncle’s assurances, I will worry, even if I don’t have to.