Life without safety nets

Marcus Barkley

With only four days left in my college career – unless I manage to fail Media Law – I feel like a trapeze artist, without all the fancy leotards and glitter.

Until last week, I’d managed to put little worry into my life after Kent State. It wasn’t that I didn’t care about a future career or my life after I received that $40,000 piece of paper. I was just so worried about surviving Media Writing, Copyediting, Print Beat Reporting and Reporting Public Affairs that I hadn’t given the future much thought. I am also the kind of person who continuously tells people close to me to not worry so much about things in life or they will wind up killing you – or at least driving you to a pleasant stay at mental home somewhere.

But that all changed when I called Huntington Bank’s phone operation system Sunday night. The robotic female voice told me I have 373 dollars – and zero cents. After receiving that uplifting statement of my financial position, I came to the stunning realization that, with my monthly housing bills, I will be just about broke come Christmas. And that’s when I realized my next step on the tightrope of life would be one without the security of something to catch me if I fall.

Up to that moment, I had taken Kent State for granted. I had been here for four and a half years and just glided through, waiting for the moment when I could casually toss aside my course requirements and never have to schedule another class. Now, I realize it was Kent State and higher education protecting me from a world where I couldn’t fall back on grants or school loans. And for the first time ever, the concept of leaving KSU scared me.

I work at Dunkin’ Donuts in my hometown of Salem every other week because it’s tough to handle a full-time job and a full-time journalistic education. I know, with my loans spent, the $150 to $200 paychecks won’t cover my housing and life bills for long. So now I have to head out and try to use my degree to make enough money to survive semi-comfortably – and maybe even enjoy what I do.

But this is the point in the story where the prodigal son comes home. After taking my education for granted for almost half a decade, I know it is the only thing left to hold me up. That is the only thing that has kept me from a full-out panic attack. I know, even as much as I have complained to anyone who would listen, my tenure in the JMC program has prepared to take that next step without nets.

With my scatter-brained rant nearly over, I leave any of you with time left before your higher education clock strikes zero with this. Be thankful you are here and don’t get too upset with what this university throws your way – it’s really the only thing that will save you from being stuck in a job you hate with the daily fear you will be replaced by an 8-year-old Chinese girl or an inquisitive robot. College sucks and it will drive you into madness and possibly an addiction to booze, cigarettes or Adderall, but it beats the hell out of the alternatives.

So now I’m off. I guess you can wish me luck if you like because I know I’ll need it, even with the solid educational footing I’ve manage to somehow achieve. My only advantage as I step out into that “Real World” is that I covered the Kent State gymnastics team last semester, so I think I know a thing or two about balance.

Marcus Barkley is a senior magazine journalism major and a public affairs reporter for the Daily Kent Stater. He also previously covered sports for two semesters. Contact him at [email protected].