Money, Life, and Uni Students

“Live life to the fullest,” they say.
“You only get one shot, why don’t you try something new every day?”
“Everyone should go skydiving at least once, so they can feel completely alive.”


These voices remind us, day in day out, of our mortality. That every day should be an opportunity to make a memory, wrapped in a smile, that you take to the grave. And I completely agree with them. Every day should be special, given that life is a gift. And people of most ages are able to do this:

Babies: Well, we’re still high on whatever that chemical is that is released when we’re born. (I am not sure of the specific scientific facts on the matter, but from what I’ve heard, there’s some drug available out there that mimics the chemical released when we’re born and again when we die. Apparently it’s what the white light actually is). So, for the first however long after we’re born, we are all high out of our minds. Which means that every experience would be pretty fucking incredible.

Toddlers: Everything is a discovery. Curtains, cockroaches, chocolate, Care Bears; everything is something new to discover. We haven’t yet learnt to take things for granted. Hell, we even find the strange detritus thrown away by our parents exciting. There’s no taking life for granted there.

Children: While we understand our world, for the most part, there are still things that baffle us. So children are – either adorably or annoyingly, depending on your personal prejudices – curious. Kids ask so many more questions than adults, simply because they want to know everything. (I bet you are all, now, imagining that one child in your life that is constantly whining “But why?”). It is the beginning of that search for deeper meaning that seems to plague teenagers. Even if, for the child, it’s just the reason that they can’t have that toy/lolly/game/money.

Teenagers: (even though I only stopped being one in March last year). When I was a teenager—actually, let me try again. From about the ages of fifteen until almost nineteen, I was living at home and I had a job. I had no financial responsibilities and I had this wonderful thing called disposable income. God, I miss it. I was able to go out, do things, and even more amazingly, buy things. When I turned eighteen, it wasn’t actually a stretch for me to go out drinking and dancing once a week with my friends. I bought concert tickets, my first tattoo, books (oh God, the books), and every once in a while, clothes. Because I could. Because I knew that there would always be food, water, electricity, and internet no matter what I spent my money on. I was able to pay for those experiences that “they” are always telling us are crucial to living a full life.

Adults: And I mean proper adults. Yes, they have bills, children, and probably the most responsibility of any of the age groups, but they have proper jobs. Take my mum, for example. She is a Client Liaison Officer at her job. She’s not rich, but she does OK. She manages to pay all of her living expenses and still have enough left over for the things that she wants. And so do most of the other proper adults I know.

Seniors: I don’t know that much about the Baby Boomer generation. I know that there are pension struggles and health struggles and all of that. So I don’t want to make any generalisations. But there’s still superannuation that kicks in here, and retirement funds, if the people were forward thinking enough to set them aside. The children are grown and now there are grandkids to spoil. Honestly, all of my grandparents have either passed on or are too far away for me to have enough exposure to their lifestyles to make any calls here. (I also know that there are people in situations that don’t fit what I have said in my past few sections. I am talking about the people I know, and the experiences I have had. I had a privileged upbringing. No silver spoon, but I never had to worry about where my next meal was going to come from).

I have skipped a section of the life cycle here. Young Adult. Specifically, Uni Student. And a special subsection of uni students. Those who have moved out of their parents’ house and are trying to balance grown-up living expenses on the wages of a retail/hospitality job. (*cough* Subway *cough*), all the while trying to study for one of those proper jobs.

Earlier today, I was speaking to a friend who was telling me that he feels trapped in his life. And I could completely sympathise. It’s hard to “grab every opportunity” life throws at you, when all of those opportunities have a price tag. For me, I get excited when I have enough to buy a new book (not for a while now, though), or can go to dinner with friends, or can actually go out and pay the exorbitant prices for drinks at a club/bar. Sometimes it’s possible for me to do a couple of these things in a week, and that is a bloody good week. But for a couple of months, I was excited when I could buy a coffee from the café next to work, or a bath bomb from Lush. Spending those $5-$6 extra dollars on myself felt indulgent. And that made me feel good.

But a lot of the time, I resort to escapism to forget for a while that I have to pay this, do that, go here, organise that. It’s a lot cheaper to open my laptop and watch a movie than it is to go outside and do the same thing. Once I leave the house I have to worry about train fare, ticket prices, and snacks. Because who goes to the movies without snacks? And it is a lot cheaper to travel with the Doctor in his TARDIS via a screen than it is to get in my car, or attempt to pay airfares.

So I get incredibly annoyed when I hear those ads trying to get me to “get out there and live life”. Because  I would love to. Only, I have to be able to eat this week.


Postscript: For those of you who think I am making this up, check out this article. It’s based on a report that was actually undertaken here in Australia. Admittedly, I earn a bit more than the uni students mentioned here, but that doesn’t mean that that extra money goes very far:

Two-thirds of university students living below the poverty line (ABC News)

About Bec Graham

Bec Graham, 24, was born on the wrong continent. Everything from her burns-like-paper skin tone to her inability to cope with the slightest hint of a hot day suggests she should have been born under the gloomy skies and mild sun of the UK. She hopes writing will get her to her rightful home one day. Failing that, she scans the skies for a spinning blue police box, hoping to catch a lift back to the motherland.
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