Friday night at 1am, I come up to the intersection that is crowded by all nighters, lovers, and drunks. I randomly steer to the left lane. A vacant cab is like a hungry stray cat that without aim wanders on streets that have better chance of finding food and lets luck decide the next meal. I was in process of turning left when I saw a girl from street ahead flagging me. I frantically steered back right and before other cabs got to her, I dipped to the right of the street from the left turn and picked her up. She was headed north. Carla, 28 from the burbs, works as server and bartender at a new restaurant in a hipster neighborhood. She was hanging out with friends after her shift. She got a bachelors in business management at 22 and moved to Chicago and has been working in restaurant industry. I asked her how come she waits tables after studying such major. She said: I don’t know what I want to do yet. I got the degree under pressure from my parents. They shoved me in college right after high school. I asked why business management? She said: No particular reason. I didn’t give it too much thought. Carla has took out loans to pay for school that she has to pay back in years to come, a story that she unfortunately isn’t alone in. High education costs are astronomical in America. I have many friends who are stuck under the burden of government and private student loans. To avoid accumulation of interests with such high rates, they don’t have too much time to ponder their work future and either do non related work to their major or stay in school and delay and worsen the bitter financial reality. Some definitely are able to pull it off but others can’t defeat this unfair equation. High education has become an industry in America that lures in people with motivation and hope and lets them out with a degree in hand and a massive debt and hands them off to sharks of loan industry. One of my friends who was the same age as me and was struggling with this mess, unfortunately passed away after battling cancer. “Sallymay” loan company’s persistence forced her mother to cash in most of her retirement funds to clear her dead daughter’s debt. I asked Carla where she sees herself in 10 years. She said: I don’t know. I asked: Why don’t you open your own restaurant? You have the experience and also studied management. She said: I am afraid to do so. Restaurant business has failure risks. As I was letting her out, I told her: Sometimes the sign to the path of success is the very feeling of fear that prevents one to step on that path.
Chicago – Summer 2014