At What Cost : Gabrielle’s Story

“I wanted a perfect ending.  Now I’ve learned, the hard way, that some poems don’t rhyme, and some stories don’t have a clear beginning, middle, and end.  Life is about not knowing, having to change, taking a moment and making the best of it.  Without knowing what is going to happen next. Delicious Ambiguity.”  – Gilda Radner

Six years ago, I was a starry-eyed freshman in high school.  Instructors pumped my adolescent mind full to the brim with ideas of grandeur.  I was “special” and “different.” I day dreamed of all the brilliant things I could accomplish once emancipating myself from the podunk1 town where I grew up.  Early on, I set my heart on attending New York University to study film and acting.

As I matured and had new experiences—my taste changed.  In the midst of a life-altering trip to Chicago the summer before my junior year, I made up my mind yet again.  A dedicated Saturday Night Live fan, I was geeked to see a performance at The Second City, an infamous sketch comedy venue, from where most Saturday Night Live alumni hail.  I saw Studs Terkel’s “Not Working” on The Second City’s E.T.C.  stage.  Cue my innate desire to study improvisation.

For the next two years, I practiced monologues in my mirror and wrote sketches in my spare time. College prep came early; coveting future success, I enrolled in classes at a local community college at age 16.  When graduation finally arrived, I had a year and a half of college under my belt.  I had searched meticulously for schools to satisfy my criteria: a reputable film program and near a decent improv training center.  I chose one school in New York and three in Chicago; I applied for no schools in Ohio.  Ohio, with its staples in football and agriculture, just didn’t seem practical—considering my aspirations.

I had a 3.7 with excellent recommendations and promising extra-curricular activities, so what did I have to fear about admissions?  Nothing! In true, Rachel Berry-like fashion, I was accepted into each school.  I banked on financial aid.  My parents made it abundantly clear that they would not be contributing a substantial -or rather, any- amount of money toward my education.

Upon receiving my financial aid awards, I accepted the highest one and fled to Loyola University in Chicago.  Utterly overestimating my ability to raise the remainder of the expenses by “working”, I struggled; I was back in Ohio within a year.  I lived on my own and attended Kent State University for another year—I was miserable.  My finances looking bleak, I couldn’t live on my own, work full time, and pay for school without compromising my psyche.  I developed dire emotional problems, including depression and chronic anxiety.  Coming from too prosperous a family to receive aid for small schools, and not having the money that the government said I did to pay for larger liberal arts colleges, I literally could not afford school.  Giving up on school was not an option. Everything I ever want to do with my life requires a higher education.  EVERYTHING.

Now I’m in my childhood bedroom, staring at the hideous turquoise paint I picked out when I was obviously below the mental capacity to justify making my own decisions.  I’m enrolled in the Lancaster branch of Ohio University; it’s an hour commute from my parents’ house, and only offers an Associate’s Degree in media technology.  It’s not exactly what I want—but I can work full-time, pay my bills and not worry about accumulating a small fortune in student loan debt.  My future is unclear, and I have a vehement anxiety disorder that often causes me to feel as though I will have to compromise every portion of my dreams just to stay afloat financially.  The starry-eyed freshman I once was is now dead; the Department of Education killed it.  Now it’s just me, 20 year old Gabrielle, and I have to try to make it.  I have to succeed for that poor, dead, past me. (I kind of feel like Katniss Everdeen when Rue died.)



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