*As told to Kally anonymously
These days, degrees are like pennies. They are everywhere and nowhere special, unlike 20 or 30 years ago when having a degree gave you an edge over other job applicants.
When I started pursuing my social work degree, I thought being a social worker was my divine calling, but the truth is, I was oblivious career-wise. My parents often lamented that my head was always stuck in dreamland. Without much interest, I surprised myself by completing my studies without any hiccups. Perhaps I thought it is the only way I could get my parents off my back.
I started my job search immediately after graduating. I graduated with a degree in social sciences in 2003, an era marked by the SARS outbreak in Asia. A lousy time for job seekers, indeed. I applied for 50 jobs, and none responded. Each rejection was like a sledgehammer to my ego. My parents were constantly nagging me. I felt so depressed and stifled living with my parents. After one year of fruitless job search, my aunt offered me a temporary position as a receptionist at the company she worked in. I could not let the offer pass; within a week, I had moved out to the city.
The pay wasn’t enough to cater for my expenses, including rent, so I had to stay with my aunt. For the next eight months, I got retail weekend jobs in my attempts to make a living. But money was never enough. It didn’t matter much that I had to forgo going out with my friends or never buying anything new. Besides, I spent all the time I had working.
After two years of temping as a receptionist, I secured a job as a production assistant in a certain film company. Although the pay is adequate and the job is enjoyable, the projects aren’t constant. There are some weeks I stay at home waiting for calls from work. At that time, I waitress for income.
My entire family thinks that I am wasting my life away without any aim or goals. My parents love to remind me that they are still paying off my student loan, and my degree is like a piece of trash because I’m not using it. I hate attending family gatherings now. The only person who is still supportive is my aunt, whom I’m still living with. Whatever amount I earn, half of it goes to my parents to pay off my student loan. And I contribute to food and transportation with whatever’s left.
It is not as if I am wasting my life away or living off my parents. Although my wages are not consistent, I have never stopped working. Apart from my student loan and a roof over my head, I have never asked a single cent from my family. I have no debts and no bad habits. I don’t drink or go out partying. I don’t smoke, don’t do drugs and hate gambling of any kind.
My coworkers at the film company never knew I had a degree. The job does not require one, so I told nobody that I’m a graduate. I think that my work attitude speaks for itself. I don’t need to prove my education with a piece of paper. So in a way, yeah, my parents are right about my degree being trash.
My aunt thinks that I have not settled down on a career path because I have not found my calling yet. However, I am not sure if I will ever find a calling or something I am passionate about. I dread the weekly calls my parents make to my aunt to check up on me because I no longer pick up their calls.
Right now, I’m just trying to live my life the way I want to without someone dictating how it should be.
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