My GoFundMe campaign has raised some questions (as well as almost $4K already!) about my willingness to take out student loans while pursuing my dream of getting my Ph.D. At first I thought my personal finances weren’t anyone’s dang business, but then I realized a response is quite fair when I am asking people to contribute their own hard-earned money. So here goes…
Bottom line is OF COURSE I will take out student loans while finishing my degree. If a Ph.D. “only” cost $60K I would have gotten one long, long ago. Instead, my priority was buying a home. The only permanent residence I have ever lived in was the house where I was sexually exploited. We actually moved from there my junior year of high school because my mother couldn’t afford the upkeep once my exploiter left. (Our hot water heater broke and my mother’s abusive father — who had quite a bit of money by stereotypical Appalachian standards — would only lend my mother the money for a new one.) I was really sad to leave the school district where I had attended since Kindergarten (my abusive grandfather and his cruel second wife were the only family I had living in the district, so I had to switch schools).
Moving was hard, but we definitely had more financial freedom. My mother never made more than $21K a year before she died (at age 48 from cancer). Our new apartment was close to her work and was in the “downtown” area so we could walk everywhere. But losing space and amenities were key downsides to moving from a three-bedroom house to a two-bedroom apartment. I spent many days after school at the laundromat while my friends were hanging out. Plus, this was never my home. I went to college one year later. I had no attachment to this apartment and was not sad for one moment when I closed the door for the final time after my mother died.
So I never really, truly had a home and I wanted one…badly. My “alternate dream job” is interior design. I actually gave the “home goods” industry a whirl for about nine months, but came running back to academia. I am a bookworm and social scientist (who reads a lot of shelter and fashion magazines) at heart. Instead I now live vicariously through visiting my favorite designers’ blog (Erin Gates’ Elements of Style) and stores/websites (Jill Goldberg’s Hudson). And I just didn’t want a home decorate (although that’s a plus), I wanted to be a part of a community. Now I am. We bought a modest condo in a leafy suburb/college town outside of Boston (and have decorated it with furniture almost exclusively found on Craigslist). We rented our place for four years and graciously bought from our landlords three years ago.
I have reached all of my dreams I wanted since I was a child. Safety – check. New friends – check. Loving husband and family – check and check. Master’s degree – check. Amazing son – check. Home – check. Now it’s time to realize this final dream of earning my Ph.D. This will take awhile but it’s worth it. Everything else I have wanted in my life has taken the same patience and perseverance. Not to mention money. Any academic pursuit these days is going to take a sizable chunk of change, and the investment is worth every penny.
Never would I dream of asking for a free ride while receiving my Ph.D. I have worked like a dog every day of my life – first to just survive, then to navigate the difficult journey of leaving a violent situation, and now to thrive. I got a job, literally, the day after I turned 16, not just to help pay for car insurance and gas like most teens. I worked to help pay for food and most of my own clothes (at Salvation Army, mind you…and not because it was cool/alternative…it’s what I could afford).
The $66K for crowdfunding campaign is a drop in the bucket of what I will need to pay for tuition and salary lost over six years (I can only work part-time because my program requires full-time study). I decided to start the campaign to just make things a little easier. My undergrad took me six years to complete and my master’s took ten because I needed to take time off to earn money. Now I am asking for help.
The worst part of paying my own way, though, was the isolation. I had no family support and minimal friend support (I was in the process of extracting myself from my hometown community while earning these degrees). I wanted to start this campaign to create a community of encouragement (financial and emotional) around me. I, and other human trafficking survivors, need support beyond the “crisis” point of surviving exploitation. We deserve to realize the authentic people we were meant to be in the world, which often requires additional education.
I appreciate everyone who has come along for the ride of my campaign thus far, and look forward to connecting with all of the people who will help me raise the remaining $62K. This campaign truly has become one of my favorite things I have ever done. Combing education and raising awareness about human trafficking is a powerful mix in my life.
Thank you all for being you. #youmatter
Visit My GoFundMe Page: Support a Trafficking Survivor’s Dream (Please know sharing this campaign with your friends, family, and colleagues via social media helps just as much as contributing – you can help by spreading the word.) Thx