Yesterday presented a good, albeit unnerving example of this. I've recently been called upon to get a new credit card. Once or twice a year, my dad will shock me into real life by saying something ludicrous like, "Alright, Ilsers, its time for taxes! Do you have your W-something 125er forms?" Things like this terrify me. The other day, my dad said something like, "Okay Ilse-Pilsa, it turns out that your old credit card company, old-bank-so-and- so, are terrible people and have been charging you interest for every purchase you make even though you have been paying them off in time!" Upon hearing that this was NOT a good or normal thing, we set up an appointment with another similar-sounding bank to get a credit card.
Now, I took a financial-literacy 101 seminar through AmeriCorps last year, which told me enough about taxes and credit history so that I can sound passable talking about them in conversation, but in general, I'm not wired for this sort of stuff. I spent a half hour seated across from a tiny woman who barraged me with questions like, "Do you want an over-draft protection that will only kick in when you have gone 20% over your balance, but is completely free except for the 13.6% fee if you don't pay us back in time?", and "Would you like a credit/checkings account or a checkings/savings account or a buffalo/savings account?" At a certain point after saying yes without any notion of what I was agreeing to so many times that it felt potentially dangerous, I finally bothered to call myself out. "Look, I am kind of lost. I thought I was just getting a credit account?" Then, I pulled out some financial literacy 101 stuff to wow her. "I know that usually you just pay back credit card bills at the end of each month, so...why would I need 50 dollars to start that account?" Cue blank stare. "Actually," she informed me, "we are just APPLYING for a credit account. The 50 would be for your checkings account. Those are completely different. And, speaking of that, I just got your application back from the over/under writers. They say that they can't accept you because you are not making enough income to have a credit card with us."
Okay. Excuse me? Anyone making under 12,000 a year (which is many Americans) can't even HAVE a credit card and build a credit history? Although my past year of AmeriCorps which has left me with 22 dollars in my savings account, and my two years of Peace Corps looming in the future are not exactly profitable, I should still be able to have a credit card especially considering I have a nearly perfect credit history! How do low-income people and families ever build up a credit history if they can't even qualify for a credit card?
I left the bank in Highland Park irked, not only because I was denied a credit card and confused, but also because I was the only person walking in Highland Park (a neighborhood in Saint Paul). The bank didn’t have a door on the sidewalk part of the street, only one in back by the parking lot. There were several parts of Highland Park that didn’t have a sidewalk at all, just more space for cars to drive. People drive across the lot or street from one shop to another although it's a beautiful autumn day. How cars are less an alternate form of transportation and more a way of life now? How has walking become old-fashioned and discouraged and frankly a nuisance?
Contrary to initial impressions, this blog is not intended solely as a forum for bitching. This blog is supposed to be for this confusing limbo of my post-college life, when most of us are trying to figure out who the hell we are and what the hell we should do with ourselves to lead productive and happy lives. The curse of the 20-somethings, and the blessing. But part of it will also be about my disillusionment with the places and things that I have grown up around. This blog is also about my eventual departure and life as a Peace Corps Volunteer, which will hopefully begin this winter, and the less interesting but more emotionally-wrought period of waiting in between. And on being generally disheveled in appearance and conduct.
I’m living at home now, for the first time in years. For the first time since I have been 17. It’s a strange thing, having family dinners every night and going in to wake up my mum when I get home at night. After 5 years at Madison, and especially after this summer, it’s something to get used to. I know that I won’t have this opportunity probably ever again, and although I tend to castigate myself for living off of my parents, and although I tend to mythologize my former lifestyle in Madison and in AmeriCorps, I want it to be a positive experience for my parents and I. Most of all, during this interim before Peace Corps, I want to be a good person, and not spend most of my time on Facebook or watching the Office. Not that there is something particularly bad about this, but after a year of living on my own and “getting things done for America”, I feel wildly inadequate sleeping in my old queen-sized bed and spending my days reading on my couch with my dog and eating my parent’s hummus by the spoonful. When I pass days like that, it widens the gulf between what I want to be doing and who I want to be. I feel 17 again, but this time, with more of an annoyingly present conscious. I’m trying my best to figure out ways to fill my 5 months here. I have a job at a local coffee shop that I’m starting next week, in which I am sure to bring some chaos and spilled drinks to, I’m assistant coaching soccer at my old high school, I’m looking into tutoring...
But still, such a twilight zone. To go from my social existence at Madison, my lifestyle of walking/biking/busing, and my general collegey style of living to this, is shocking to say the least. I haven’t been seeing any friends but a few close ones, and I’ve been sleeping 11 hours a night. I think I’m done feeling sorry for myself, seeing as I was living a very fun and lucky lifestyle the last few years, and that I’m lucky as it is to have generous parents to live with until I embark on my next journey. But, every once in a while, I can’t help from meditating on this strange state of existence after college for almost everyone, unless you happen to be one of those kids who comes out of the womb convinced of being a doctor or engineer. And so, in a roundabout sort of way, I guess I’m writing this blog to reflect and ruminate on the difficulties of starting life after 18 years in school, or at least of trying to figure oneself out. And possibly on the absurdities of a culture where people drive a few blocks to walk on a treadmill, live on their cellphones, and have trouble caring for things and people that don’t directly affect them. And on the Peace Corps, if and when I am invited to go. And on the difficulties of going through life with a minimal amount of logic, street-smarts, and togetherness, and the basic inability to perform simple everyday tasks like dry my hair. And basically what all kids my age are writing about on blogs.