Shell Out, Part 3: Like Most Kids

Part 3: Like Most Kids


In a normal world Greg wouldn’t have minded that the job market was infertile. He grew up in a simple home with three kids and two parents sharing the limited commodities that included two bedrooms, one bath, a small living room with a single sofa and beanbag chair, and a kitchen the size of a closet. And though he had endured cramped living conditions in his youth, he didn’t let it bother him. Carrying riches around was a dream he didn’t know he was supposed to have.

But then came public school and with it the conversations of other lives beyond his manufactured, as his father had once called it, front door. He listened to his blond-haired, blue-eyed classmates brag about having their own rooms–big rooms with lots of toys–and TV rooms attached to living rooms, with living rooms attached to dining rooms. But he had never seen these fabled establishments in person, so he didn’t know how to become jealous of his friends, an emotion that, he had learned in the third grade, was required for growing up. Even though he had tried to imagine life with spacious luxury, he just couldn’t grasp the concept. Everything seemed okay as it was: two siblings snoring away at bedtime, people yelling through closed bathroom doors that it was their turn to shower, shared family meals around the tiny living room, and watching an old wood-frame television that sat on the floor and had tuner knobs for channel adjustment. That was the life Greg had understood in his early years, and to his assumption, the life he thought he would always accept.

The problem, however, was that, as he got older, educators made bigger deals about college, and Greg realized halfway through high school that he would have to conquer the university realm, and more importantly, the realm of finance, if he were to survive the future. School further taught him that if he were to remain happy in life, he had to provide an environment that he and his future family could use to make friends and enemies jealous. That meant bigger pursuits for bigger paychecks, and bigger homes for bigger egos. Whatever his parents did to scrape a living from, it was obsolete.

Ultimately, this new way of thinking had brought him before the gates of college, ready to break the competition in half. But he had no idea what to compare himself to. He figured his first step was to make more money than his parents ever had because they had never made enough to fill a penny jar. But he wasn’t sure how much more he had to pursue. Plucking through his memories, he realized he had to make at least as much as his classmates’ parents had made. But to win the competition against them, he had to surpass their income. That left him with the question of how.

The third and final problem to his fortune-seeking dilemma was that, as he grew up, he’d heard that girls only liked guys with money. Sure, there was a time when this information had no meaning to his life. But life had a way of throwing curveballs into his comfortable realm of interests. During his early years in junior high he had made the startling discovery that, despite his ironclad beliefs that spoke to the contrary, he actually liked girls. It was a strange realization to wake to one morning, considering he had just gotten through defending his point about how yucky they were a few weeks earlier. But there it was haunting him–laughing at him. And, as his hormones grew and the years to follow whispered advice in his ears, he came to realize that to win the heart of any great beauty, he had to strike it rich because the pretty ones wanted only rich guys, according to what he had heard.

So, having these problems compounded during the start of eleventh grade, he realized he had to do something quickly to enter college. From there he also had to think of a plan to rake in the cash so he could live happily within the will of society, not miserably, like he was sure his parents had lived.

After he had chosen a campus to attend, he plowed into his first and greatest obstacle–to figure out how to pay for it. He didn’t have enough money to get him through the first four years, nor did his parents have it, so he had to scour the Internet for options. His teachers told him multiple times about scholarships and federal grants, but for some reason he couldn’t get any. There were a couple of scholarships he applied for, but fell short of winning because other people in his class had found ways to outsmart him. He also considered grants and loans, deciding later that the road to riches would’ve looked bad had he gotten there through pity. So, after much deliberation, he decided to work for it.

But, there was the problem that his jobs never worked out, so he barely scraped enough money for his entrance fees. How he’d manage to stay enrolled, he didn’t know, but he was determined to strike it rich, so he endured economic trials as much as he needed to get to his place of desire.

Of course, he had hoped that burning desire and the drive to win was enough to get him there. Many nights he’d fall asleep, telling himself that it was enough. But, even as he repeated mantras of success in his head, he knew what he really needed to become rich and pay for all of his classes without batting an eye was a lot more money. If he had that, he wouldn’t need to keep lying to himself about all of those other wishful things.


Read Part 4

The stuff that keeps me awake at night.

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