“I got to hand it to you, honey, it’s sheer hate driving you on.”

I’ve been completely filled with negativity lately. Today, pure spite served as the driving force that got me out of bed. Have you ever been so consumed with hate that it’s your only reason to wake up? In the past, I spent about 18 months straight doing that, and it’s something I hope to never experience again.

Since this blog is partly about my education, there is one fundamental issue that needs to be explained: I didn’t pay for my undergraduate degree.

I chose to go to college in the closest big town/small city near my hometown. After I was accepted into the local liberal arts school – and this is something I need to emphasize, because I did get in under my own merit – my mom applied for and got a job in the university library. Her benefits included tuition exchange, which meant that I received a $120,000 education at a serious discount.

I had a tiny scholarship, but my parents paid for most of my freshman year out of pocket. They continued to pay my tuition over the next three years, but at 75% off the sticker price… once my mom’s benefits kicked in. I never had to take out a student loan, and the jobs I worked were for pocket money and nothing more. My mom deserves a lot of credit for what she did for me, and every month that I don’t have to pay on student loans, I become more and more grateful. At the time, I didn’t realize how lucky I was.

In fact, I almost felt like I was in debt to the university. I wasn’t on a full-ride scholarship; it wasn’t like they had chosen to give me a free education. I was there because my mom had the smarts and the flexibility to go to work for the school. Any time a member of the administration did something dubious, I overlooked it. After all, weren’t they kind enough to let me go to school for free? Who was I to question their methods?

Poor NUIGalway. Now that I’ve actually had to take out a student loan and put my own future finances on the line in order to receive an education, I am much less malleable. What a difference 10 years makes. As an undergrad, I was slightly in awe of the people I perceived as authority figures on campus; now, I just want my money’s worth out of them.

The book I just finished, How to Get a Job in Publishing, has a line about students now being more consumers than mere absorbers of education, and that’s exactly what I have become as I pursue my Master’s degree. There’s a certain attitude of “I don’t care if you think I’m annoying; I’m paying through the nose to be here and you’re going to answer my damn questions and do it with a smile on your face” that I’ve taken with faculty, staff, and students alike.

It’s incredibly empowering, to realize that anyone drawing a salary from the university effectively works for me. At the same time, it’s alienating, because I lose the sense of collaboration that is vital to university life. That’s the paradox that got me out of bed this morning, but had me feeling ashamed by the time I got out of the shower. I can’t isolate myself with an attitude like that.

It’s tough to find the middle ground between being a human doormat and being a person that don’t take no guff off no swine. A lot of it has to do with being nice for the sake of being nice, and not giving a damn if the other person is nice back. That’s a hell of a way to live, but I can’t let other people’s negativity affect my own outlook on life.

So I went out with an age-appropriate friend tonight, had dinner and a few drinks, complained a little bit, and now I feel better.

It also helps that I don’t have to go to campus tomorrow.