‘The Broke College Student’: An Unadvisable Dream

It was always a fun dream, being the “broke college student” all my friends who were seniors spoke about setting out into the world of both independence and youth; that transient space that everyone wants to last for eternity. From afar, at least, it seemed like this glamorous existence. Everyone has a cup of double espresso in one hand, a pen in the other, their laptop bag slung haphazardly across their chest, with an endless tirade of abuses streaming from their lips. They stop, take a moment to sip their coffee as though it was the last drop of water in the desert, and muse aloud, “Wow, I’m so broke”.

But what does that really mean (besides our less-than-empty wallets after a week of avoiding mess food)? Why do we as young adults so aspire for that kind of a constructed disaster? As I write this, three other projects on the backburner, midnight oil burning in the form of my roommate’s purple light--this is me living out the dream. It isn’t as romantic of a moment as I hoped it would be, so why am I still striving for it?


You might read this and completely disregard everything I’m saying. You may well have a head on your shoulders, budget laid out for the month, and be reading this idly while you walk to a club meeting you’re the head of. If you’re not this person, you probably know that person, because she is everywhere. She is sleeping in the cafeteria after having missed an 8:30 am, or she’s stealing a coffee from a friend because “my money’s in my room!”, but really, she has none. She’s always just a little worse off than you, and on the days she is you, you know you’ll be alright because she is.

And that’s the thing--she is alright in the end. She is always down for a good time, you’ll find her having great conversations. She’s got fairy lights in her room even though her desk is a whole mess. It’s the balance you didn’t expect to strike, but looking back, you wouldn’t trade it for the world. At least that’s what they tell me--all the successful grey-haired women, sipping at cocktails they can afford, leather bags perched on their arms. You’d never expect that their lives could’ve been anything but planned years in advance, but their stories are messy and blurry, and kind of beautiful.


I think the whole crux of this persona rests on the 'eventually everything works out in the end’ part of the narrative, as childhood naivete continues to manifest itself in this environment of newfound independence. We look forward to this period in our life specifically to look back on it, to have a story to tell at a well-set dinner table with good food at a respectable hour. It’s easier, I think, to have confidence in your lack of ability than to scramble at having it all together as soon as we’re shoved out into the world. So, we build up this persona; the broke, messy, almost dying college student who never really gets past the point of no return, she’ll be alright in the end. As I said, it’s not as romantic as it was looking into the future, but maybe it will be when we look back into the past. And maybe I’m being overly indulgent, but isn’t that what this is all about?


Edited by Nishtha Jaiswal (ASP 2019)