Emerson College’s only independent, student-run newspaper since 1947

The Berkeley Beacon

Emerson College’s only independent, student-run newspaper since 1947

The Berkeley Beacon

Emerson College’s only independent, student-run newspaper since 1947

The Berkeley Beacon

Home for the holidays: The privilege of taking a break.

Kellyn Taylor
Illustration by Kellyn Taylor.

It’s that time of year again: the dreaded holiday season. I usually look forward to Southern cooking, caroling, and chestnuts roasting over an open fire (or some other cliche thing y’all do). Most especially though, I look forward to spending time with my friends and family. As cheesy as it sounds, I miss these things the most when I can’t have them.

This year looks a little different. 

With the price of plane tickets back home to Texas being too high—especially with winter break just around the corner—and the cost of my education taking priority, I had to make the decision to stay here in Boston. 

So to celebrate my first holiday here in the city, I picked up a double shift at work for Thanksgiving.

As a low income student who traveled from way down south, which is basically another country compared to Boston, I’m so grateful for everything I’ve done here. But being financially independent while living in this city is exhausting. For certain students, taking a break is not an option if you wish to survive in a brand new city. Being able to take a break from work is a privilege—one I don’t have.

I have this recurring conversation where I explain to my friends and coworkers that I have my shit together—shockingly, everyone doubts my work/life balance. So I’ll overcompensate and reassure them that things are going great, and that I actually love going to class four days a week while working the remaining three. In reality, I have five pending assignments and a dwindling social life, all while teetering on the brink of burnout.

The Bostonian culture in general tends to favor a lavish lifestyle, where a latte is eight dollars and parking costs more than my car back home, which I knew prior to moving here. But something I didn’t expect was how Emersonian culture has an almost oblivious attitude to students facing financial struggle—because most of them don’t.

This came as a surprise to me as the school, and much of its student body, prides Emerson on its liberal environment, accessibility, and strong efforts for student recognition and equality. It is not that peers, faculty, or Emerson itself intentionally fail to take into account that not every student is placed on the same level of stability, it just feels like something they’ve never considered. 

As if their precious bubble would pop with the slightest inclination of financial aid.

When talking to friends and other peers about getting a job my first semester of college, a lot of their reactions consisted of confusion, and, I might even say, a tinge of eye-rolling and double takes. Many told me to wait until my sophomore or junior year, others told me that it would be better to prioritize self care and school work. Some people flat out told me I would be better off using this year to have fun instead of worrying about making money. 

The truth is, I know I should be prioritizing my class work and self care—my mental and physical health come first. What a lot of people usually do not think of is the guilt that working students face no matter what aspect you decide to prioritize. If I focus more on school and going out, I feel like I am wasting time that I could be spending making money. If I focus more on my job, I sacrifice my studies and my social life. It’s an ironic cycle, considering I moved here to learn and grow as a student, but to literally be able to survive at Emerson, I have to work on my breaks from school.

I feel as though many students do not understand the importance of recognizing privilege when speaking on financial matters. This is most likely because it is one of those topics that is often avoided, being considered taboo and awkward. However it is important to understand the differences between students’ struggles, especially here at Emerson where the student body is lauded as a generally diverse and welcoming community. 

I have always looked forward to a relaxing holiday off, one where I am able to reminisce and be thankful for everything while surrounded by loved ones. This year, I lived vicariously through them as they sent pictures of their Thanksgiving dinners and as my hometown friends updated me on their reuniting. I took calls from my parents and grandparents as they all quoted that same line, “Wishing you were here,” followed by guilt filled apologies, as they wished even more that they had the means to actually get me there.

Being able to go on break without feeling guilty for losing potential work hours, not having to worry about how you’re going to afford meals, and knowing you get to go home for the holidays is a privilege that I feel more people, especially those who value equal educational opportunities and label themselves as accepting, should recognize and understand. 

If we wish to truly have a welcoming environment, then we as a community need to get through these uncomfortable differences and educate ourselves. One can applaud the Emersonian mission for equality and acceptance, while at the same time calling out when the community is somewhat tone deaf to other students’ situations.

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About the Contributor
Sydney Thomas-Arnold
Sydney Thomas-Arnold, Staff Writer
Sydney Thomas-Arnold (she/her) is a freshman journalism and anthropology/sociology student from Houston, Texas. Sydney hopes to eventually go into the field to study different cultures and document human experiences & lifestyles. When not writing for the Beacon, Sydney enjoys reading and listening to music.

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    Lyndsey Bach / Dec 8, 2023 at 7:31 am

    Always incredible!