Chapter 68: “My Last Semester at UMaine Orono”
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I soon discovered the obvious: that putting all of this weight on my own shoulders was a terrible decision. I couldn’t be trusted with righting this rocky ship and (un) luckily for me, the iceberg known as “hospital bills” reared its ugly head leaving me no choice but to crash the bow headfirst. I wasn’t sure how I was going to pay these bills on top of my recurring bills all while going to school full-time. I searched for ways to make it work. I begged my managers at Subway for more hours. I used my credit card more often than I would care to admit. I spent the rest of the loan money from college. Still, it wasn’t enough.
To make matter worse, my grades were lower than they had ever been. Surprisingly enough, my worst grade was in Film Theory. The finals were nearing their due dates and I hadn’t submitted my final essay. The semester grades were posted and I left that class with a D. The others weren’t too pretty, either. I failed Computer Programming and would have to take it again and if I went another semester I’d have to retake Film Theory for it to count towards my curriculum. I was in a bind of my own doing and the only way I saw out was that of cowardice. Thus, my first semester at UMaine was also my last.
I told myself it was because of my hospital bills and while I had to still pay them, I couldn’t find myself at fault for my faltering grades. Clearly, that was the case but I was deadset on transferring the blame to something less worthy.
My available hours at Subway opened up once I didn’t have to dance around my school schedule and in turn, the owners were grateful to grant me more of them. I got the feeling that they were grooming me to become a manager as I began to open and close the store much more frequently even though my sleeping schedule since school had only worsened.
I remember one Saturday night I was trying to get to bed because I had to be up at eight to be at work at Subway for nine. I was opening the store at ten. I tossed and turned in bed trying to fall asleep. After I finally crashed (for what felt like a minute of sleep) I awoke to a phone call in the morning. The Subway I was set to open was housed in a convenience store and the person on the phone was the worker at that counter.
“Jamie, are you supposed to come and open the store today?” I looked at my alarm clock. It was 10:10. Holy shit. I was supposed to be there over an hour ago!
“Yes, I overslept! I’ll be right there!” I had had a history of waking up in a panic and this was the absolute perfect example of that. I threw my clothes on and peeled off through the treacherous cop-infested roads of Veazie and Orono and made by ten-thirty. I entered to a customer already waiting on the line. I punched in on the computer, washed my hands and made them a sandwich. Thankfully, the customer was patient and had no problem with me being late.
After they left, I asked how many people had come in to get a sandwich.
“Oh man, if any of this gets back to my boss, I’m fired for sure.” How fitting would it be to lose my job the same week I gave up on school.
I began the opening shift duties only stopping to make sandwiches as customers approached. Luckily, it was a slower day than usual. I had awaited reprimand for this but after a few days, I hadn’t heard anything about this situation. Surely, they saw that I punched in late, right?
I had been getting around thirty hours, but my bills were too high to just live off of that. My hourly wage was $7.50. Just think BEFORE taxes I was getting roughly $225 a week. I decided to seek additional hours elsewhere. As a precaution, I mentioned my need for more hours (and desire to work with a competitor franchisee) to both my manager and boss and they still weren’t able to help me. They eventually allowed me to work at this other owner’s store.
So I began at the State Street Subway with two shifts per week. This one was much easier to get to (and for which to be on time) because it was a half-a-mile walk from my apartment.
The store also had a friendlier vibe. Their rush hour was one of the fastest that I had ever seen even though the store was the smallest. Nevertheless, I loved it. This store gave me more freedom while being particular in their preparation methods.
With these additional hours, I would get around forty-two a week. It brought me to around $315 before taxes. Still, that wasn’t enough to make ends meet. Don’t get me wrong it brought me closer than ever to paying my bills promptly but it was still a struggle. In the end, I still needed a more permanent solution.
I began to search for other jobs in the area. It was like dejá vu; just like before, nothing was available that I could do. I even revisited the news cameraman route and searched for those types of jobs.
Kyle fared far better; he continued on at UMaine for at least the following semester. Somehow, he managed to do better in his courses than me. I’m not sure how considering the countless hours Smash we had played.
He came over the night before our final projects were due and we spent all night cranking away on the work. Clearly, we were both procrastinators. During a mild reprieve in the middle of the night, I created my first Photoshop masterpiece:
I was glad I didn’t drag Kyle down in my negativity and make him too question his own college career. Still, I knew that my own path wasn’t yet finished; I only needed to reassess my direction and pay off my mounting bills in the process. Somehow, I would find a way. At the very least, I took solace in the fact that this was the extent of my worries at the moment.
This is an ongoing story of my personal battle with Cancer. My hope is that it helps others who are currently experiencing their own battles (whether it be for themselves or a loved one) or to help with early detection.
The way I’m doing it is terrifying for a writer. I’m writing a publically available first-draft outline for an eventual book, chapter by chapter in weekly form. The only reason I’m doing it this way is to get the story out as soon as possible for someone out there who needs a survivor to visit them during their own treatment. If you’re reading this and need someone to talk to, tweet at me and I’ll give you a call. No questions asked. This story is for you and I’ll help any way that I can.
Stay tuned, as I will be posting a new chapter every Monday until the story is complete.
And remember if you experience any Anemic symptoms– get checked for Leukemia as well.