I had the chance to do a bit of talking with a coworker of mine this morning, and felt like sharing, as I've always been inspired by the various diaries on this topic over the last eight years or so of reading DK.
Essentially, the conversation started over student loan talk. Actually, it started a bit before that when she talked about how her birthday was approaching and she wasn't ready to enter a new decade. I mistakenly implied turning 30 wasn't so bad, when she announced she was on the verge of turning 20. Good times. For the record, I'm 26.
Anyway, we got to talking a bit more while working in the dining hall. I work as a counselor in a nursing home for adults with chronic mental illnesses (think schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, etc), and she's a nursing assistant there, I believe. She talked about going to school and how she wasn't looking forward to the student loans.
Since education is one of my pet interests (I've got a master's in psych and I'm going back to school so I can get a master's in ECE and teach Kindergarten in the public school system), I talked to her about the student loan situation and advised her to do whatever she could to find out about the loan amounts ahead of time, and minimize her debt in any way possible. A couple of other people joined in the conversation and chimed in with their thoughts.
At one point in the conversation, I mentioned how, while the student loan situation was terrible in this country, it was one of the areas Obama was making some effort toward, particularly in the area of trying to make colleges disclose what loan amounts would be to students so they'd have an idea of what they'd have to repay before signing. This was where things became political.
She mentioned that she'd been supporting Romney, but she was now thinking of voting for Obama because she found out that Romney was thinking about cutting student aid, and she needed that money. Encouraged, I pressed on, trying not to push her, and over fifteen minutes of working and talking also discussed how Romney was primarily interested in propping up billionaires.
We got to talking about healthcare, and I mentioned how Obama wasn't trying to restrict birth control, and she stated she was already covered for three years, so she didn't need to worry about that. I asked her why, and she said it was because she was on her dad's plan, and she was thrilled about that.
I mentioned what Obama had to do with that, and she said she knew, and that it was also why she was thinking about Obama, although she had her doubts because she said someone would have to pay for it all. I mentioned something about spreading the costs, but didn't want to launch into a monologue on taxing the 1% and universal healthcare, so I let that one go while we worked some more.
We went back to birth control, though, and this got her going. She discussed how she was conservative, but didn't feel it was right for people to limit other people's choices, because we didn't know what other people were going through, and I backed her up here. She talked about how women would still use hangers if birth control weren't allowed, and I agreed with her and mentioned the dangers involved there. She also noted that she didn't think it was a man's decision to determine what women could do with their bodies, and I backed her up some more.
We had to keep working, but I checked in with her regarding registration (the deadline in Illinois is October 9th), and she noted she had started the process, and had to send her form in or had done so. I smiled.
She's getting married next June. She wants to go to nursing school, and then law school. I didn't talk about the law school bubble and the debt that came with it. I didn't talk about the need for universal healthcare, or the need to reform our nation's entire outlook on how and where things could be paid for. But we did talk about the problems with student loans, I did advise her on avoiding them, we did talk about birth control, and she did express interest in voting this November.
I found the conversation validating. I rarely take the time to discuss politics in person with strangers, but I've been working on that in the last few months, as there are a few things I feel particularly passionate about, including education and healthcare reform, and it all starts with getting people talking.