My family has traditionally traveled a couple times a year to be with my mother’s family, just north of Pittsburgh. Our gathering place was originally my grandparents’ home: several acres of magnificent rural land that is still so vivid to me now. My mother had four siblings, and in addition to my own four siblings and me, one of my aunts also had five kids who were close to us in age. These cousins have often felt like a second set of siblings. We all ran amok all over that land, but my main partners-in-crime were Shane and an older female cousin ours. Shane was never afraid to get dirty or wet, and Samara and I would at least follow, if not embrace, his lead.
A few years ago, I went through an epic psychological battle about whether or not I could step back into school mode and live off assistantship wages. I decided that yes, I could, and I am now heading into year five of making less than $15,000 a year. It definitely takes its toll, and like the U.S. government that we know and love so well, I am forced to either crash and burn financially or to dramatically reign in my spending.