Dear Alice,

Three years ago, in my freshman year, I ran out of tuition money in the middle of the spring semester. There was no one to help. Financial aid told me I was maxed out on my loans, and I had no place to go. I did not want to drop out. I had traveled two thousand miles to go to school here. I could not go home. As a last resort, I started working as call girl and I have been working on the weekends doing that ever since. I really want to get out of the business — but if I do, I will have no way of paying for school. I have no family to speak of to look to for either financial or emotional support. I know it sounds like it's easy to get out, but it's not. I'm afraid of so many things. I'm out here all by myself. I have no friends here at school. The pressure from school is enough; if I had to worry about money too, I'd never make it.

I am double majoring, so I will be here next year as well, and then law school comes next. I'm beginning to think that I will never get out of the business. I can't see the end of the tunnel. I'm depressed. I can't have a relationship. I can't date. Help me — just give me direction.


P.S.: I don't want to be perceived as some two-bit street hooker. I work for a respectable agency, and it is strictly in-call (not escort), and I am very safe and do not do any drugs or alcohol. I really am a nice person — I just got caught up in this work. I guess it came easy for me because of a very sexually and physically abusive childhood.

Dear Jezebel,

Clearly you have been working hard to make your goals and dreams a reality, though with this one bump in the road. You have your plans and a direction. You want to get out of the call girl business, you want to pay for school, and you want to feel more in control. Sounds perfectly reasonable.

Have you reached out to some of the other support services on campus? How about a chat with your dean about possible routes to financial aid or working on campus? Have you stopped in the career services office or academic advising to see if there are some contacts that might help you find other routes to paying for school?  You might consider meeting with some of these dedicated professionals to discuss your willingness to work to pay for school, how you might look for scholarships, as well as your need for financial and academic strategy support. At no point in these conversations do you need to share what you've been doing to pay the bills.  While not always a first choice, there are options like attending school part-time, applying for federal work-study programs, and more that may be able to help you keep your dreams alive while also supporting your desire to end the current employment situation. Once you've developed a plan for paying for school, you're free to move on to telling your current boss you quit. Quitting may seem less daunting once you have your plan in place.

In addition, have you considered making an appointment with your school's counseling service to talk about your feelings of depression, hopelessness, helplessness, loss of control, current situation and goals, and childhood abuse? If you are at Columbia, call Counseling and Psychological Services (CPS) at x4-2878 for free, short-term counseling and support. Support groups are available for many of these issues, including at CPS. A free support group is also available for adult survivors of sexual abuse at St. Luke's/Roosevelt Hospital in New York City [call (212) 523-4728 for more information].

The transition is likely to be challenging, but with your internal strength, a desire to find a new direction, and some campus support, you'll be able to achieve your goals. Great job keeping your long term plans in mind. - You go girl!


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