In Friday’s class, we briefly discussed the concept of how people have to “pay the rent” in life. Dr. McCoy brought up an idea that would involve exploring how students pay the rent while attending school. After class, I started to think of ways that as a student I am undoubtedly “paying the rent” in regards to doing things that I would not necessarily do, but are obligated to because of certain circumstances. Students pay the rent in obvious ways such as attending class, completing their homework, writing papers, etc. But there are several other ways that we pay the rent that aren’t as obvious.
There are certain social interactions that are necessary such as the natural human tendencies to want to make connections with other people. We are often thrown into situations in college where we are out of our comfort zone and feel a sense of duty to make the most of the experience we are given. While this experience is filled with both positive and negative attributes, paying the rent refers more to the negative aspects of college that we pay attention to. Sometimes you’re going to be doing group work with people you don’t get along with. Other times you will run into the exact person you are trying to avoid. Living on a college campus and attending school will often put you in very stressful situations that you would not encounter otherwise. But we all pay the price in exchange for several benefits such as receiving a college diploma and growing as a human being from these unique experiences. As long as paying the price ultimately rewards you with something you deem important, the small sacrifices made are worth it.
The concept of “paying the rent” is also prominent in Octavia Butler’s “Bloodchild” because some circumstances that Gan ends up in deal with issues that address a lack of consent and a lack of awareness for what he was getting himself into. In the same way that we consent to attending college but do not consent to the struggles that are embedded in it, Gan does not entirely consent to what he experiences when he agrees to help T’Gatoi. T’Gatoi’s warns him that what he was going to experience would be bad, but Gan could never fully consent to the gruesomeness of what he was about to see. Even after agreeing to help her, she instructs him to help in ways that Gan did not feel comfortable doing. For example, she viciously instructs Gan to help her by having him kill an animal:
“I want no argument from you this time Gan” she said.
I straightened. “What shall I do?”
“Go out and slaughter an animal that is at least half your size.”
“Slaughter? But I’ve never—”
She knocked me across the room. Her tail was an efficient weapon whether she exposed the sting or not (Butler, page 6).
Gan, after feeling threatened by T’Gatoi, helped her save a N’Tlic’s life that had arrived at their door pleading for help. Gan wanted to help T’Gatoi because he has so much respect for her, but he did not know the extent of what he was getting himself into. In a way, Gan is “paying the rent” by offering to help T’Gatoi without really realizing what he needed to do in order to help. The experience of helping T’Gatoi save the N’Tlic man was quite disturbing. Even if Gan decided he was not ready to help, he was already in a situation which pushed him to experience more than he may have wanted to.
“Paying the rent” in any situation causes individuals to end up in scenarios they may not have consented to. In life, we are obligated to complete certain tasks and put ourselves in certain situations where we are not comfortable. “Paying the rent” ensures a level of discomfort; but we must weigh this discomfort with the benefits that it can have. By attending college, you get certain rewards for all of the struggled you faced without your consent. Additionally, Gan benefited from “paying the rent” because he was able to gain respect from T’Gatoi and his family for his commendable and heroic actions. Although he struggled in doing so, he gets to obtain the reward from his actions. There are benefits to “paying the rent” if you are willing to deal with the struggles that are guaranteed with it.