It is nice when the media reflects your reality. I suppose one of the reasons I began to love the New York Times online edition is because I was able to find articles about student loan debt that had me thinking over and over again “this is me, this is me” while reading them.
I grew up on the do well in school and the scholarships will come fairy tale.
I imagine scholarships limping up to my doorstep, fragments of their former selves after braving the politics and the policies, and dying in my outstretched arms before they could actually introduce themselves to me. I had called to them, but they weren’t meant to be.
Loans, on the other hand, lustily threw themselves in my teenage face even as I tried to slam the door on some and avoid others. Eventually, I just let them in because my knight—a scholarship—was not arriving and my family had banked on a knight instead of actual savings.
I regret going to the “good school.”
I don’t regret majoring in English.
So, as I calculate how much money I can put towards my student loans each month and think about what jobs I can or cannot afford to take, I read about other people who are in my predicament. We’re delaying having kids and buying homes because, quite frankly, we can’t afford it.
People think I’m joking when I say that having a child would push me into poverty.
I’m dead serious.
I have an embarrassing amount of student loan debt. Suffice it to say by the time I’m done paying it all off I could’ve bought a nice house in the Houston suburbs.
Instead, I bought an “elite” education.
I should’ve bought the house.
Don’t get me wrong, I will forever cherish the education I received. It was a blessing and an opportunity too many people don’t get. I highly value education (that will never change) but I critique the single-mindedness of my high school vision of wanting the best without being more open to other options. I swallowed whole one, myopic definition of success, as did many of classmates.
After gagging on that definition for years, I now realize it’s the reason I’m uncomfortable, even to this day, with being around what is labeled the best, the brightest, the elite, the über-successful.
That being said, I am not about living la vie boheme à la Rent.
I roll my eyes at it. I have debt to pay off, would prefer an apartment with heat, and like having food on my table. Call me crazy.
As far as I’m concerned, student loan debt and teaching are the best birth control a woman could ever ask for.
Who needs a prescription when there are eighty plus children seeking your attention Monday through Friday? I have never been responsible for clothing former students, feeding them, or giving them shelter and yet I have found myself feeling exhausted, feeling like a parent, and needing to remind myself that I do not have children.
Eventually, as I continued to teach, I got more comfortable telling people flat out (both parents and co-workers alike) that I was no one’s mother and that was by choice.
Students have asked me when I was going to have a baby because 1.) I was too skinny, 2.) I looked tired and tired women are pregnant women, 3.) I was at that age, and 4.) they waited too long as it was for me to have a baby (this coming from a student who knew me for four months; she even managed to add a sigh when she said these words).
I would respond to the students in different ways depending on my mood: they were my children, I wasn’t sure I wanted children (that always surprised kids), the kids would come later, etc…
The one reason I never gave is a big factor for me (right up there with finding the right partner): student debt.
Eventually, the debts will get paid (or I’ll die and they’ll roll over to my grandma and co-signer, as Sallie Mae informed me) and the children may or may not come. Regardless, I’m thankful to articles such as these that continue to highlight a distressing pattern in higher education.
My creditor is Aunt Sallie Mae. She’s mean. When I lost my job and applied for a forbearance she said no and then pulled $500.00 from what once was an automated account. This was after I had called and asked Aunt Sallie not to pull the money. I know about stop payments now and I never, ever do automatic payments anymore.
I came into college bright-eyed and bushy tailed. I left thinking higher education was a business transaction. I “paid” and I got a complex, quality product in return. Once I truly pay off my debts Aunt Sallie and I will speak no more.
More importantly, I will feel like I owe my alma mater nothing. No campus visits, no praise, and definitely no charitable contributions.
Just a sincere thank you and an insincere we’ll talk again soon.