Aug 31, 2015 Head out of Dirt

Shocked by the Realities of Student Loan debt

You would think that I suddenly woke up one day with massive student loan debt. I’m being serious now. When I finally came to the realization of how serious, and potentially permanent, my student loan repayment situation was, it was long after I began hearing air raid sirens warning me in the distance. If I’m being honest, the sirens were pretty far off at first. When I first borrowed to complete my education during my senior year of college, things were still pretty quiet. The sirens were but a slight but irritating buzzing in the background. Like that relative who gets under everyone’s skin but everyone accepts because, well, you’re related and what else are you going to do?

It was a year or two later that I began wondering, “Why are student loans happening to me?”

Behaving like an ostrich was the only logical response. Right?

But then, the sirens began getting louder and louder. The stress became disturbing, to the point of intrusiveness, during my first year of law school. This was when I realized that my dream of using my education to remedy social inequality did not exactly line up with my burning passion for living debt-free. Problem? Yes. Did I take concrete action to remedy the situation? No. Because, well, like that relative we’ve been talking about, what was I supposed to do? I was already in pretty deep debt-wise, and common sense told me that my chances of earning a stable living were at least minutely higher if I finished my degrees (JD and MPP) than if I jumped ship without those precious slips of paper.

So I did like an ostrich and stuck my head in the dirt and my butt in the air.

Eventually, I got tired of waving my butt around, acting like I had no brain. And it occurred to me that I didn’t have to live like student loan debt was following me around, sinking it’s long claws of despair into my soul. (Don’t worry, I’ll be sharing more about precisely how I extracted my head from the dirt and removed my behind from air-space in future posts.)

Then I discovered that we have a choice about how we respond to student loan debt

By this point, the sirens were literally whirring in my ears, impossible to ignore even from my unnecessarily vulnerable position. One day, or really, across a series of days strung together over a prolonged period of time (aka years), it dawned on me that the sirens weren’t just there to warn me that trouble was coming. Maybe the sirens were also there to warn me to get out of the way so that I could let the irritating noise pass me by.

Trouble was, up until this point, I’d concluded that the only way to get out of the way of the stress that can be student loan repayment was to repay my student loans. Hence the ostrich position, given that I couldn’t see any way out of repayment anytime soon. But what if the sirens were warning me to get out of the way of student loan stress? What if, just maybe, I didn’t have to live with my butt in the air with sirens whirring in my ears if I just chose to extract my head from the dirt, see my student loans for what they were, and let the stress blow by me?

Perhaps it was the lingering dirt in my ears, but after giving my head a good shake I concluded that it had to be more than that. It was, in fact, possible to live my life without daily wondering why student loans were happening to me. I could learn how to get out of the way, let student loan stress pass by, and get back to the business of living my life with my head above ground. Thank. God. The view from where my head was at before wasn’t that great anyway.

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