‘It was only recently that I have been able to start paying my loans down’
The decision of taking out student loans was never really a question. Growing up in the mid-90s, the pervasive mentality was that successful people went to college. College people were smart. In an era where everybody was a winner, I was smart, so I was going to college to be successful, regardless of cost.
The initial thought was that scholarships would be prevalent, but they were not, so financial aid including government subsidized loans seemed to be the most viable option. Fast forward to the end of my college career. During that time, I had changed majors three times, adding superfluous summer sessions and private loans. The cost of my college education had ballooned nearly four times my initial expectations. Everything was going to be okay, because those with a college education find jobs. They find success.
My first post-college work was at a local movie theater in a southern capital. I moved northward to find work in DC, but only managed to muster up the lucrative career of bagel making. A brief pit stop in Iowa found me a meat counter position, putting me past minimum wage for the first time since my college career. Moving to the steel city, I finally found a job making double digit figures with the promise of future benefits, only to be let go six weeks into landing that position.
It was only recently that I have been able to start paying my loans down. After years of struggling, I am finally in a position that, while menial and vastly underutilizes my skills, talents, and abilities, I am able to be semi-independent, paying down debt, investing … being a real adult. Meanwhile, my friends who skipped out on college and worked their way up in their respective ladders for four years and not undertaking any financial encumbrances are getting married, finishing up car payments, and buying houses.
When all is said and done, I do not regret any of my past decisions. I have a cadre of friends, memories, and experiences that would have not been available to me otherwise. The choices I made were entirely my own and I will work diligently until every last penny has been paid in full.
Things could always be a lot better. At the same time, things could be a lot worse.
Jimmy M., via email