When I think about The Future, my thoughts are rarely worrisome. They typically include visions of sunshine and sprinkles and having a cool job that pays decently. Plenty of other people get squeamish about graduating from college and getting out of their little-baby bubbles, but I can’t think of anything more exciting! If right now rules, then by the time I graduate two years from now, I’ll totally be killing it!
But this week’s thoughts about The Future were different, and I have sources to blame. Damn it, sources! The first was reading the news about the bill that the House passed this weekend that could effectively double student-loan rates, and the second came from watching Girls on HBO. I really don’t want to delve too deep into either of those subjects, but the student-loans bill made me panic for obviously reasons; and Girls pissed me off at first because I started comparing my level of privilege with that of the show’s 20-something main characters (their families have money), but then I realized that HA, I am in another position of privilege of not being in their position yet. Anyway, these two subjects’ coinciding appearances in my brain-space spurred me to scribble notes in my weekly planner about things I hadn’t really given complete thoughts to before: how much money it really takes for me to live, how many loans are in my name so far, how much I spend on records a month.
OK, it’s not the numbers themselves that are scary. I only buy a few records a month, OK? It’s just a drag to acknowledge that, despite generous scholarships and financial aid, I haven’t escaped the quintessentially American experience of educational debt. This situation of mine is probably the least unusual of any I’ve written about here so far—every college-educated person we know in America is dealing with this. Student debt is as American as apple pie and baseball games…that cost $35,000 a year.*
In high school, I didn’t really believe in a lot of the work I did to get my good grades, but I worked my ass off because I knew I’d need a scholarship to go to the college of my choice. My grades got me somewhere, and it was significant, but hard work doesn’t give you everything. You can work really hard and still have your beautiful head shat on by how obscenely expensive secondary education is. Students across the country are currently being shat on, on the head. Even the “perfect students.” Even the “well-rounded individuals.” Even the freaking “computer geniuses” who you thought were financially set for life. We’re all getting shat on from the sky.
From my understanding, I’m in a pretty manageable position, financially, when it comes to college…comparatively. There are plenty of students all around me that will still be paying off their loans when their teeth are falling out (whether that comes from old age or not being able to afford dental care because of loan obligations, you can decide for yourself). If I can earn a steady, slightly-above-entry-level income for the next 10 years, I can pay my loans off before I’m 35, probably. That’s not extremely terrifying, right? That’s considered being in good shape? I mean, there goes all my money for buying records every month…multiplied by five. School is the best thing I’ve ever done, so I don’t have regrets. Just good old-fashioned bitterness!
I’m bringing all this up because it’s finals week, too, and I’m realizing that as of Friday I’m exactly 50% done with my undergraduate education. On top of that, there was this REALLY ENCOURAGING news that I read recently about only half of college grads getting decent jobs. I think I want to freelance after college, but that’s what I think now. What if I can’t even get freelance jobs?
Let me put it this way. I’m not planning on having money for, like, 10 years. That’s not what I’m scared about. I’m scared about the obligation of loans and stuff, because that makes me have to earn money like it’s my job (funny), and what if there’s nowhere for me to do that? Lots of my friends are professionals at hanging out and working very part-time (if at all), subsisting off food stamps. That’s chill! I could definitely do that! But what I have that they don’t is a significant bill for a few hundos coming my way every month, according to the student-loan calculator of doom, that food stamps won’t cover. So, chilling out starving-artist style just doesn’t apply to me.
In conclusion: fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck. LOAN GROANZ ♦