Student Loans and the Will to Live [Sometimes It’s that Serious]

I owe over $70,000 in student loans. My parents have been kind enough to help me out when they can, and I’ve been putting the loans on forbearance when they can’t. I’ve had multiple jobs since graduating college. All of them short lived. All of them paying only enough to cover rent, utilities and other light living expenses. I would have to go on food stamps to afford groceries. 

Not a sob story, by any means. My family and I manage. Every once in a while I get overcome with guilt because my education is constantly sucking money from their pockets, but guilt never solved problems. I don’t require a lot (materialistically) to be satisfied. Fresh food (that I cook myself), good tea and tea ware, and my bike cover most my indulgences. I had to learn to stop coveting clothing. Fortunately, like most everything, if I can’t have it… eventually I won’t want it. Not to mention, I’m one to get away with the unkempt look (I’m an artist, so it easily became part of my swag).

Yet despite my half-ass minimalism, I haven’t managed to escape the Rhode Island Student Loan Authority. RISLA doesn’t allow forbearances and their monthly notes are too high for even my entrepreneurial parents to swing. So, here we are, getting sued for the entire loan amount: $36,000. What makes a loan agency think that people who can’t afford a monthly note of a couple hundred dollars can afford to pay off $36,000 all at once is beyond me. And their sense of urgency on getting that money is off-putting. The law firm is aggressive and the agent handling our case is defensive (which is telling). And the worst part: my grandmother, who’s trying to come up with money to launch her first cookbook (that I helped her design), co-signed on this monstrosity of a loan.

RISLA’s law firm offered us a solution: get a loan to pay off the loan… Yeah, that sounds like a good idea… Sometimes I wonder if this really is America we live in. 

At first, I let the news floor me. I internalized the idea that I’m selfish, I stopped eating and I barely left my room for days. What if they garnish my parents’ wages? What if my grandmother can’t realize her dreams because of my debt? What if my parents’ lose their business? What if…

I eventually pulled myself together. Whatifs weren’t helping. Instead, I used the pressure of $36,000 to hustle. And hustle I did: I scoured the Internet and the people I know for design jobs. I’ve been able to support myself for the last month, and I’m working to do the same for July. There’s nothing quite like fire under the ass to get me going. I admire people who have this mentality 24/7, with seemingly no provocation (emphasis on seemingly). Maybe I’m too southern to be in hyper-drive all the time, but it sure is nice to have sometimes–in a sadistic sort of way. 

The loan is still looming over my head, unfortunately. There really isn’t anything I can do about it. The odds of me finding a job that covers my living expenses with enough left over to cover loans is about as low as it can get. The thing about things I can’t do anything about: there’s no use in stressing.

Everything is figure-out-able.” -Marie Forleo

2 Responses to “Student Loans and the Will to Live [Sometimes It’s that Serious]”
  1. Kris says:

    While reading this I am thinking are you kidding me. Jobs are out there. They may not be glamorous or fun but they pay the bills. I am in the arts and the gigs do not always pay, but I have learned how to bust my ass at a restraunt to make $2,000 a month. Loans and expenses are covered and the gigs come when they can. What more should a recent graduate expect, especially when we spend so much money for degrees that do not promise a job when they are complete. Why do people feel they are owed something? It may take work that you hate. I have no doubt that you would be able to get a less desirable job until your future dreams can be realized. Sometimes you just have to do the time. I go to work every day thinking that it is a waste of time because it does not make me better in my field. It does pay the bills.

    • Lydia says:

      Hi Kris,
      I bust my ass, too. I have also had jobs (none of which payed the bills and my loans). One I had to leave because I had to move, the other was seasonal (so it ended after the holidays). The whole point of this blog is asserting that the world doesn’t owe me anything and that I can still make my ideas a reality, no matter what my circumstance. I’ve been applying to jobs constantly (sometimes I give up out of exasperation and then get back into it). That’s great that you make $2,000/month. Good for you! I mean that. But your reality isn’t everyone else’s. And if jobs are out there, why is unemployment rates still high? We all have different qualifications, different degrees and different work histories. Some of us can’t get a restaurant job because we’re over/under-qualified (I’m overqualified). I’ve applied to everything under the sun the past two years. Trust. But at the end of the day, I’m not making $2,000/month. And I’m not letting that stop me from moving forward.
      In peace,

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