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Monthly Archives: November 2014

On wishing I never went to college

First, some background:

2004: Senior year of high school. Applied to five colleges. Three for theatre (acting), one for biology, one for nursing. Accepted to all of them, I chose to go to VCU for theatre.
2005: Started at VCU for theatre. Naive and starry-eyed.
Summer 2006: Decided not to go back to school for theatre, found it wanting. Move in with parents.
Late Summer 2006: Decided to go back to school for theatre after a late night drunken conversation with friends. Move out of parents’ house.
Spring 2007: Unsure of whether or not to continue into a third year of theatre, I said “fuck it” and continued on.
Fall 2007: After getting yelled at in an acting class for laughing during the typewriter game, I drop out of VCU for good.
Fall 2007 – Spring 2009: Epic amounts of floundering. Enroll in a wide variety of courses at local community college including emergency medical services, child psychology, and biology. Never complete a full semester.
Summer 2009 – Spring 2010: Start working at gym. Study on my own to become a personal trainer. Get certification. Enroll in local personal training institute to further my education. Never complete entire course after realizing it wasn’t for me.
Spring 2010: Enroll at University of Phoenix for AA in communications.
Summer 2011: Complete AA in communications.
Summer 2011 – Spring 2013: Try on two different majors – journalism and visual communications – until settling on health and human services (because I want to save the world, duh).
Spring 2014: Complete BA in health and human services.

Student loansYou know what’s dumb? Expecting a 16 year-old to know what the hell she wants to do with the rest of her life.

Filling out college applications my junior year I was an average (at best) student full of naivety about the future to come. I don’t have my VCU application essay anymore but that’s probably for the best. I vaguely remember an incredibly cliche essay about following my dreams and never looking back. #art #dreamer

I love theatre but surrounded by classmates willing to live in shoeboxes for the rest of their lives to live out their dreams, I realized I wasn’t like them. I never felt like I fit in with my classmates and maybe that’s why. I wanted to act but not if it meant being poor and never going on vacation. I had no business trying to figure out a college major when I hadn’t experienced anything outside of high school and my retail jobs. How was I supposed to know what to do with my life? I guessed. And I guessed a lot, hoping something would eventually stick. When I dropped out of college I spent time pursuing things that interested me because I had no other idea how to figure out the rest of my life and hey, college is what you’re supposed to do, right?

I now have two degrees: an associate’s and a bachelor’s, and I still can’t figure out if they were worth it.

I didn’t learn anything new to get my degrees. And that’s not because I took horrible classes and the degree programs were useless. It’s because I naturally seek out what interests me. I had already studied organizational communications concepts before I started my first day of my associate’s degree. I had already studied the largest pieces of the PPACA before starting my bachelor’s degree. After spending most of my life as an average student, I kicked ass in school for both of my degrees. Because I cared about the subject material and I work hard when I’m excited.

I learned. On my own time, in my own terms. I knew what I wanted to know more about and I researched until my face turned blue. And had I done all of that research and never completed those degrees, I would have all of the same knowledge but probably wouldn’t have the same career path.

As recruiters are flooded with resumes they need a way to quickly filter the applicants. Don’t have a degree? Well that’s an easy way to lose out on innumerable opportunities.

My two complete degrees are from for-profit institutions. they get a bad rap and I understand why, but they were my only chance at getting degrees. I needed to support myself and I couldn’t go back to school full time while working to pay my bills. And that scenario would have only been in a perfect world. The reality is that after dropping out of one school and failing to complete a single class in four semesters at another, no non-profit school would have touched me with a ten-foot pole. I was obviously unfit for education. So it was a for-profit school or it was nothing.

student-debtThe educational industrial complex is strong and overbearing, and it’s working.

And it’s bankrupting students. The generations before mine expect us to hop fresh out of college, get a job, start working, and stop bitching about how much money we don’t have. But education is different now. Abandoning logical growth, the rates of tuition increased at a rate higher than auto and home costs. In the last three decades, tuition prices have increased by a baffling 124% (when adjusted for inflation). Couple those numbers with a recent economic depression and you’ve got yourself the perfect financial disaster.

“The size of the average student loan in 2005 was $17,233. By 2012 the average U.S. student loan debt climbed to $27,253–a 58% increase in just seven years, according to FICO (Forbes).”

For all of my years trying to figure out how I want to spend the next 50 years of my life, I have $73,587.62 in student debt.

Take a moment, because that’s not a typo.

$73,587.62

Under the current debt forgiveness program the remainder of my loans will be forgiven after 20 years. See how kind the government is? I only have to pay $500 per month for the next 20 years and then I’m scot-free. That’s all. Another potential avenue is to find work with a non-profit. If I make every payment for 10 years while working at a non-profit (with no breaks in employment whatsoever) then I can have the remainder of my loans forgiven that way. Except I happen to like my current job and my current career trajectory.

Couple that disgusting number with the rest of our debt (mostly medical, plus credit) and David and I are around $100,000 in debt. Did that number make you throw up? Because it should. It keeps me up at night.

It’s the kind of number that makes a person want to file for bankruptcy. Until she realizes that student loans are obscenely difficult to get discharged and since they are the bulk of her debt it’s kind of a waste of a credit-score-damning maneuver.

I guess I should end with something positive but I just don’t have it. My student loans are crippling and there’s no way out. But I know that I wouldn’t have the continually-improving career that I’ve had without a degree.

california-student-protests.gi.topWas it worth it?

Should I have stayed a personal trainer forever? Should I have just tried to make ends meet without a degree at a low-paying job instead of trying to make ends meet with a decent salary and mountains of debt? What’s the right answer? I can’t see the other side. I don’t know what would have happened if I had chosen the other route so I have to hope that this is the better choice.

I have to hope because if at any point I come to the realization that none of this was worth it, I’m not sure I’ll be able to maintain sanity. I have to hope that things will just keep getting better for me and David and that we’ll get out of this financial hell hole much quicker than we plan.

I have to hope, I have to work hard and budget harder, and I have to play the lottery occasionally. Because what else can you do when you realize you’re going to be suffocating in debt for the next 20 years? #AmericanDream

How to Adult: Dressing for work

My first couple of jobs were in restaurants. Then retail. Then more restaurants. Then gyms. All of these jobs came with mostly hideous uniforms. Seriously hideous. So many oversized polos and button up shirts with ties. So much khaki. So many strange smells. So much discomfort. Really, I think my Hooters uniform was the one… Continue Reading