I feel sorry for you Millennials with your student loans. As a solid Gen-Xer, I was fortunate enough to not have to bear the burden of having student loans. I know. I’m one of the fortunate ones.
What’s my secret? How did I manage to escape the burden of such heavy debt? How rich are my parents?
Were my high school grades just that outstanding and I got a scholarship? I mean, my extensive knowledge with regard to the 1982 NBC primetime line-up alone…
All good questions. Every last one.
I managed to escape the student loan trap by being a goddamned dirtbag who never went to college. I do not recommend this as an approach to avoiding student loan debt.
Not attending college was a “bold move”, in that I had no money to go to college. Since nobody else in my immediate family had gone either, there was nobody to tell me how I could have even done it, anyway. There was no internet to find this information. We were poor as fuck, so nobody knew the first thing about crazy shit like “applying for financial aid”, or “talking to someone about your future”. When you grow up poor, you are acutely aware that you don’t have a future. It was just assumed that if you didn’t have $40,000 in cash lying around, then you didn’t go to college. Go find yourself a jobby-job. End of story.
As the brilliant Ted Knight so eloquently says in Caddyshack, “Well, the world needs ditch-diggers, too.”
When people asked me on my graduation day from high school what I was planning on doing after school, my answer was that I was going to, you know, hang out. See some bands. That’s exactly what I did, too. I hung out. I saw some bands. I had no car and no job. Had my mother not gotten remarried and moved out of the house, I would have had nowhere to live, either. She let me live rent free in the old, falling apart house for six months as a graduation gift to me, thank god.
After lying around on the couch doing nothing for months on end and slowly descending into a flaming bout of mental illness which was akin to those scenes in “The Aviator” where Leonardo DiCaprio is crazy as fuck, manic with OCD, stops bathing, and keeps repeating the same sentences over and over while twitching, I finally pulled myself out of it and got an entry level full-time job that paid me $6.00 an hour, through a friend who could also give me a ride there. My two-week paycheck, after taxes and whatnot, for 85 hours of work, was $373.00.
Anne eventually moved in and we split the rent at the house. We relied heavily on the Burger King “Two Cheeseburgers and Two Fries for $2.22” deal for meals, and ate at our parents’ houses whenever we could. I still didn’t have a car and instead had to pester everyone I knew to give me rides.
I was fortunate that my mother’s husband surprised me with an awesome used car one day when I was 21 years old, that he let me pay him back for over a five year period at $100 a month with no interest, otherwise I would have never been able to get a car on my own. I was never able to put more than $5 worth of gas into it at a time. The first time I could afford a full tank of gas, I was 26.
In the end, stuff worked out, and by “worked out”, I mean I spent decades of my life not even having $400 to my name. If I had to estimate how much money I spent cumulatively in overdraft fees at my bank, it would be in the thousands. Sometimes I overdrafted on purpose, and took the max amount of cash out as sort of a gonzo loan until payday, where I would deposit my paycheck at the end of the week and it would just take my account back up to $0.
After working full-time for 16 years, the first time my checking account had $1,000 in it, I was 34 years old. I felt like a millionaire. I opened my first savings account when I was 36, and didn’t start contributing to a retirement account until I was 37.
When the subject of my lack of higher education has come up at job interviews over the years, it makes me feel like I want to literally die right there in the interviewer’s office.
“You mean you didn’t go to college…at all?”
Then they make the face. The face that, if I’m lucky enough to be hired, makes me feel like I have to work ten times harder than everybody else, just to prove that I’m worthy of the position.
That’s why it is incredibly insulting when someone asks you what college you went to, and when you tell them that you didn’t go to college, they say, “Good for you! I wish I hadn’t gone!”
It’s like telling someone who has polio that you wish you could go back in time and not get vaccinated against polio.
Why am I regaling you with all this nonsense? Because I want to impart one large piece of wisdom on you. GO TO COLLEGE. A CHEAP ONE. FOR A DEGREE THAT WILL SOMEDAY HOPEFULLY MAKE YOU SOME MONEY.*
“Okay! I’m thinking of majoring in philosophy!”
No. If you tell me that, I will push you into a fire and walk away.
You can toss any arts degree in there while you’re at it, and I say that as someone who has both tried to make a living as an artist and is a huge, huge supporter of the arts. Someone whose friends are almost all exclusively artists. Someone who believes art is the most powerful language in all of humanity.
Had I had the ability to go college when I got out of high school, I surely would have majored in some broke shit like creative writing, or painting, or poetry. You know, things you absolutely do not need a degree for in order to do them.
Get an accounting degree. Major in international finance. Medicine. Science. Engineering. Something with computers and whatnot. You can work your job and still write poetry in your spare time. Also, your poetry sucks.
That was uncalled for.
I guess what I’m really saying is loans or no loans, nearly everyone is fucked unless they’re born with money.
*This is just one humble dirtbag’s opinion. Your anecdotes where you fully disagree with me or show me your student loan bills will be printed out, put through a shredder, and then used as kindling for a drum circle bonfire, which I will not actually be attending, because “drum circle”.