Debt is the New Black

I have a dream. One day, on the 12th day of some mystery month, I will sign in to my Sallie Mae account ready to ante up a couple hundred bucks when — OMGBBQ — my student loans have disappeared! Paid, in no small part, by some generous, anonymous benefactor, who — in the extended version — also throws me a barbecue. It’s just a coincidence.

I also have a waking nightmare. It is the sum total of my loan debt — enough to buy a house — picking away at the wrinkles in my brain. It takes a moment from its frothy devouring of my frontal lobe, and with a voice that sounds like cardboard-on-cardboard, cackles, “You only got a B.A.!! And in JOUINALISM!?!? You DESERVE to never buy a new car!”

Then I do the equation that was never quite real enough for me to do in four years of co-signing college. Taking out copious loan money when you plan to embark on a career path which will “never make you any money,” (thank you, all of my professors) doesn’t quite pan out.

It is enough to make me want to change my profession, regret not taking AP Chemistry more seriously and, most terrifying of all, consider joining the National Guard. It’s what makes me read the comment section of this Gawker article and sheepishly hang my head.

It’s what makes me groan at hearing Eric Cantor’s proposition to make college student pay back federal loan interest while still in school.

But then I stop groaning — maybe if I was forced to make interest payments in school I would have thought about what I was doing more, and transferred to a community college. And then I remember: I WAS forced to pay back student loan interest in college with some of my private loans. I’m pretty sure my parents handled that, because even though I had a job as an RA, you can’t pay for interest in meal points.

When I’m done lamenting about myself, I remember that I’m not alone. Even though the average undergrad racks up only about $24K, and mine blows that out of the water, I know almost all of my friends are stuck paying stuff back.

People tell me ALL the time, “Well at least you got a job in your major!” And yeah, my friend Molly works at a veterinary hospital, okay, I get it. But what good is a job in ANY major if all it does is plunge money into the endless pit of your indentured servant account? Sometimes I believe there is a point to living, and I’m pretty sure that isn’t it.

As I stare down the barrel of my life, I see that I will only be paying back loans. Not buying a car, not buying a house, not having kids because they’re too expensive. People LOVE to say, “Oh you’ll pay them off!” But right now it seems impossible. Does anybody have an answer to this question?

I have a day dream. In six years, I’m lonely, broke and the cardboard-on-cardboard voice tells me to start making signs out of cardboard. I hobble into the recruiting station and enlist. They tell me they can’t give me money right away, but if I stay on for six years, they will. I sigh a sigh of relief and sign my name.

In the extended version? They ship me overseas to the wars we’re still fighting, and a drone blows up over my head, exploding the debt ceiling until we’re all wearing gunny sacks, shoveling petroleum together on the Halliburton fief.

Debt is the new black, ya know?

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