I sat down with my mom the other night to discuss my student loans. Before that conversation, I knew I had students loans, but I didn't know exactly how many student loans we were talking about, and how much money those loans entailed.
I won't bore you with the details, but suffice it to say that I owe the government an absurd amount of money for my little ol' bachelor's degree. A degree that — so far — has yielded me little in the way of riches.
I don't regret my undergraduate education — not for one second. It was one of the best experiences of my life. Still, being faced with a huge amount of debt isn't exactly great news.
But, it does make me laugh.
That's right. I laugh in the face of my (let's call it) $50,000 debt.
At this point in my life, I can't even imagine what $50,000 looks like. It's not even a real number. It's not like I went to the bank and they gave me a truckload of cash, which I brought to college and handed over to the Admissions Office. I've never even seen $1,000 in real life, let alone the $50,000 for which I'm supposedly responsible. They're fifty thousand imaginary dollars, which floated invisibly through the air, landed safely... somewhere, and persuaded someone to give me an education.
It's really quite silly.
In some ways, the fact that I've never come in physical contact with these fifty thousand dollars detaches me from the emotional burden of paying them back.
Imagine you were carrying a $100 bill around in your wallet, and when you went to reach for it, the money was gone. That experience would hurt because you were physically attached to the money. You used to be able to see it, feel it, and you knew it was there. And now it's gone. You feel bad about it because you miss that hundred dollar bill! You miss it a lot.
But how can you miss something that was never physically there to begin with? I feel no sense of ownership over these fifty thousand dollars. Clearly, they belong to someone else, and I was fortunate enough to be able to borrow them for several years. I don't feel the sense of loss that I would feel if someone took $100 out of my pocket.
Now, you could argue that paying for something you can't see hurts. You can rationalize spending $20 on a DVD because, when you hand the clerk a twenty-dollar bill, they hand you a movie in exchange. That's fair.
But in reality, paying for college is no different. You're paying for an experience. It's like coughing up $50 for a concert ticket. You're not really taking anything home with you, but you are getting a whole lot of memories, and you're coming out a different person on the other side.
While $50,00 is an obscene and unfathomable amount of money, I'm not sure I can — nor would I want to — put a price on my college experience. Sure, you can put a price on classes, housing, and meal plans, but you can't put a price on the experience.
My student debt isn't going anywhere. All I can do is keep it in perspective. It'll all get paid off eventually. What's the worst that could happen? No one has ever been executed for having student loans.
Do I owe the government more money than I ever thought possible? Yes.
Is it ridiculous? Yes.
Can I change it? Not really.
So is it worth getting worked up over? No.
Are most people in the same situation? Yes.
Am I going to pay it off little by little, like everyone else? Yup.
When I'm told I have to pay back fifty thousand imaginary dollars because someone somewhere decided that's how much an education costs, I just shrug and say, "Well, that's unfortunate, but alright."
I'm thousands of dollars in debt; all I can do is laugh about it.
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