So I Paid Off My Student Loans- Part 1

If you’ve been following this blog for the past few years, you may know that I’ve been on a quest to pay off my student loans since… basically forever. Actually, for the first few years after I graduated, as my debt amount surged while interest piled up, I simply lived in hopeless despair. I wondered what magical miracle would occur that would enable me to pay off more than $100,000 (yes that 6th zero belongs) worth of debt – and for undergrad only! I’m not even a doctor or a lawyer or even a prosperous business person- I have a DRAMA degree, for god’s sake! And that $100,000 total is with ONE YEAR PAID OFF ALREADY by mom and grandma! So even with a whole year of school paid off, plus some financial aid, my loans were STILL that much!

And the loan kept growing, even after college ended, because in the first few years after graduation I’d decided that since my interest was high on the smaller of the two loans (one was for around $86,000 and the other was $14,000), I’d put the smaller loan on forbearance (effectively deferring it) and not pay it for awhile.

I know now that this is BACKWARDS thinking- it’s a really bad idea to put loans on forbearance unless you’re absolutely desperate and have no other choice. To be fair, most people put loans on forbearance because they have no other choice- I myself was the definition of desperate- so the warning is probably unnecessary. But forbearance is a horrible sneaky trap that only punishes your future self while your current self breathes a very temporary sigh of relief. I got the 14k loan down to 11k with a lot of blood sweat and tears, and then put that loan on forbearance for a year. When I started paying it again, after only one year of deferment, the loan had GONE BACK UP to 14K! As if I had never made a dent! The experience was both sickening and horrifying.

NYU is even more expensive now- disgustingly expensive. Somewhere around 70K a year expensive. It’s wayyyy overpriced, and pricing seems to only be only going up. The thing is, many colleges are following that same path of being completely out of line overpriced- the problem is not just NYU. To be fair, I really enjoyed my NYU program- I had private conservatory training in all aspects of acting, directing, and theater, and the 4 years were pretty amazing. It’s not a bad school. But the loans afterwards all but buried me- and I don’t recommend anyone ever taking on that kind of student loan debt. Ever. Even if  you’re going to medical school or something that should fast track to a lucrative career, I’d still advise you to think your finances through very carefully.

In a blaze of glory I finally completed my last student loan payment this February, 2018. I still can’t believe it. I remember the day I hit ‘send’ on that last payment- I cried. My body shook in front of my computer and nothing made sense. The student debt that had hung over my head for so many years of my early adult life was finally gone. It felt like a miracle- but it wasn’t. It was the result of an incredible amount of work and very carefully calculated planning. Even making very little money per year, I finally did it. I did it.

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I did it! In the next post I’ll tell you how…

 

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Big Night at the UCLA Screenwriters Showcase

One of the best decisions I’ve made in my 30s so far has been deciding to go graduate school. A little under two years ago, I moved to Los Angeles to pursue screenwriting and television writing at UCLA. The decision to go to graduate school was more significant to me than simply getting a degree. It was  the moment at which I committed myself to being a writer and accepted the life of a working writer.

This Friday, I’ll graduate from the UCLA MFA Screenwriting program. But the more exciting night of the week was last night – our Screenwriters Showcase. We celebrated the student screenwriters achievements over the past year, honored winners of a industry judged competitIMG_0718ion and listened to a guest speaker. This year we were lucky enough to have Graham Moore, Academy Award writer of The Imitation Game (who is only 32, by the way!).

One thought that was echoed throughout last night’s speeches was the advice to focus on process rather than the prize. For us, as writers, that means throwing ourselves into the actual work of writing and to not focus on the money, awards, and recognition. But I think it’s applicable to almost any pursuit in life. You need to truly enjoy and gain value from the “work” of whatever it is your striving for, and not just become fixated on the end goal.

Here’s a picture from tonight’s festivities! As one of the winners, a poster was created for my film. And here’s me alongside the poster for Exposure Therapy.

Now, I’m not quite sure what’s next for me. It’s probably the first time in my life that I have an unplanned chunk of time ahead of me. Of course I’ll be writing, but I’ll also need to find some way to make money as I write. I’ll keep you posted on my journey!

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